RIP Black Indie Boy - October 2001 - April 2011. We didn't get to spend your first three years with you and we spent a year undoing all the damage that was the result - but for the last seven years, you've slept where you wanted, had all the toys you could ever wish for, chewed through dozens of soccer balls and been one of the loves of our life. We will miss you.
Indie came to us the weekend of Hurricane Jeane in 2004. His previous owners were retiring to a place where pets were not allowed. They'd lost his "brother" to cancer a year or so before and wanted to place Indie in a good home. That home was not supposed to be this old farmhouse........
Our daughter was 21 years old and moving out for the first time. She and her friend Brandi were renting an old house in town and David and I felt she needed a dog for protection...and so Indie came to stay in the farmhouse for the three weeks we were painting and helping the landlord put in new flooring in that rental house.
There was only Murphy here then. He'd been with us since the previous January coming to live with us just two weeks before we moved here, but was already known as the Dog in a Million. We'd seen his intelligence in so many different ways - and as lifetime dog owners, knew that he was exceptional. We'd watched him reassure our Shanna when he came to live with us and watched him wait while she slowly let him take over her chores. But we were a bit nervous introducing him to Indie - we didn't need to be though..........
Indie was very very frightened the day Nikki and I brought him home. He refused to get out of the back of the truck - sitting there with a ball in his mouth and drooling terribly...for about 2 hours. Adding to the problem was the rain that was starting to come through ahead of the hurricane. Nikki sat in the truck with him and finally lifted him forcibly out and into the yard. David and I had Murphy in the front yard waiting for the introductions.
Indie came hesitantly along with the leash held in Nikki's hands. Murphy immediately sat down without being told. Indie, shaking, kept barking and growling. Murphy simply sat still. Then, he stood up, turned around, and sat with his back towards Indie. Indie slowed down the shaking and the barking and took a few tentative steps towards the sitting black lab that towered over him when standing. Murphy then laid down. And Indie came closer. Then Murphy rolled over onto his back exposing his throat to Indie. And Indie sat down. And the two of them entered the house.
Over the next few weeks, we learned that the hints we'd gotten that first day of his timidity were actually who Indie was. He refused to put the ball down unless he was eating or drinking. He wanted to be in his crate all of the time. After a few days, we had to resort to withholding attention unless Indie put that ball down. We learned that by nature, Indie was always timid. The ball and the crate were his security objects. He never went into a room by himself. It would take months for him to feel free enough to do so and almost a year before he'd put the ball down (to trust that we'd pay attention to him without him first having to bring us a ball). Our vet explained that this was all the result of excessive crate training.
The last day before Nikki's move, we took Indie over to the house to introduce him to it while we finished up the last touches before moving in the furniture. He was glued to my hip - shaking. We'd taken Murphy with us and he was all over the place - trying to encourage Indie to explore the house and the yard. Indie wanted nothing to do with any of it.
When it came time to load up and head home, I said "Let's go, Indie" and he raced from the bathroom just off the kitchen and out the front door, across the front porch and jumped over the bushes - hit the ground once and bounded up into the truck. Nikki and I just looked at each other...both knowing that Indie was not moving into that house with her. And so, the farmhouse became his home. He got to stay in the place that David called Doggy Disney World.
Over the next year, we worked very hard to help Indie get over his timid nature. Realizing that Indie's dependence on the crate was unhealthy mentally, we folded it up and put it away, but still he slept downstairs alone each night. It was time to teach him how to use those stairs---we got him up pretty easily but going down was a different story. I sat at the top of the stairs with him while Nikki stood at the bottom calling him. We reversed positions. We left him up there. Nothing would get him back down those stairs. And that is where Murphy comes in again....
Finally I called Murphy upstairs - he bounded up them. Then I said "go back down Murphy" and he bounded down them - Indie watching wide eyed, that ball in his mouth and drool dripping. Murphy turned around at the bottom and barked. Indie barked back. Murphy bounded up - then down...and barked. And Indie barked. Repeat six or seven times. Finally, Indie stood up and made his slow but steady way down those stairs - and up them at bedtime and down again for breakfast. He never ever would bound up them like Murphy or move down them with any speed at all but he learned.
Indie would never be a normal dog - much less a normal Lab. But, he was who he was and we all loved him for it. Although he learned that he didn't need a ball to get attention, he had other ways of getting it - especially after King and then Callie came to live with us. Whenever we came in the door from outside, he was always the last to enter...and then he'd lay right down in front of the door and your feet. You'd have to give him a hug and a stroke or two before he'd move the rest of the way into the house. When he felt he hadn't gotten enough attention for too long - he'd come over and sit on your feet. He was special - a mentally deficient Lab with lovable quirks - always silly but obviously very happy with his lot in life.
We've lost both Murphy and Indie in less than one month. Murphy to seizures that took his personality away and Indie to the effects of poor breeding and old age. Indie's hips went first about 18 months ago, then his elbows (both of which are genetic but with proper breeding of dogs that don't have the issues can be avoided). About a year ago, he developed a fatty tumor that we had to choose to ignore due to his age and the risks of surgery. And lately, his sight had begun to go. But Indie's personality? That was always there.
He could barely move - he slipped while going out and down the stoop steps - he hadn't slept upstairs in about 6 months or so (the steps that he never really got good at maneuvering were beyond his reach) - but at night as he and I sat in the living room watching TV, he roll onto his back and grin that doggy grin tail wildly wagging. Callie learned to bring him the ball and lay down to play with him or the rope to play a gentle game of tug of war. Every now and then, she'd race around the yard or the house to let off the steam that she used to let off with Indie running with her but then back she'd come to lay down and play with him some more.
I'd been putting off making the appointment for Indie. For some reason, it was harder than the call for Murphy. Murphy's personality was slowly disappearing with each seizure - we had had a long goodbye with Murphy - but Indie's personality was still there in full force. - every single silly, happy bit of it. I'd watch him struggle through the day and think "I'll call tomorrow", but then at night I'd see that grin and watch that tail and the next day would pass without me picking up the phone.
But last Thursday, as I watched Indie playing with Callie and watched him slip on his way out the door, I had a revelation. Indie was never going to lose that personality - in his mind, he'd aged as far as he would ever age. Excessive crate training, a lack of personal attention and not enough freedom to roam and learn about the world during his first three years of life had retarded his mental capacity. There would never be a day when he'd look at me, like our 15 year old Shanna did, and let me know he was ready. And to let him keep on suffering was unfair. I was doing it for me and for David and the kids.....and not for him.
And so, I finally made that call. I brushed him one last time. I told him how glad I was that he'd come to live at Doggy Disney World and that I would love and miss him always. And I will.