We were mostly broke when the boys were young, but by the time Samantha was born, we could afford to buy her things. We bought her first bicycle, her first computer, and when she was about 3, we got her a puppy.
My grandmother Willie Watson called to see if we knew anyone who wanted a puppy.
We took Samantha down to look the pups over. There in her storm pit were three dogs about the size of feed store rats, and she picked out the smallest one. He looked like a little shaggy dust mop. I’m not sure where she got the name, but she called him Shadow.
Shadow was a snow white Benji-looking dog that was one the smartest dogs I’ve ever known.
Shadow visited often, especially in the mornings when he came to our yard for his daily constitutional. He also brought stuff to our house — tennis balls, volleyballs, footballs, stuffed animals, and anything else he could sneak out of their house.
We’ve always had a yard full of dogs and every time Shadow came to our house, it was like an instant party. He had that effect not only on our dogs, but also on any kid that came for a visit.
Samantha taught Shadow tricks and he learned them effortlessly. At one time in her young life she wanted to be a dog trainer especially since she’d had such good luck with Shadow. But when she tried to teach our mutts some tricks she found that they weren’t — how should I say — as receptive.
Shadow would come with her to supervise the training. During the sessions Shadow would watch Samantha, then look at our dogs expectantly, then he’d look back at Samantha as if to say, “I’ve seen sticks smarter than those dogs.”
Through the years Shadow served as a playmate, babysitter, a pillow and ball fetcher with the kids and grandkids. He was like a member of the family. We all loved that dog, especially Sam’s dad, Ricky.
A few years ago, I began to notice that Shadow didn’t come running when you called. In fact, he had to get within a few feet of you before he responded. Then his eyesight started failing. But even in old age, he was still a pleasant and loving dog. Then yesterday, Samantha called to say something was wrong with her old friend. Jilda and I walked over to check him out and it was obvious that his time was near.
They fixed him a bed in the hall and kept water nearby, but today Samantha called to say that he had died. Hearing the news put a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
No matter how much you tell yourself that Shadow was just a dog, we all know that he was much more. He’s older than all the Phillips grandchildren. I’ve taken their family Christmas picture every year, and Shadow has been in most of them.
Both Ricky and Debbie worked today, so after she called I went over and got Shadow and brought him to our doggie cemetery. He will have a choice lot next to our beloved dogs Charlie, Gibson, and Duke.
RIP Shadow, and know that you were loved.