Spirit of Abby Dog

We’ve been redecorating the guest bathroom, and since we live by the ocean, we picked a beach theme with walls a pale aqua, a seashell fabric shower curtain, and a wreath of sea urchins, starfish, and scallop shells.  We needed a large picture to hang over the towel bars, but we didn’t want to spend a fortune, so we headed to Michaels and pawed through their collection of poster prints.  They had the usual assortment of beach scenes:  children building sand castles, quaint harbors with sailboats bobbing, old-fashioned women strolling on the beach with their parasols.  Then my eye caught a sight that took my breath away.  It was a picture of two white rockers on the porch of a beach house, the view as if the painter was inside, looking through the doorway to the porch, and beyond was the sea.

Zhen-Huan Lu's "Looking Over the Sea"

I’ve seen similar prints, but what made this one so special was the yellow Lab who was sitting just inside the door, looking out.  It was my Abby Dog, (see Don’t Tell Me Dogs Don’t Have Souls) the way she looked when she was older, when the kids had grown up and moved out and there was just my dear husband and I left at home.  I stared at that picture and created a whole scenario for it:  My husband and I were in the house, making some lunch to bring out to the porch, and Abby Dog, not wanting to go outside without us, was waiting for us to come and sit on the porch with her.  Then she would sit between us, perhaps putting her head on our laps to catch an occasional crumb that might fall.  We would sit outside, enjoying the sea breeze, and spend a quiet Saturday afternoon with her.

Whoa!  What was happening here?  I stopped the fantasizing, chiding myself for my foolishness, and showed my husband the picture.  “This is such a nice picture, and I think it’s the perfect size.  What do you think?”  He agreed that it was a great picture but thought it might be too large.  We looked at other prints, but couldn’t make up our minds.  Actually, I had already decided, but regretfully, didn’t press the issue.  We went home empty-handed.

A week later, with half the bathroom completed and measurements of how big a picture that space over the towel bars could accommodate, we returned to Michaels and looked again for a print.  I decided, if my Abby Dog picture was the right size, I would plead my case forcefully.  I had to have that picture.  We went to the place we had seen it the week before and searched, but it was gone.  I was angry with myself for not letting my husband know how much I had wanted that print.  I know he would have bought it for me.  We looked for some other picture that would work, but my heart wasn’t in it, and nothing stood out as being the perfect one.  We were ready to give up when we decided to search the bargain bin, and there in the heap of cast-off pictures was my Abby Dog print–for only five dollars!  “That’s a no-brainer!” my husband said as he carried our pick to the cashier.

Now, if you’ve never had a dog, none of this will make any sense to you.  You will not understand how some dogs steal your heart and keep a piece of it long after they are gone.  You will not understand how you can miss them so much, even after seventeen years, that thinking about them brings a smile and tears.  You will not understand how a five-dollar print has the power to evoke such strong memories, you actually create an entire story around it and put yourself in the scene, just so you can pretend you are spending more time with that sweet, sweet dog.

We will most likely never have another dog.  We are getting on in years, we live in a townhouse now with a tiny courtyard, and we travel to visit our children and friends often enough that, if we had a dog, it would spend too much time in a kennel.  Furthermore, I have no desire or patience to pick up after a dog anymore or worry about vet bills.  Our dog days are over.  But when our redecorating is finished and that picture is hanging on the wall, I know I will occasionally wander into that room, “sit” in that rocker, and let Abby Dog put her big head in my lap.  Hang on, Abby.  Mama’s coming!

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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12 Responses to Spirit of Abby Dog

  1. Val says:

    I’ve had allergies most of my life so haven’t been able to have pets since I was a child, but my mother’s cat – which died when I was still a child – has stayed in my heart since I was little. And if I see a cat that looks like her, I think it is her, even though I know that’s not possible!

  2. Pamela Johnson says:

    A famous author stated “They are fools–they who say they get over their loves and heroes. I never do.” And so it is with our cherished pets. Their memory, very specific to our hearts, lives on and on. We can love other pets, but we can’t replace the ones we lost. I know just how you feel about Abby Dog.

    By the way, does anyone know the name of the author of the above quote? I think it is Ernest Hemingway, but can’t be sure.

  3. Bud says:

    Never had a dog but a succession of cats who have been part of our family … and our house is occupied by numerous prints, knick-knacks and sayings that remind us of them, including one sign that says, “Purr and the world purrs with you, hiss and you hiss alone.”

    Muri and I often go down to the cliffs above Corona Del Mar beach to sit on a bench and watch the sun set. We were in a home decor store and saw a large Giclee of a couple sitting on our bench. It was a bit pricey but we ended up getting it to hang in our living room. That was our special “find.”

  4. I do love my dogs but over the years some have been more special to me than others. I have 3 now and Lola, an English bulldog is the princess in the house. You will find I write about her quite a bit. I try not to think about it but the life span of a bulldog is only 8 years or so and I can’t imagine what we will do then.

    Thanks for this heartfelt post about Abby Dog. I would have loved to have sit on the porch with her too.

  5. That was such a special post, thank you for sharing your Abby dog with us. Your words and that picture are so beautiful, really stirred my soul. I once had a sweet dog named Princess (we got her when I was little) and she was my best friend and angel growing up. I wrote a post about her called, A Girl and Her Dog about how special she was to me and how devastated I was after she passed when I was in college. It’s been almost 20 years since then and I still can’t bring myself to get another dog. She was the world’s best (other than Abby of course!)

    • comingeast says:

      When did you post about Princess? I’d love to read it. Dogs are such special “people.” They’re never cross with you, never criticize, and are such good listeners. There are times I think I’d like another dog, but we’re really not in a position to get another one. And I’m more of a big dog person, and that would be impossible in our townhouse. Thanks for “listening.”

      • It is in my sept. 2010 archives. I was putting off watching the movie “Marley and Me” (because I knew the heart-wrenching ending) and finally I sat down and wrote about my Princess (and cried a river). I still cry when I think of her today.

      • comingeast says:

        I’m going to check it out right now. And I never have seen Marley and Me. Don’t think I can. I hated Ol’ Yeller!

  6. Julia says:

    Oh my goodness. I can so relate to this post — our dog Abby (a black lab) is just over 9 and has terrible arthritis, always has. I think you’ll understand when I say she is my dog-soul-mate, and I will never be able to get another. I blogged about my Abby about three months ago because I’m not sure I’ll be able to once she’s gone…. maybe after 17 years. Another dog lover once said to me (he also had a dog with severe arthritis): “they will break our hearts.” Certainly how I feel about my Abs. And now yours. Sigh.

    • comingeast says:

      I’ll have to go back to your archives and read your post about your Abs. So glad you understand. I wouldn’t even say I’m a dog lover; I just loved THAT dog!

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