I have had black labs named Rachel Dear and Sabrina Faire, and a snow white lab named Truly Scrumptious Stella. All registered AKC names. The current, and most likely last lab, is Bank’s Truly Scrumptious Sable Lining. A big name for a special dog.
If you do not have a pet you love, or do not like dogs, then this post is not for you. To be clear, I am very wary of people who do not like dogs. I understand afraid, I understand breed preferences (I myself am not into little white fluffy dogs…they often times shake…)I do not like incessant barkers, and I don’t do ill behaved dogs.
Sable is smart. A North Carolina bred and born girl from way out past Camp LeJune. Her parents were gun dogs. Sable is not. She does the army crawl under the car at the sound of the first firecracker on the 4rth. She has real feelings and a soft mouth. The morning after we brought her home at 8 weeks (Christmas Eve, what a cliché, but 8 weeks is 8 weeks)I knelt to give her a treat. I was ready for my hand to be engulfed in her mouth, but she did not reach, snap, or swipe it from me. She opened her mouth and let me drop it in. To this day, rarely does her mouth touch our hands, she takes food like a feather.
She hates the 2 T’s. Thunderstorms and toenail clipping. So well behaved, she does not even know how to jump on a bed. When the heavens erupt she claws her way onto the bed. Like she is scaling a sheer cliff of granite. Howard often has to push her hind end on. This is the only time she is allowed, trembling between us….Toenails require anesthesia.
Sable can be moody. A smart dog has attitude. She pouts when she doesn’t get what she wants. Things like cottage cheese and watermelon. She glares when we are annoying her. Like when we tell her ‘off’ or ‘leave it.’ She sighs when she wants us all to go to bed. She needs her rest to be so beautiful.
She also does the Sable Walk (think Michael Jackson’s moon walk)and not a somersault, but a sablesault. Since infancy we sit on the floor and play. With our legs in a V, Sable will tuck her muzzle and head into our crotches(no other way to say it)and flip over, all rounded and compact.
It was suggested to us that we leave Sable with a friend for 9 to 12 months, in the USA, while we figured out if France was for us. As if.
It has been hard to see Sable adjust and cope with the tidal wave of moving to France. She watched, for the past 10 to 12 weeks, all that she knew get boxed up, sold, quite simply, disappear. We would find her just standing there, with her head hanging down. She dropped some weight, followed us around the house, tried to go with us when we left the house. Afraid she too, would be boxed up.
We kept our bedroom and the office intact until the last moment. She had a bed in our room, the common area, and the late Lilly’s little bed in the office. There was a routine. Each morning, after breakfast, we would hear her walk up the hall and push open the French door to the office. Something happened, because that little bed would be turned over, scrunched up, and inside out. She would return looking pleased and refreshed. I wish some animal behaviorist could explain that things dogs do….you know what I am talking about…we call it the Humpty Dumpty.
That little bed also got boxed up. I put it in the 3 boxes we had shipped prior to our departure, so items would be at Dana’s house shortly after our arrival. Golf clubs, extra clothes, my salad spinner.
With an empty house, overseas bags in the car, and a new airline approved crate omnipresent, she knew something big was happening. She rolled with it and we did our best to keep things simple for her. Play, food, sleep, cuddles, and discipline.
Luckily our daughter and our son-in-law, whom we stayed with for the last month, have Maverick. A great companion and host. Sable helped herself to his toys, and once or twice, his food.
We left North Carolina, out of Atlanta, on a friday afternoon. We arrived at the international terminal early, so we could keep her moving and stimulated, in hopes of exhaustion by the time she boarded. She walked into that terminal like she owned the joint. Quite empty, I was able to let her out on her extension leash and she trotted wide circles, seeking attention from all who stopped to stare, pet, and question where she was going. If either Howard or I left to use the restroom she stood at full attention, staring after us, her cheeks puffing with air, full tilt body wiggles when we reappeared.
Towards check in time, Howard bravely took her to some patch of grass across a highway and down a big hill. One last pee for the next 12 hours or so. She still did not understand that she would not be sitting with us, and that the next time she saw us, all of our lives would be changing.
Enter the Air France crew. In a single line, behind the captain. They entered the terminal and it was truly something to see. Militant, almost. Impeccable, coiffed, ready and French. They practically marched, never breaking formation, and stood behind their captain as he began his checkin at the far end of the counter.
And then he saw Sable. And I asked as Sable sashayed towards them, if they were our crew for Paris. Howard called ‘please take care of our baby.’ And when I say they broke formation, I mean it.
They could not get enough of her. She swung her hips, wagged her tail, wriggled, minced among them. I swear to God she did the catwalk.
The separation was hard. She lunged. She crashed the crate door. THIS is why they have to be zip tied in. She keened. The handlers know to move quickly. They did speak softly to her. They gave us NO assurances that she would be fine. But she was. Thirsty, you bet. Needing to pee, you bet. The only surface available was concrete. I assured her I would not be mortified is she voided on it. It took some serious coaxing as training dies hard with a smart dog….but void she did, and despite my assurances, she looked ashamed.
We are settled for a month with our friend Dana and her dog, Pim. But she knows we are still on the lamb… We are living out of suitcases. But the countryside offers vast entertainment and long walks, and Pim offers playdates that start after breakfast and continue on until bedtime. They play hard. Sable has the propensity to pull back her lips and snarl, snort, and sneeze. Large teethe appear….If I have told her once I have told her a thousand times, she looks horribly unfeminine. She does the glaring thing….
We finally got around to opening the 3 boxes we shipped, and I brought out that little bed. It was like Old Home Week for Sable! A familiar comfort, proof of the past, a bridge to her future.
And I am happy to report that on a daily basis she pads upstairs after breakfast, for a few minutes. And returns looking pleased and refreshed. The Humpty Dumpty.
P.S. Writing about Sable will not be a common occurrence. But she was a part of the planning and execution of this massive event. And we are responsible for her in every sense of the word, and she is a part of the fabric and happiness of our marriage. So she deserved a post all about Sable.
P.S.S. Not having internet is so challenging. Hopefully today it will be installed in Dana’s house. It is teaching me patience. I always feel rushed at the internet café, so I am still struggling with editing photos 🙁