Independence, MO – We said goodbye last week to a beloved member of our family.
Sally Gracie Wishbone, our 12-year-old Labrador retriever-border collie mix, battled cancer for several months. Thursday was her last day with us.
I couldn’t have asked for a better friend. Each day when I arrived home from work, Sally greeted me at the door with a wagging tail and smile. After a bad day, her brown, loving eyes warmed my heart and offered shelter from the storm.
More than those, Sally’s devotion and loyalty were unwavering. She watched me patiently from her perch on the loveseat during the many nights I worked late in the study. Her presence was assuring.
I’ve always loved dogs, having had several as pets during my childhood. But Sally was the first pooch I cared for as an adult, which probably explains her special place in my heart.
In early 2000 – nine years after Kate and I married and six years after we bought our house – my adult canine itch grew to a fevered pitch. That’s when I told the veterinary technician examining our cat at the emergency clinic to keep an eye out for a lab or lab-mix needing a home. She said they’d received such a dog the week before from a person who’d seen her get thrown from the road during a fender bender.
I went by the veterinary hospital the next day to check out the dog. Joe, who was 3 at the time, was with me.
The rest is history.
As a puppy, Sally was full of energy and zeal. Her border collie instincts led her to nip at our kids’ heels when they played in the backyard, constantly trying to herd them. They were good sports and always played along.
The Labrador retriever in Sally made her a good swimmer. Any time we were near water, she dove in and paddled like an excited child. Cold weather never bothered her.
As time marched on, Sally aged with grace and dignity. Joined later by Lucy, our redbone coonhound-whippet mix, she never relinquished her position as the four-legged alpha female. Yet her love and protection of her herd – another dog and various cats over the years – was ever-present.
Several lessons from Sally’s life have come into focus in the week since we said goodbye to her.
She was loyal until the end. Sally’s life demonstrated that what we receive from others is never of importance; what should drive us is what we give them. That’s what lasts.
Sally exemplified the fact that the true measure of a life’s value is the sum of its actions, not its words. She never spoke – at least not in English – but our four-legged lab-mix warmed more people’s hearts and filled more family members with love than any person I’ve ever known. Actions always speak loudest.
Sally also proved that the benefit and lessons of a life well lived grow even after it ends. Sally never sought to draw attention to herself; she always shared it with others. As a result, her spirit lives on in our family.
We miss Sally every day. But we also cherish the memories of her life and the gifts she shared with us all.
Thank you for all you gave our family, Sally. We will always remember you.