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Looper and Me ...

Perhaps I should call this post “Looper and Us”.

mentioned last summer how I watched “Marley and Me” while flying over the Atlantic ocean in the middle of the night.  Bill was sound asleep and I woke him up crying at 40,000 feet or something to tell him that the movie was practically written about us and our golden retriever who had lived through so much of our lives together.

I learned that one should never wake anyone up on a flight while crying.  That is, unless you are trying to give them a heart attack on purpose.   I can assure you, I won’t do that again.

I don’t plan on watching Marley and Me again for a long time anyway … if ever.  Mostly because the part where the family has to take Marley to the vet for the last time is too real and too sad for me right now.  So I thought it would be better to tell you the story of Loop and us now ….

Looper was born on Debember 27, 1994.  Yes, that makes her almost 15 1/2 years old (105 for you and me) which is an unheard age for dogs … especially golden retrievers.  Her vet retired a few years ago and we joked about Looper outlasting the vet.  He told us time and again how strong and sturdy of a dog Looper was (“good stock”), people have asked us what we fed her (Science Diet … I swear by the stuff), and are constantly amazed that she’s still around.

She has survived being lost, almost hanging herself in a hammock in our back yard (it was awful!!), had a few real tumors removed and once was thought to have “one of the worst tumors” our vet had seen … only to find it was a piece of candy stuck between her toes.

About four years ago she got sick and I took her to the vet and he thought “this may be it”.  I asked him if there was anything else we could do and he said …“we can give her an IV but there are no guarantees”.  Four days (and $750!!) later, Looper bounded out of the vet like a puppy.  Bill told me then to say my goodbyes because he wasn’t planning on “paying for Lazarus to come back from the dead again”.  Good thing for us she’s been just fine since.

And you know what else …  Looper smiles.

Not all dogs smile but our vet in Houston noticed right off what we thought we saw … that she really did smile.  It’s the truth.

So back to the story.

Our best newly-wed friends Paul and Jennifer Sharrick got a golden retriever when we lived in Dallas named Maverick.  We enjoyed playing with Maverick and I thought we should get a dog.

Bill thought he should get an MBA.

So we moved to Nashville with no dog.

I kept thinking it would be good for Bill to have a dog … he had never had one growing up.  I checked the Nashville papers and sometime in January of 1995 I found a “golden retriever puppy with papers” for $100.  One night while Bill was studying at school, I drove out in those Tennessee hills and found this little house with Looper inside.  She was the last puppy not spoken for … which could not mean she wasn’t the cutest, because she totally was.

I didn’t breathe a word of it to Bill and on Valentines Day I showed up at the Owen School of Business with a little bitty golden retriever in my coat pocket.  Bill asked whose dog it was and I said it was his.  To this day he will still shake his head and say … “I can’t believe you went out and bought a dog without us even talking about it.”

Sorry.  My bad.

I think it took all of about 15 seconds to adjust to his new role as “dad” to Looper.  In fact, they adored each other.

And just that quickly, we were a family of three.

The thing about Looper is that she has always had people in her lives (besides us) who loved her.  When we first got her, a musician down the street (such a Nashville thing to say!) had a “skittish” dog who had been abused and wouldn’t bond with humans.  She asked if we’d bring Looper to her house each day to play in her backyard.  Since we didn’t have a backyard in our townhouse we were more than happy to take her there and Looper and Sadie spent some good times together.

Until the day Looper and Sadie went missing.

We were packing up to leave Nashville and didn’t realize that Looper might be freaked out.  Maybe it was because we were joking around and put her in a moving box … we were KIDDING Looper!

We took her to Sadie’s while the movers were there …. just like we had done for months… but this time the two of them dug out and took off for the hills.

We spent 3 days searching for Looper high and low.  We made signs, called vets … yet we were unsuccessful.  Unfortunately we had just given her a bath and her tags weren’t back on her neck.  It was Memorial Day weekend and we were closing on our house in Houston on Tuesday so we finally had to leave.

Without Loop.

I cried all the way out of town.

I finally started laughing around Memphis when I told Bill it was so funny how the way were leaving Nashville sounded just like a country song … “I lost my dog in Nashville and had to leave her there” … put that to a twangy tune and you’ve got a best selling hit.

Anyway … we went to Little Rock and I prayed and prayed and prayed.

On Monday morning we called a vet and she said a lady had called in who had found a dog.  Going on the brief description … we sent one of Bill’s best friends from grad school, David Corts, over to see if Looper had truly been found.

David said he drove up and Looper was sitting on the porch.  He got out of the car and Looper RAN to his car and jumped in …. as if to say … “okay … gigs up …. take me back to my people.”  The visual picture of Looper sitting in the back of David’s car … straight up, like a person … is as hilarious to me now as it was then.

So Looper made it to Houston …. barely.

We closed on our house

and before we knew it, the neighbor behind us had taken off a few boards on our fence so Looper “could come over anytime.”  In fact … on several occasions Looper spent the night at their house … simply because we forgot she was there.  Linda and Brian were her “second home” until Linda passed away with Lou Gehrigs disease years ago and Brian moved away.

The past several years the couple across the street “adopted” Looper and kept her at their house when we went on vacation.  They fed her and treated her like a queen and she always seemed a bit disgusted when she came back to our food.

So Looper lived through graduate school with us, a move to a new city … and then a baby …

and then another baby

… and another

until pretty soon it just seemed like there were kids everywhere.

Poor Loop probably thought they’d never stop coming … but she took it all in stride.  She’s been old for so long now that they don’t remember riding her and playing with her … taking her to the park and playing frisbee with her … but they did.

And most nights for years and years when our babies were growing and there was hardly a chance to even say “hello”, Bill and I went out … late at night … and took Loop around the block.  It was a relaxing time of day, a good chance to talk … and to hang out … just the 3 of us … like old times.  Loop made sure we didn’t miss our “walking date” and to be honest, those walks were great for our marriage.  We used to joke that we’d still need to go around the block about 10:30 every night even if Looper didn’t!

Looper has been part of our family and Looper has been a friend.

To this day Loop will come and lay at me feet where ever I am in the house … and although it’s been awhile since I’ve seen her smile …

I’ll never forget that she did.

Comments: #

Rhonda - May 3, 2010

Awww…I don’t even like dogs - but you’ve made me like Looper :)

cherry - May 4, 2010

I loved this story about Looper! What a dog! Sounds like the perfect dog for you Darla - making friends so easily! ;-)

Carol Schwabe - May 4, 2010

Thank you so much for your memories of your life with Looper… what a great dog she is! Your thoughts so closely mirror those we have shared with our golden, Ivan, or “smilin’ Ivan’ as we dubbed him long ago. Rescued from a shelter in south Georgia after Hurricane Ivan 5 years ago, we fell in love with him instantly and he has been a part of our family in every way. From one dog lover to another, thank you for your words. :)

Deanne - May 4, 2010

Oh Darla, you have my heart. I know the feelings all too well. Christy was my first Christmas present from Billy (although I was on the road all the time so I suspect she was his and the whole present thing was a ruse) and we were a family of three for a year. In her case, she saw most of the four-legged population explosion that has happened in our house, and she took it all in stride. She was 16 when she went to live with my Dad (that’s how I like to think of it). She’d been moved and had tumors and all the rest but she was so special. I missed Deah and Clay’s wedding because I just couldn’t feel happiness in my life that weekend. Even though she wasn’t the first to go, she was first in my heart. Take care sweet cousin.