Saturday, May 12, 2018


Today we said goodbye to Leo, my yellow lab. I want to tell you his story.

I brought Sephi (my black lab) into the vet in winter of 2005, and the staff told me about a family that had some puppies. Turns out that they had two labs, and had left them in the care of their teenager, who had locked them in a room and sodded off to go do teen things. The result was a little of nine puppies. Leo was the last one to find a home.

My parents had just bought a house in Middleburg Heights down the road from us, so they had a big living room and no furniture. We had the family bring the puppy over there; Leo (born in September) was probably about 10 weeks old. He was very shy and timid, and the family had a little boy (probably about 4) who was very concerned that we take good care of the dog.

The boy had named him "Superhero."

We took the puppy in and named him Helios, Dog of the Sun, or "Leo" for short. Right away we realized how different he was from Sephi. Sephi was confident and tough; Leo was a scaredy-cat and needed constant comfort. The first week we had him, I had to sleep on the couch with my hand over the edge so he could lick my hand from his crate if he got scared. Gradually, he let me leave the room after he fell asleep, and finally he got comfortable enough to fall asleep on his own.

He was a tiny puppy then, but of course he grew into a moose. He never had any sense of how big he really was. I think he lived his whole life thinking he still weighed about seven pounds. When he was younger he was happy to leap up on our couch and snuggle, which was fine, except that Leo had a tendency to lick whatever was within a tongue's length of his face.

He was a friend and companion to Sephi, and when Michelle moved in and brought her terrier Rosie, he bonded with her, too. When Rosie died (hit by a car), Leo mourned. He lay on the floor quietly, not sleeping, staring at where her crate used to be. I'd never seen an animal mourn before, and it was humbling to me.

When Leo was younger we'd take him into the woods and down to the creek. Like mostly labs, he loved the water and he'd happily go charging through it. He wasn't above lounging in mud puddles, too.

In 2011, we brought Si home, and Leo and Si immediately became friends. Sephi was getting older and showing it, so she couldn't really romp, but Leo could, and they'd chase things together. Leo actually managed to learn from Si and follow his cues (because whatever else can be said of Leo, he was no genius).

Just recently, Leo tore a ligament in his leg, and in trying to get around I think he made it worse. The vet thinks, too, that there was some neurological involvement, maybe a tumor on his spine. In any case, he couldn't stand or walk, and he was in constant pain. Today we made the decision to put him to sleep.

We (me, Michelle, John, Teagan, Cael, and Al) went to the vet where Leo had stayed overnight and sat around and rubbed him, told him he was a good boy, and said goodbye. Michelle and I stayed with him until the end. It was quick. "I think he was tired," the vet tech told us. I think he probably was.

Driving home, I noted that the sun wasn't shining. Well, sure.

The Dog of the Sun has gone to sleep.

Helios, Dog of the Sun, "Leo"
Sept. 2005-May 2018