“But, Mom, it’s not fair…he has two dogs and I don’t even have one,” complained Griffin once they got in the car after the boys’ play date as new kindergarten friends. He and our son had spent the afternoon in the backyard with our two chocolate labs and Griffin was entranced. Later that night he would repeat his argument about the inequity of his no-dog status to his father. By winter break, he was romping with his new “little sister,” Sidney, a beautiful, honey blond golden retriever. She would remain a fixture in his life, and on the annual Christmas card, for many years to come.
Acquiring a dog to accompany your children from youth to adulthood is a true American tradition. One tender example of this is My Dog Skip, the autobiographical tale written by author Willie Morris (1934-1999) in 1995. It is the story of how Morris blossomed from an awkward and lonely (only) child to a confident college student and recipient of a Rhodes scholarship, all with the help of his loyal pup. As the story ends, the inevitable cable arrives for him in Oxford telling Morris of Skip’s death. He writes:
“The dog of your boyhood teaches you a great deal about friendship, and love, and death: Old Skip was my brother.” Speaking of his parents, he continues, “They had buried him under our elm tree, they said-yet this was not totally true. For he really lay buried in my heart.”
As we packed our son off to college for his freshman year, my husband, daughter and I watched as he said goodbye to Argus. At age 13, the enormous chocolate lab who joined our household as our son’s dog, had accomplished his mission in seeing him off to college. Argus, too, had taught Walker about friendship and love. Like Skip, he passed away during our son’s collegiate years, teaching us all a lesson about the finality of death.
No doubt he will own other dogs but will probably never have a relationship quite like the one he had with Argus. As we mourned our lumbering Labrador we discovered that sweet Sidney had also died during Griffin’s freshman year.
Is this an all too common part of sending your child to college: burying the family dog? How did your relationship with the dog change once your children went to college? Which sentence sounds like something you would say?
“What, are you still here? Isn’t it time for you to be leaving too?
“The poor dog misses the kids and is slowing down; I dread the day I have to make a decision about his future.”
“It is just too quiet. Let’s get a puppy!”