We've accomplished tons of stuff during this last week of 2010. (Some might even call us Responsibility Champions.) Both of us have the week off, and we have used it to do lots more unpacking, grout sealing, relative visiting, errand running, furniture and decor arranging, and the like.
One of the things I moved out of the garage today and into its proper place on the wall next to The Alpha's side of the bed was a shelf his dad made. It's a simple but elegant shelf, 16 inches wide -- perfect for mounting into two studs -- and the finish matches our bedroom furniture very well. At the old house, it held a piece of comic art, as well as three dog collars: Cub's puppy collar, Cub's grown-up collar, and Angus' baby collar (well, he was already a year old, but still -- after a few months he broke it and we got him a bigger one).
Moving is a great time to examine what you put where, and why. I figured that really, the comic book art was probably more suited to our office (i.e., third bedroom with no bed), so I grabbed a framed family photo to hang above the collar shelf. I'm not sure what year it was taken, but it was before Angus came along, so probably 2003. We were a family of three, with eight legs among us, instead of the six many humans would assume of a three-member family.
In this photo, Cub has barely any gray in her muzzle; only the kind that can be ascribed to her normal coloring, not to her age. Her right ear turns down at the tip, as it did for about the first half of her life, giving her a more distinctive (and endearing) look than a purebred dog would have. We are all smiling, all in the prime of life.
Just after I'd hung the shelf, The Alpha walked in, so I caught him up on my work in progress. He loved the idea of having that particular picture above the collars. He totally got it (one of many reasons why I love him so dang much).
So he drove the nail while I added a wire to the back of the frame. We hung up the portrait, and he arranged the collars with Cub's grown-up collar in the center, tags dangling off the front of the shelf. And I burst into tears.
Cub has been gone almost two years. It doesn't matter that she's a dog and not a human. She's family, and she's gone. And I will always miss her.
Which brings me to the year-in-review part of this post. At an appropriate point after my crying jag had ended, The Alpha and I reminded ourselves of what wonderful dogs we do have with us now. And he pointed out something very true: If Cub had still been around, we never could have taken in foster dogs. This time last year, I had jumped straight into the deep end of animal rescue and come up with Homer the Pit Bull, who was saved from being euthanized because I was able to pick him up at the shelter and hang onto him for a few days. He now lives in the Temple area.
Next came Foster (now Amos, making his home with a retired clergy couple in Dallas). After that, we had our smallest foster dog, a 20-pounder named Ralph, but who we called Little Bittle (he's now known as Teddy, and "good for absolutely nothing except being petted," according to his very pleased people).
And during the freaky Texas snowstorm, I braved bridges and overpasses to pick up Dustin (now Dusty -- adopted by my friend Cherrie, who officially designated me his fairy dogmother). Then there were the last two, Crystal and Poohbert. Crystal is still Crystal, but Poohbert, who lives by the lake, has become Puddles, so named for her love of water. Both are doing well; I've received emails from both of their families within the past week.
So, as dog years go, it was a pretty darn good one for us. Not an easy one, by any means, but a rewarding one. No, we couldn't have done it with Cub around, but you know what? We couldn't have done it without her, either. She made our household what it is.
Someday, we will be settled enough here in the new place that we will be able to help another dog or two. And Cub will still be one big reason why we can.