n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Our Sweet Lambert

Two weekends ago, our sweet Lambert passed away.  Partings with our beloved animals are always so difficult... I remember each one, in vivid detail: where I was, how I reacted, whether I dealt well with it or not. First in my memory as a canine member of our family is Briggs, a runner, a protector and playmate for my sister and I, a tester of fragile iced lakes, a dog with an eternal taste for the rubber ball tossed long over a grassy field. Like Lambert, he lived a long, perfectly lovely life, wherein he was adored and respected, an irreplaceable part of who we are.

Unlike our first feller, Lambert was with us from puppyhood. Sometimes to our chagrin. We got him in extreme naivete: I found a listing in the newspaper and looked up the breed, merely to discover that it was a big herding dog. I later learned that the Great Pyrenee breed was developed to spend long months out on the range with flocks of sheep, to blend in and be independent of humans, to look sheeplike only to erupt ferocious under threat and kill all predators dead. After reading the newspaper, I knew only 'big', and thought it a good fit for CR after having lost, some months back, his Maude -- a Newfie-Lab mix like Herald. And so I wrangled and weaseled and got CR to go out to look at this puppy with me.

Lambert's parents lived out in the county, and we drove up a long driveway to get there. Upon arriving, an intensely garrulous white fluffy elephant gamboled out of the greens to greet us. A man, whom I am sure was chewing on either a cigar or a stalk of wheat, met us at the gate and introduced us to the elephant, telling us that this was the father of the pups he had, and that he could only let the mother or father out, one at a time, lest they "play too hard" with the sheep.  Then he took us to a small woodshed at the corner of the field, and there were the puppies--a female already spoken for, and the male, who rolled out upon our shores. It took CR three seconds to write the check and tuck the puppy under his arms, although I do remember some kind of brief two-second "whether or not" pretense.

I named Lambert, by the way, after my favorite Saturday morning cartoon, which only came on every now and then, as a special treat. My favorite hero (next to Wonder Woman and the Incredible Hulk).

And so we had Lambert. The below picture is Lambert with my mother, who likes to pretend she might have gotten rid of him at some point in his adolescence when he was so horrific only Satan himself might have enjoyed his company. He was frequently called 'Badbert', I must admit.

When he was still a small, adorable fluffball, CR liked to to take Lambert on rides in the car with him. One day, the window was rolled down and Lambert jumped out... onto the freeway.  This is one of my most vivid memories, although I wasn't even there.

As CR tells it, Lambert landed on the line in the middle of the two lanes, and all the traffic came to a complete and utter halt. CR pulled over and was able to walk to the middle of the I5 corridor and gather his howling puppy from the asphalt. As he walked back, he saw drivers crying--maybe it's just one driver, and when I feel cynical, I picture her, tears drifting across her sharp cheekbones as our injured, scared, yelping puppy was lifted up and carried to safety.

This is one of those moments that reminds me of humanity.

Yes, he had a broken leg and wore a horrible splint, but he grew out of it. Later, he had arthritis and was weak in the back legs, but it never actually slowed him down much.

The Lambert everyone remembers is masterfully mischievous, perhaps even maniacally mischievous. As a sampler: he loved stealing hats--better if it was off your head; he bit men's 'male-parts' for most of his 2-5 years, nobody quite is willing to admit he knew what he was doing; he liked toys, but better yet if he thought they belonged to another dog; a bowl on the counter was better lickings than a bowl on the floor; escape was an especial treat.

Oh yes, in his youth, Lambert was an escape artist. He waited for the untended gap in the open gate. He slipped through so fast, and was two miles away before you could blink.

During this time, he traumatized my brolaw, who still thinks of him as the 9-11 Dog:  PF was strutting his stuff as son-in-law material by taking care of Lambert for a week--a week that happened to turn into 2.5 due to 9-11.  During this time, Lambert vetted my brolaw thoroughly. In every way. In ways a sister-in-law or mother-in-law would never dare.

Really, when you think about it, Lambert is personally responsible for PF being fully accepted as my brolaw. Good thing Lambert had good people sense.

As I mentioned, a bucking bronco, a monstrous deed. A dog who liked to thieve and tease Herald by (a) dancing around the household with his favorite toys--heretofore ignored--dangling from his maws, (b) burying Herald's toys, up to their necks, only their pitiful heads showing in the weeds.

But Lambert was also a lover. He loved and protected us absolutely. From strangers, from coyotes, hawks, jets, helicopters, from shotguns and fireworks, racing cars and motorcycles, from bicycles and joggers, swallows, friends leaving, tall people, hummingbirds, thunder, from quiet mornings and woodpeckers, from loneliness. He would pile up and jump aboard and cuddle up, his nose between your knees, his muzzle in your hands, his full body protecting yours.

Um, this is me trying to drink booze from the troop pack on his shoulders. Sadly, pathetically, one of the only pictures I could find of me with Lambert.

I like to think of how Lambert always remembered me when I came home.  "Where's my baaaaaaaby?" I would ask, and he would jump in answer. He was always My Baby, no matter what. And when he was sick and unhappy, it was to my house he'd come, and curl up on my couch -- despite angry Herald. I think it was half me, and half the comfort of his old home, the geography that surrounded him during his early years. Regardless, he was a good goddog, and I was a good doggodmother.

And here are a few with his favorite canine peoples.

Little Dickens was one of his favorites, as the four previous pictures depict. In fact, those two loved each other in ways that warm even the bitterest hearts.  But also, Lambert was just always patient with puppies and small dogs, with little humans as well. He was gentle and took treats daintily, with knowledge. He would have been good with babes around, he would have taught them well. He was, after all, quite the person himself.

In his old age, Lambert lost nothing of who he was. He slowed down a bit, I suppose. Unlike in his youth, we didn't need to attach him to an old Volkswagen bumper just to make sure we could catch him at night and bring him in. Granted, he stopped chomping testes and destroying everything and knocking people over, bucking and kicking when resistant; but he was still always sly and cuddly, wicked and clever, darling and brutish.

Goodbye, Ol' Boy. Your spirit will ever be with us.

Wow, those pictures are heartbreakingly cute, your tribute so moving and beautiful. "Lambert's parents"! :) I remember you telling me about that freeway episode, and I think it was last year when he bounded away from you into a ravine. Ah, what an awesome baby your Lambert was..... Much love.
Thanks for the love GF, I have to admit Lambert was always heartbreakingly cute.

I forgot about Lambert's little "fall" into the ravine. And lifting that brat up the hill step by friggin step. Oh, that dog.

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