Monty’s Lady Thurber

It was a September Saturday, and I was ten years old.  I had just started the fifth grade.  My family –, my two younger sisters, my parents and I, lived in an old house full of character.  Built in the 1920’s, the house’s basement walls were damp and crumbly, and the basement bathroom was used only in dire emergencies (or by my father, whose piles of magazines–The New Yorker, Scientific American and National Geographic—were the bathroom’s only redeeming quality.)

My favorite features were the front porch with its slatted wooden swing, just perfect for relaxing with a good book on lazy summer days, and the attic that my father and a couple of helpers refinished shortly after we moved in.  In his rather creative, eccentric manner (he once used a potty chair for an in-basket on his desk at the office, but that’s another story altogether) my father had suspended two unfinished plywood doors from four hanging steel cords to make two swinging desks. My friends thought the desks were quite amazing — in truth, I’ve never seen anything like them. They certainly were unique and provided a lot of room to work, but typing could be a challenge when the desk started swinging back and forth as you worked!

On this particular fall day, my father asked me if I’d like to accompany him on an unknown errand, and I was happy to join him.  I was delighted to discover that our errand was to pick out a puppy from a nearby litter.  My parents had made the arrangements and agreed to surprise us — as the oldest, I was lucky enough to be the one to choose our pet.  The owner showed us to an enclosed area where five miniature Bassett hounds ambled about.  I immediately noticed that one puppy was smaller than the rest; she had lovely coloring — a brown head, white shoulders and a black body, with a white star-shaped mark in the middle of her back.  She was considered the “runt” of the litter, but she looked beautiful to me.

And so “Monty’s Lady Thurber” entered out lives, so-called for our surname—Montgomery– and my parents’ affinity for James Thurber’s writing and the many dogs illustrated in his works.  Monty’s Lady Thurber was her official name, posted in her pedigree and record, but to us she was simply “Lady”.

Bassett hounds puppies are quite humorous, with oversized paws and long floppy ears. Until they grow a little taller, they have a tendency to trip over their ears while running, rolling over in unexpected somersaults, or dragging their ears through their food and water dishes.  They also develop a deep bark, (they are hounds after all) which appears to scare them as they first get accustomed to having a noise that loud come out of their throat. They look confused, as if to say “did I do that?

Lady was our family’s one and only pet for as long as she lived — about 15 years.  She was a playful and loyal companion, mischievous at times, but not much use as a guard dog– she would only bark if we were at home, but, (as several of our friends reported to us) not if strangers came to call while we were out.  She had many grand adventures– rolling in dead fish when out for a hike by a river, eating entire sticks of butter, or on one holiday an entire ham, catching her hind feet in a tennis racket and clomping across the living room floor — clickety-clack kerthumping her way through the room until she was rescued and set aright.

But I am most grateful for her companionship that very first winter she was with us.  I was in the Girl Scouts at the time, working on the “Pets” badge.  One of the requirements was that I take full responsibility for a pet for two months.  I suppose I started in late November; my job was to feed her every evening then take her out for a walk.  I did so eagerly at first, then more dutifully as the winter arrived with its early darkness and often bitter cold.

As we moved into December, my mother was called away; my grandmother had had a major stroke and was very ill.  I missed my mother, worried about my grandmother, who was my dearest relative, and baked my first birthday cake for my sister, who was turning six.  It had a ring of animal crackers around the top like a circus parade, and unceremoniously broke in two shortly after being brought to the table.

Come mid-December the fateful call came early in the morning — I remember I was eating rice krispies at the time. Before my father hung up the phone, I knew that my grandma had died.  I had lost the person who loved me the most. I felt hurt and empty, lonely and so very sad.

And yet every evening, I still had Lady to walk.  We would rush out into the cold (she always loved her walks and strained at her leash until we were out the door) then walk a few blocks out and back. I often looked up at the sky as we walked; on cloudy nights the sky reflected back some colors from the city lights, on clear, crisp evenings I looked at the stars and wondered about heaven and where my dear Grami might be now.

Somehow those walks comforted me during my season of grief, and each evening when we got back home, back to the warmth, Lady would cuddle up and sleep in a lump in the middle of my bed (she always took the best spot).  Her compassionate eyes, her warmth and steady breath calmed me and reminded me that I was still loved.

Come spring, I received my “Pets” badge, as an acknowledgement of my completion of all the necessary requirements.  As I remember it now though, it seems that the badge rightfully belonged to Lady, who gave me far more than I gave her through that long, cold, lonely winter.








1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. greggsema
    Dec 07, 2014 @ 03:55:08

    You continue to be awesome!!



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