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She was small and fuzzy and fit on my hand and forearm. I had passed her by on my first trip through the line of chain link and concrete paddocks because she did not respond. When I came back she was different… like she had known me for years beyond her short, eight-week life span.
Yellow-lab features with golden-retriever tones, a mix she was, wiggling and dancing around the kennel floor. She was perfect, just the right breed, just the right time, just the right dog for the first of what would be seven grandchildren. I took her home.
At that time in history news reports were running about a small boy in Florida, Elian Gonzales, with protests, and international discourse and federal officers with guns drawn flickering from TV screens. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno stood before microphones and cameras and proclaimed the need to send the boy back to Cuba. I scratched my head and dubbed the little dog with the moniker of a newsy lady.
So, Janet Reno became a friend, a companion and a nanny for one grandchild, then another, then five more as the years rolled along – the dog, not the lady. We had had other celebrities as pets in the past. Olivia Newton John was an Australian shepherd that rode in my jeep and braved the jeep trails of eastern California’s mountains and deserts. Then came William F. Buckley. Buck was a rottweiler-husky who did the same in his term as family protector.
The others had been outdoorsy friends. They loved the woods and rocks and the ride in between. But, Reno was my baby. She seemed more delicate. The thickets and tangles and gnawing bugs didn’t fit her demeanor. I cringed when she would tumble through the brush where ticks could board and bite. Buck would emerge from a thorn tangle like he enjoyed the encounter. Reno would look up with soft sad eyes and I would read her gaze as saying, “I need to go home, there may be kids there to cuddle.”
She took her job as nanny seriously. She licked faces and chased tennis balls and guarded and loved and served as a TV-watching pillow through countless episodes of Sponge Bob and Peppa Pig. She greeted her brood at the door and moped when they would go. She cheered and brightened our lives for fourteen years.
Friendships between canines and humans are abundant in history, but dogs are here for a short time. Her coat turned gray, eyes grew tired, her zest for chasing and fetching and kid-watching waned. She slipped into family lore one morning at 9:30. Another paragraph of our lives had ended. Another story was told. I cried.
We buried her in back where her kids still play, near the ball-chasing spot across from the swing. On that point in the yard, when the spring rains make their run to the ocean, a batch of golden-yellow flowers brighten the yard as giggles and laughter echo around the house and walk and trees. I don’t know if all dogs go to heaven, but they create a little heaven while they’re here.