May, 30, 2009
Luke Skywalker Buenger arrived just in time. He insinuated himself into our household in the summer of 1996. . .definitely there, but not particularly invited. Some neighbor across the road owned him, but seemed not to notice that he had changed residence (maybe Luke forgot to fill out one of those postal change of address forms, just like he forgot that his owner had named him Rusty or maybe he had signed up for the witness protection program).
By the time Erin was born the following summer he had become a permanent family member, much loved and fully adopted (and I might add, more than fully paid for). The first thing Davis noticed when we brought Erin home from the hospital was that "her hair was the color of Luke's ears." He was a prime specimen: four years old, born to swim and to lick children clean, no matter what they had left on their face. He loved the baby Erin (and thought he might pattern his life after Good Dog Carl):
He was always up for adventure and loved the water.
He was officially Davis's dog, and he adored Davis, but he was also a dog with a mission separate from Davis: Do whatever Erin wants, whenever she wants it.
Dress up like Erin's valiant steed for Halloween? You betcha.
Do an impression of Sister Bertrell as The Flying Nun? No problem.
Luke took this secondary job extremely seriously. Shortly after he turned thirteen, back in the spring of 2006, he had a major health set back that required heavy duty vet care, high quality meds, and a couple of months of water aerobics (they also recommended accupuncture, but we opted out). We knew that he had already passed the average life expectancy for a lab, and for most of the time since then we have expected him to just kick the bucket. Somehow, he just kept living. He ate well; until recently, he held his bodily functions until he was out of the house; he could mosey a little way down the road and back; his sniffer really worked. Eventually, his face turned almost completely white, but his ears remained the color of Erin's hair.
I don't know that he noticed when Erin died. By then, he was pretty deaf and blind. Still, I think he knew. I think he understood that although he was nominally a yellow lab, he was really a shepherd. . .Erin's shepherd. He welcomed her home from the hospital (at birth and many subsequent times), watched over her, and was there on the floor by the big green chair when she died. Having fulfilled his duty, he took a few weeks to make sure his other human charges were okay, then he too went peacefully along. He didn't make it to age seventeen, but he got close.