Remembering My Yellow Lab Sunshine

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While cleaning my closet the other day,  I came upon one of my favorite sweaters.  I noticed some short, blonde hairs that belonged to my yellow Lab Sunshine woven into it. Then the tears started flowing.

I had always had animals in my childhood since my father owned a farm, but they were never allowed in the house.  As an adult, I finally got to raise a pup of my own, a lovely yellow Lab/Golden Retriever mix I named Sunshine.  If I had known then what I know now, I could have spared us a lot of chewed up things and trips to the vet! Once we got past the destructive stage, Sunshine became the best furry friend I could have asked for. She went everywhere with me and the kids always wanted her to go to school with them insisting that “Sunshine wants to be lunch monitor.” She enjoyed chasing the ball for hours and when old enough, I ran with her for miles to tire her out so she wouldn’t destroy the house while I went to work.  As she grew older, all the grey hairs she had given me in her puppyhood did not matter any more. All indiscretions had been forgotten. She was just a sweet, old, gentle girl. My oldest daughter was finishing high school as a typical teen with a bad attitude. She gave me plenty of heartache, but Sunshine soothed the aching heart with her gentle and quiet presence.

A few weeks before her 15th birthday, I was having some windows replaced and the contractor left the front door open. The housekeeper had moved the hallway gate to mop the floor and forgot to put it back. Little old Sunshine wandered out of the house down to the golf course and fell into the lake. A golfer found her struggling to get out and pulled her out of the water. He called the number on her tags (a reminder to always have ID tags on your dogs), and I rushed down to the club house to pick up my cold shivering little girl and rushed her to the vet. He checked her all over and said she would be fine.

She did not drown that day, but the accident took a toll on her and she was not fine. She suffered terribly the following days. Her breathing was labored and she paced frantically not knowing what to do with herself. No matter what concoctions I came up with she just did not want to eat any more. I took her to see our good friend Liz, the animal physical therapist. She did a cranial sacral treatment on her and noticed her diaphragm was torn, probably as a result of her struggling so hard to get out of the pond at the golf course.   Sunshine paced in circles uncontrollably getting stuck in corners and between furniture. I took her outside that night and looked at the stars together. She had seen me through some very difficult times in my life and it just broke my heart I couldn’t do more for her but to let her go. I told her I didn’t want her to go, but that I understood she had to and that I would always be grateful she chose me as her mom. As hard as it was to let go, I told her it was ok, that I would be ok, that she could go play now in heaven and not be in pain any more. Amazingly, after I said that, her body relaxed and she stopped struggling to break free to pace in circles again.

That was our last night together. The days, weeks, and months passed and we had a clean house with no more hair all over but it felt so quiet and empty. There was no happy waggy tail awaiting our return home .. . . I hugged the sweater that had her hairs on it and hoped she could hear me as I said “Thank you Sunshine for all those years together.  Thank you for being part of my life. I really didn’t care how much vacuuming I had to do… As long as I had another day with you…”

Elena Flyer is a Californian owner and lover of animals: horses, dogs, birds – you name it! She is actively involved in the community whether through therapeutic dog visits to healthcare facilities, or volunteering at Labrador Rescuers.

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