Dave Simpson: Our last dog? This jury is still absent!


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By Dave Simpson, columnist

“This is absolutely the LAST DOG we will ever have,” my wife proclaims quite regularly. “And I mean it!”

I don’t know what Mitch did this time – ripped up his dog bed to hide a bone, or chased the cat across the living room.

When someone’s at the door, Mitch’s bark might wake the dead.

Mitch is a black Labrador, and I can’t tell you how old he is or what his name was. That’s because he was on the loose from Mitchell, Nebraska, four years ago, and crossed the state line into Wyoming — no doubt at a run. He ended up at the Torrington pound, where they called him Mitchell. So us too.

He’s not like the other labs we’ve had — Jake, Woody, Sam, Jack, their ashes arranged in containers on a shelf in my den — who were overweight. After four years, Mitch’s ribs can still be counted, and his vet says it’s a pleasure to see a dog with no weight issues.

Mitch and I go for walks every morning and every afternoon – it’s good for both of us – and he hunts rabbits. He loves to patrol the meadow behind our house. Then he leans against my leg as I sit on an old bench, watching the trains go by, and he begs for cookies.

Black Labs run in the family. When I was a kid, my college-aged brother brought home a black Labrador puppy from his summer job at the company where our father worked. We already had a Boston Terrier and our mother thought one dog was enough. But Labrador puppies are irresistible.

The guy who gave my brother the puppy was one of our father’s bosses – a guy named Cecil.

“As far as I’m concerned, my mother announced, this dog’s name is CECIL!

It’s stuck. And our dad got bashed at work for having a dog named after one of the vice presidents. But he loved that dog, and 12 years later, when they had to put Cecil to sleep, that’s the only time my mom saw my dad cry.

My wife and I had Cleo, a slender black Lab/Border Collie mix from the Laramie pound, a feathery super dog, who loved to cross-country ski with me in the Snowy Range, bounding through the powdery snow.

Then there was Casper Mountain-born Jake, whose eerie howls saved two lives one night when a propane lantern consumed all the oxygen in a rain-soaked tent. We got out of the tent in time, and Jake was out in about an hour, a hero.

Woody was a handful, ate part of a canapé, and only graduated from obedience school on his second attempt.

Sam had lived down the street in Cheyenne and knew how to open our storm door and knock over the trash cans for a snack. He died at the vet the night before undergoing a splenectomy.

Jack’s elderly owner has passed away and the family – having heard of Sam’s death – kindly let us have him. One Friday afternoon he was hunting rabbits and the next morning he couldn’t get out of bed. He was riddled with cancer, and we had to put him down that Saturday morning.

I guess Mitch still has some good miles left in him, despite a bit of gray on his jowls.

I’m not worried about my wife’s wish that this be our last dog. We’ve noticed that friends our age who are facing serious health issues get a lot of support and unconditional love from their dogs.

And if a dog survives us – a consideration in your 70s – well, that’s why God gave us a daughter. A girl with her own prairie in Wyoming.

So I’m pretty sure I can push this “last dog” thing off. I would pout if she ever tried to carry out that threat.

These morning and afternoon walks just wouldn’t be the same without the latest in a long line of black labs by my side, giving the bunnies a hard time.

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