The Case of the Missing Dog

The problem with having your kids read your blog is that they become instant Fact Checkers. Such is the case from my dog blog from two weeks ago. My daughter’s three word critique? “You forgot Mandy.”

Yes, I did forget Mandy. It was during the late eighties, and we only had her for six months, but Mandy was important in our dog lives and in the lives of several other very lucky dogs as well. So I guess it’s time to tell the tale of that tail.

As I said, it was the late eighties. Bill and I were newly weds with a pair of teenagers and three young adults. We also had two golden retrievers, Nikki and Tess, named after Nicolai Tesla. Our bedroom was upstairs where we had a tiny two-cup coffee pot on the bathroom counter. In the morning, I’d go down and bring in the newspapers and then return to our room where we didn’t emerge to face the day and the rest of the household until two coffees and two newspapers later.

This was back in the day of paper newspapers. I was a recent transplant to Bellevue, so Bill read the Eastside’s Bellevue Journal-American while I read the Seattle Post Intelligencer. One morning while reading his want-ads he said, “Here’s a sad story. Free to good home, eleven year old golden retriever. Why don’t you give them a call?”

Let’s just say we already had two dogs who had to be walked on leashes because we had no fence, and guess who did most of the walking? But I called. It turned out it was a family where the kids were grown and the parents were moving into a NO DOGS ALLOWED condo. So that afternoon after work and school, we all trooped over to their house, and that’s where we met Mandy.

She was one a platinum golden retriever. When I reached down to pat her head, however, my hand came away dirty. (If you’re going to sell a car, don’t you at least wash and polish it first?) When the woman learned that we already had two dogs, she said they were hoping Mandy would go to an otherwise dog-free home. “Okay,” I said as we were leaving, “but if nobody takes her, give us a call.”

Three weeks later, nobody had, and the woman called. So that afternoon, we brought Mandy home. I was a little surprised that they sent her away without a bed or a toy or even so much as a goodbye hug. After eleven years???

So we took her home and gave her a bath. It took three of us to cut tangled mats of fur six inches thick off her hindquarters. I’m surprised she could even walk. The woman had told us Mandy had arthritis, so we put her on a regimen of baby aspirin. When I tried to walk her on a leash, nothing happened. It turned out she was a shy girl and couldn’t do anything if someone was watching. Once she was able to do her duty off leash, Nikki and Tess learned to do so as well. And despite the fact that Mandy’s old home wasn’t more than six blocks from her new one, she never made any attempt to run away.

I was home alone during the days, and Mandy stayed at my feet. She was deadly when it came to killing flies. She would stalk them and catch them in mid-air. I’m sure that when she was so filthy, flies had made her life miserable. Oh, and she absolutely hated going to the vet. When she had to go, she was a shaking, trembling mess, so that’s how the tradition started that whenever a dog had to go to the vet, they got to have a BurgerKing patty on the way home.

For several months Mandy slept upstairs in our bedroom. Then one night she didn’t want to go upstairs and slept on the landing at the bottom instead. A few weeks later, when I went out to get the morning papers, there were some obnoxious crows strutting around out in the front yard. Mandy bounded off the front porch to give them a piece of her mind, and came back a three legged dog.

I took her to the vet later that morning. He looked at the leg, told me it appeared to be broken, and sent me to a doggie ER for X-rays. On the way, we stopped at BurgerKing. When we arrived at the new vet, naturally she was terrified, and I dropped her off with a heavy heart. They called me a few hours later. Her broken leg was actually bone cancer—inoperable bone cancer, and they recommended putting her down. “Should I come back?” I asked. “No,” they said. “She’s settled now. It would actually be better for her if you didn’t.”

So that’s how we found Mandy and that’s how we lost her. I was writing a book called Payment in Kind at the time, and a few weeks later, when Beaumont finally meets up with his long estranged grandfather, guess what? Yup? His grandfather just happened to have a lovely platinum golden retriever named Mandy. So Mandy lives on in Beaumont fiction just as our beloved Bella lives on in the Ali Reynolds books.

We had had Mandy in our lives for six short months but she made a huge difference. A few months after she was gone, when a pound puppy named Bony came into our lives, I couldn’t very well say we didn’t accept new dogs, and so we did.

Since then, any number of unwanted, sent away, and rejected dogs have come through our family’s lives. Bella became ours the moment I picked her up as a terrified abandoned creature on a busy Bellevue street. But that’s how most of our grand-dogs have entered the family–as strays. That goes for Kensie, Angel, Snowflake, Stormy, Skygirl, Miracle, Dodger, and most recently, Apollo.

None of the newcomers ever met Mandy, but they all owe her a debt of gratitude.