Today’s kaddish is for an incredibly sweet yellow labrador retriever who died on Tuesday.
Britt started out as a working dog—I think for the blind, but I’m not sure about that—who graduated into a breeding program for service dogs. My friend Dana was her human, and Britt was signed up to deliver a certain number of litters of puppies. Being a mom was hard on her, but she produced many litters of beautiful, healthy, strong puppies, and a lot of those puppies ended up in training to be working dogs also. Good genes, that Britt.
And good temperament! Well, kind of crappy temperament for being Mama Dog, from what Dana told us, but great temperament when she was working and great temperament when she was being a cuddly yellow lab about town.
I met Britt about a decade ago, when she was newly sprung from service work into breeding work. Dana and Jane, my girlfriend at the time, were both dancing the morris at one of those street-festival-arts-and-crafts-fair events in the South Bay. I don’t remember if I was playing tuba for dancers that day or just being an admiring girlfriend, but that part doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was a fish seriously out of water, surrounded by morris dancers, tired and grumpy from a long day in the hot sun pretending to be an extravert.
And then I met Britt. She was panting gently at the end of a leash held by a perfectly lovely woman who seemed to be friends with Jane and all the rest of the dancers. I stroked her head. She smiled. I knelt down and stroked her some more; she smiled some more. I pulled her into a hug; she hugged back. And there we were together, for a really long time, cuddling and beaming at each other. Jane and Dana and the others caught up with each other for what felt like hours to this introvert. Britt and I cuddled for what probably felt like years to Dana, who probably wondered who the weird woman fawning all over her dog was.
Eventually introductions were made, and I apologized for monopolizing her dog, and then thanked her for sharing her dog. I think Dana probably still wondered what my trip was, but she was gracious about it—she smiled and told me more about Britt, and that’s how I learned about Dana’s involvement with service dogs.
I was always happy to run into Dana and Britt. Dana’s wonderful. I could go on and on about her, but this post is about Britt. Whenever I saw them, I counted on a good cuddle, and it was wonderful to get a fur fix from a labrador retriever. I was raised by labrador retrievers, and I always felt like there was a hole in my life that I didn’t have a lab as an adult.
Years later, Jane and I got to drop by Dana and Dave’s house (Dave came along later) and help socialize a new litter of puppies. Dana and Dave worked their butts off raising puppies according to the incredibly fussy standards of service-puppy raising, but Jane and I got it easy; we got to love on little baked-potato-sized lab puppies for an hour or two.
I was in heaven.
A few more years later, I had a chance to adopt my parents’ black lab, Candy, who needed to retire from hunting after a series of knee injuries. She lived with me and my new girlfriend who became my wife, and she made us a better family for the next five years. The last five months of her life, Candy helped break in our new chocolate lab puppy, Kjersten, who has turned into the 70 pound fur bag of love snoring away on the couch next to me right now. Her other mom and I are in the process of a divorce now. Labrador retrievers remain the constant in my life.
Dana will probably shake her head as she reads this, but I owe it all to Britt. Britt reminded me that I need labs in my life.
A kaddish for a damned fine yellow lab, with thanks to Dana and Dave for sharing her with the rest of us.