In 2001, I had just moved to Little Rock from Fayetteville and was finally in an apartment that would allow me to have a dog. And I couldn’t wait. Despite the fact that I was starting a new job, learning a new town, planning a wedding and in general trying to become a grown up, I purchased the most adorable black Labrador Retriever puppy. At 12-weeks old, she was 20-pounds. I didn’t know any better, but Betty was going to be a big dog. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway: I was in love at first site. Betty rode home in my lap that day, the last day I functioned on a full night of sleep for many, many months to come.
Betty did not take well to kennel training. Nothing I did worked. When I took her out of the kennel to sleep with me, her curiosity consistently got the better of her and she explored. Which meant I became a very light sleeper in an effort to not owe money for damages on my apartment (it was already a given that I was not going to be getting my deposit back). I was the walking dead for months, but I didn’t care. I loved that dog.
My fiance at the time (and eventually my first husband), gave me an ultimatum at one point: the dog or him. I had only had Betty for a couple of months by then. The thought of abandoning her so quickly brought me to tears. He gave in eventually. But we were divorced five years later and I still had Betty
Betty has been my constant companion for the last 14 years. Through broken hearts, my mom’s illness and death, my brother’s death, a new marriage, the addition of a step-daughter to the family, and just the general ups and downs of life, Betty always lifted my spirits. And when I needed extra comfort, I was known to curl up in her bed and sleep with her. At 100-pounds full grown, Betty was too big to jump up on my bed.
We would go on walks, but Betty especially loved Pinnacle Mountain. When she could no longer make it up the mountain, we would take the path around its base. Then it became too difficult to get in and out of the car. It was around this time that I adopted Blanche, a yellow lab mix, to be Betty’s backyard companion.
As it turned out, Betty and Blanche just tolerated each other. Betty can best be described as passive and gentle and kind; Blanche as aggressive and dominant (though very sweet and a definite love sponge). But I think they each liked having the company and they did play occasionally.
Betty always had a lot to say, barking a lot. A lot. And she had a special way of getting her whole body rubbed by walking between my legs, and the legs of any and all visitors. She would throw herself against me for attention, not realizing how big she really was and sometimes knocking me off balance. I became a master of a dog-avoidance-dance to get out of the house in the mornings without getting my work clothes covered in dog dirt. But I didn’t mind.
She has been gradually greying and slowing down over the last couple of years. But she had a happy spirit, was always hungry and wagged her tail in greeting. Then the last couple of months, she has barely been able to walk, started having accidents regularly in the house and didn’t move a lot. She was still eating and would gobble a treat just as quickly as she did when she was a puppy. The vet said that she had a heart issue, but she could be made comfortable for a few more months.
This week I realized it was time to say goodbye to Betty. On Thursday morning, March 12, I took Betty on her last vet visit with uncontrollable tears rolling down my face. She was just shy of her 14th birthday (March 17th). Betty was my first dog, my longtime companion and a good friend. I was devastated to say goodbye.