If there is an unsung hero in the past year, it is our big, goofy chocolate lab...his name is Doc, but we usually just call him Brown Dog.
When I was in the hospital, the highlight of my week was Sunday afternoon, when I was allowed a thirty minute wheelchair ride out into the fresh air, and the big brown dog would come up for a visit. Although very confused as to why I was not able to get up and play, he soon found that his head fit pretty well in my lap at wheelchair level, all the better to lick knees, face, legs...whatever was within reach.
After Rip died, I had not stepped foot in my home for over six weeks. My world had been turned upside down. Burying my face into warm brown fur brought back a sense of normalcy that I didn't think I would ever find again.
By December, Parke had to go back to work. My parents had to go back home. All of my friends had lives they had to return to. It was just me and the Brown Dog. He would lie next to me on the nursery floor while I cried and cried. He would put that enormous head in my lap until it was literally soaked with tears. Finally, at the end of the day, we would get enough strength to heave ourselves up, with world-weary sighs, and find our way back down the stairs to face another night.
During those horrible first months, whenever Parke and I happened to be in separate rooms, the Brown Dog would frantically roam back and forth, knowing his job was to comfort but loving us both too much to decide where he was needed most.
Even now, when we are finally starting to see some good days...maybe even some weeks more good than bad...there are nights when I crawl in bed to have a good cry and find a big brown body tucked beside me, eyebrows worrying up and down, tail thumping reassuringly.
There has been someone there, keeping our little family together, and asking for nothing in return...we call him Brown Dog.