Twelve years ago this past March, my husband Arlo came home with a six-week-old puppy. He had stopped off at a dairy farm in Liberty, North Carolina to make a delivery for work. There he found a litter of puppies who reminded him of the farm dogs his family had owned growing up in Tennessee. The fluffy ball of fur Arlo carried home had a glossy black coat, a tan spot above each eye, and a tan bar across her chest. Our whole family fell in love with her the same minute they walked in the front door. As far as my sons were concerned, Abby was her name, and Abby did indeed remain her name for her entire life.
Abby loved her boys and was very protective towards them. She would stand on her hind feet and push my youngest son Gary back into the yard if he toddled towards the road. When a strange dog came around, Abby always managed to position herself between the unknown dog and our cat. As the younger boys began to grow up it became harder for me to keep track of them. But the job was made simpler with a wagging dog’s tail sticking out from a bush or around the corner of a building. Once Abby’s tail was spotted, the rest was easy. Often when the boys would head for the woods, Abby would start out along with them. Sometimes they would tell her to stay home. Abby would always turn around and head home. But when the boys arrived at the creek or wherever it was they were going, Abby would usually be there waiting. She fully understood that her main purpose in life was to protect her boys, and she never shirked her duty.
During the summer of her eleventh year, Abby began to show signs of arthritis. And other indications were there of something that was more serious. Because of this, we began to let her sleep in the house when the nights grew colder. One night when there was snow on the ground, we let Abby out to explore and she failed to return. A week later, when the snow began to disappear, the boys found Abby in the forest, a short distance behind our lot. Abby belonged to the boys, and they took care of all essential duties on their own initiative. They brought Abby back home, did all the spade work and gave Abby the decent burial they knew she deserved. We never registered her, nor could I tell you anything about her pedigree. But for our family, there will never be another Abby.
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