On the morning of March 10, the day before the tsunami, I took my dog Martha for her last ride. Rick was out of town so I made the difficult decision and the journey alone, with Martha in the back seat on her one-way trip to the vet’s.
When I came home, Smitty was waiting by the back door as always. Every time Rick or I returned from anywhere, Smitty greeted us at the door. I have no idea if Smitty understood Martha was gone for good, but he looked lovingly at me with those big brown eyes and when I sat down for a good cry, he rested his head on my feet.
In the weeks that followed, Smitty may have missed Martha but it didn’t show. But then Smitty was never one to complain about anything.
This yellow lab literally walked into my life four years ago. Someone in the front office spotted him outside The Triplicate. I’m told he ran away from the employees who tried to check his tags, but when I went outside he wagged his tail and let me pet him.
I looked up and down H Street for his owner. I brought him in where it was cooler. I decided to take him home, give him something to eat and let him run around in our back yard.
I assured Rick this dog was just visiting until we found his owner. But when we finally did talk to the owner, he said he was moving and would prefer we just keep “Buddy.” It wasn’t our first choice, but it seemed like the best option at the time.
My youngest son’s nickname is “Buddy” so I decided to call our new dog “Smitty” after the river where his former owner said he found him as a pup.
Smitty never asked for anything. He liked his food plain even when Martha insisted on special garnishes like parmesan cheese. He loved to ride along but never whined if we left him behind. He waited for permission to run into the waves and always stayed close by.
Rick called me early the morning of my aunt’s birthday party when I was down in San Pedro last month. I knew immediately that something was wrong. “It’s Smitty,” he said, choking back tears. “What? Did he get run over?” I screeched. What else could it be? He was never sick. All I could imagine was that he must have run out in front of a car.
No. Smitty chose a comfortable spot on the carpet right next to the side of the bed where Rick slept and never woke up.
It’s been six weeks and we still expect Smitty to greet us when we open the door. Rick mentioned it again yesterday. I think about it every day when I come home from work.
Fortunately, our son’s dog Thomas is often waiting now. He’s not Martha or Smitty, he’s a young energetic border collie-black lab mix with a big heart and sloppy kisses. There was a time I thought having him underfoot was one too many dogs. Now I find myself hoping he’ll stay awhile.
Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate’s publisher, at mthomas@ triplicate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.