Whitesburg KY

Trying to get over ‘Blue’

Points East

About this time of year in 1993, Pepper, our aging female Dalmatian, who had never been pregnant, took a strong liking to Bubba, our neighbors’ big black Lab. Pepper was 10 or 11 years old at the time and we’d tried to hook her up with several males of her breed over the years but nothing had ever come of it.

Apparently she simply did not like men of her own race. Or Bubba was extraordinarily seductive. In any event, early that fall she delivered nine of the strangest looking puppies I’ve ever seen. I had no trouble at all in giving eight of them away to column readers and we kept the runt of the litter who also happened to be the most uniquely coated.

He was also the only one that Loretta named and she was calling him “Blue” before he had his eyes open. The name fit. He looked like a little navy blue ball of fur. As time went by he wound up being black and white and spotted way too hard to describe without a photo. One side of his face was white and the other jet black and almost every kid who came to know him over the years wanted a dog just like Blue.

“Cool Blue,” they called him. He loved the affection and attention and returned it in kind. But mostly he loved Loretta and, later in life, Patty Tarquino, a Berea College student from Tennessee, more or less adopted by Loretta and me while she was in school here from ’99 through 03. When “Pattykins” moved to Whitesburg after graduation to take a job, the first thing she did was get a Lab puppy and name him Blue.

Over the years he has consistently been the official greeter at our house, right beside the car door barking joyously when we came in from school or work. He would perch on the rock wall out front at those times of the day when we were supposed to show up. And then, at least one or two minutes before Lo or Chris came into sight, he’d jump with joy, bark loudly and run to the end of the driveway.

He could recognize the sound of our vehicles long before they were within hearing distance of humankind and he never barked at a strange car unless it had pulled into our drive.

The only times I’ve ever seen him angry or threatening happened when kids got into serious arguments and threatened to fight. Then he’d growl and bare his teeth as if to say, “Stop it right now because neither one of you want me to get involved!” He’d also get upset if an adult attempted to discipline a child with harsh words while in his presence.

But over the last few seasons he had been terribly bothered by arthritis and his hearing had all but left him. He still wanted to be petted at the car door and he was promptly at the feet of anyone who went outside to sit on the front porch. “Hey Blue, you good dog you,” we’d sing to him, taking the line from an old Taj Mahal song.

Last Thursday morning he was just outside the back door, lying on the patio in the classic “Leave me alone, I’m sleeping pose” in his regular spot to do just that and I noticed that he had dew on his coat when I started to go to work. Layne Hawley, a friend who parks at our house and rides to work with me, had already noticed that something was wrong because he had not met her at the car door.

I yelled his name and he didn’t respond then went to pet him and it was obvious that he had been on the other side for several hours. He’d greeted me as usual when I came home from work the day before and he’d eaten when I fed him well before dark, but, as I said, he has been tired all spring and summer. Just a few weeks ago I’d spent over an hour getting his coat thinned down and combed out a grocery bag full of excess hair and talked to him and told him how I was filling in for Patty who brushed him nearly every day.

We’ve buried him in his favorite sunning spot, up on the hill behind the kitchen where he went to catch the sun rays in cold weather. He lay there so often that his spot was still visible because the ground was packed so hard. I’ve lined his grave top with some brick and planted a little flower bed on it this weekend.

We’re all going to have to get readjusted to life without Blue barking hello when we come home from work. It’s going to be a long while before sitting on the porch will again feel natural.

But the good thing is that Blue died on his own terms, no vet involved, no sign of real sickness — he just laid down and died as though to prove that he’d never been any trouble and had no intention of being any when his time came.

Everybody should have such a good and faithful friend at least once in their lifetime. Blue lived up to and way, way beyond that billing. Blue would have been 15 years old the last week of September.

Leave a Reply