Black Dog Love
One summer when I was a child, I spend a month in rural Connecticut, where I became friends with a big black dog. One day, after lunch, I found him snoozing on the grass in the shade of a tall tree in front of the house. He looked so comfortable that I lay down beside him, resting my head on his gently rising and falling side. When I awoke, it was as if I had been injected with gentle-big-black-dog love serum.
More than fifty years after that summer in Connecticut, I placed an ad on Craig’s List for a black Labrador Retriever, an American field style dog. I had almost given up hope when a man called and told me he was moving to Albuquerque and could not keep his Lab. He said that he was a duck hunter, that the dog was not named after a cognac, but a rifle. This June 26 marks the one-year anniversary of the day that I met and adopted Remington. She is probably the last Black Lab I will have. And I love her with an especial, almost painful fervor. Above are photos from our year together.
When I was twenty-three, I worked during the summer as a photographer for the Aspen Illustrated News. One day, listening to the radio in my car, I heard that someone was giving away a black Labrador Retriever. The woman was going to graduate school in Denver and could not keep him. As with Remi all those years later, we shared an immediate, unbreakable bond. Brutie and I were together for the next ten years.
A friend in Santa Fe told me about a litter of Labs of which there was one left. The owner traded me Duke for a photograph that I had taken of the Rio Grande Gorge. Duke often accompanied me when I photographed, and after a time, would sit in front of the camera as if to say, Dad, why aren’t you paying attention to me? When Duke died, a deep, deep wellspring of sorrow poured out of me. I thought my heart would break.
While we were still grieving for Duke, several people told us about a breeder in Madison, Wisconsin. We called, drove up, and that is where we got adorable baby Slugger. Back in Chicago, it seemed that all the dogs and dog people in our neighborhood fell in love with him. We had doggie play group every night at ten, and dog beach at the lake in the summer. He had a grand life in Chicago.
We got Sami—we named her after the Cubs right fielder—to keep Slugger company and help alleviate his post-Chicago blues after we returned to Santa Fe. Sami lived till age fifteen, longer than any of my dogs. Even in old age, she swam in the Rio Grande, slowly, majestically paddling her way back to shore.
June 26, 2016