Eight years ago we bought an eight week old German Short-haired Pointer from a breeder in Athens, Alabama. We drove 7 hours to get there – my wife vowing the whole way that this dog would neither beg at the table nor sleep in our bed.
Less than one mile into the trip home my wife said, “I suppose she could sleep in the bed tonight.” Thus began our love affair with Mabel Ann Layton The Baby (As her registration papers read).
If you’ve never owned a GSP then my bragging will seem embellished but I assure you, every word is true.
Mabel instinctively pointed birds from the very first day. She easily mastered the basic commands like; come, stay, sit, lay down, and speak. She was a bit stubborn when it came to house training but once she got it, she could hold it for as much as 18 hours (a day we still feel terrible about). Believe it or not, she would even pee on command.
Her vocabulary quickly grew until we had to spell around her as if she were a small child. Even her barks began to take on distinct meanings and I could tell the difference between a person or a dog on my porch as if she were saying the words.
I often kissed Mabel before I kissed my wife in the evenings… in all fairness my wife never jumped on the back of the sofa to greet me.
Mabel was the clock that our home life ran by.
- 7:00am wake up – Mabel needs to go out (While you are out there let out the chickens).
- 7:00pm feed Mabel supper – (the cat is hungry and the chickens need to go back in the coop).
- 9:00pm it’s bedtime
- 9:01pm Rooo Rooo Rooo – did you not see the clock… IT’S BEDTIME!
Mabel always stood by as the nightly rituals began.
- Jen and I fix the covers on the bed -“Okay May, get in.”
- I feed May her 5 nightly treats and then the wife and I get in bed.
- “May, you want Group-Lovins?” – Mabel would flop back into our arms for a ridiculous amount of scratches and smooches.
- Lastly, Mabel would roll down between us and then spends the rest of the night spooning me off the edge of the bed.
She was loved by everyone and everything. Our house rabbit constantly jumped onto Mabel’s bed – Mabel being above all other animals, would simply ignore the bunny and find another place to lay.
Our cat, Buffy adored the dog despite Mabel’s complete indifference. In fact Mabel’s only interaction with the cat was to use her paw to scoop Buffy away when she would scratch the furniture (which became Buffy’s little game).
Mabel was the gentlest dog I ever heard of. When my in-law’s dog would attack her, she would rolled the aggressor onto it’s back and stand over it – completely dominant but without ever returning the aggression.
When my daughter’s dog was too full of energy and curiosity – Mabel would scold it into submission but never bit it.
Even when she would hem up a opossum or a squirrel in a corner, she would not bite it, just hem it up and wait for us to tell her “Good Girl”.
Mabel only had one mortal enemy and that was Raccoons, which she would attack without hesitation and always send running from our yard.
I picked the GSP breed because of their unique markings, fine reputation, and most importantly, their long life span (13-17 years). So when she was sick with ehrlichia on her 8th birthday – I figured she would get over it.
It’s been nearly seven days since my dog, Mabel died of spleen cancer. We took her to a new vet on Christmas Eve (since our old vet wouldn’t return our calls). Only to find out that it wasn’t ehrlichia after all. The vet rushed her in for surgery but it was too late, cancer had already spread to her liver.
We didn’t wake Mabel from surgery.
I’ve grieved few people as much as I have grieved Mabel. My wife and I canceled all Christmas celebrations and exchanged gifts that we couldn’t be bothered to wrap.
We both cried for days. Mabel seemed to be in every spot in the house. The image of her sweet face nudging the cell phone from my hand, insisting on attention was burned on my mind. The house has a physical silence as if the heart of our home has stopped beating. The words of Auden’s poem ring in my ears.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,Funeral Blues by W. H. Auden
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
I feel arrogant for believing my wife and I are in more pain than any other person who has ever lost a pet. It feels cliche to say she was a member of our family. But she was and we are.
We threw out all of her toys, her sweaters, and her treats. I even threw way my ottoman because that is where she laid – half on the ottoman, half on my lap.
We are beginning to move on… slowly – and even that makes us feel guilty. How could we be okay without Mabel in our world?
Yet those eight years feel like a wonderful day at the fair – I’m not bitter that the ride is over, I am just so thankful it happened at all.
We are ashamed to say, that we have already reserved another GSP in MO and will pick her up on January 19th. While no dog could ever replace our Mabel, our house needs a heart beat. If this GSP is even half the dog Mabel was, it will be the 2nd greatest dog I ever heard of.