"While having my cancer treatment yesterday, I saw a beautiful black Labrador in the hospital that had sneaked in with its owner for a minute, and it brought my mind back to my earlier years when I first became acquainted with the breed. No person or creature possesses the capacity to calm the waters of one's troubled life more than the loving companionship of a loyal dog. For me, it will always be a Labrador that pulls my heart strings, and for others, different breeds will do it for them. One can always rely on a loved dog to remain faithful to their master and to keep the boat steady in rough waters.
All my life, I have been brought up with Labradors; black ones and golden ones. Between the years when I was 40 and 60 years, I always had a Labrador that was a family member. I recall, when my daughter Rebecca was a child, she and the Labrador puppy would often sleep in the same basket. Despite having eczema, my daughter refused to be without her dog.
I recall one black Labrador called Abbey, whom I trained exclusively when I was off work for a number of months. Abbey would follow every command to the precise letter that I ever gave her. Because she was so obedient and would never move from my side whenever we walked, I never used a lead on Abbey throughout her life.
Whenever I called to the newsagents for my morning paper, as I entered the shop, I would command Abbey to sit on the left-hand side of the door and to stay there 'until I told her otherwise.' One day as we walked to the newsagents, it started to snow gently at first before coming down with a vengeance. Abbey was positioned at the door front as usual, but on my way out of the shop, someone distracted me.The bottom line was that I momentarily forgot she was there waiting for me as instructed and I returned home without her, not wanting to get caught in the snow storm that was brewing.
It must have been half an hour after I arrived home that I realised I'd left Abbey outside the newsagents. I was angry at my absentmindedness but I had no fear of her being anywhere than where I'd left her. When I returned, she was faithfully sitting like a snowman and though a few people who recognised her as my dog tried to get her to move, she wouldn't leave the spot I'd left her on.
After Abbey I had Etti. Etti was another black Labrador, but unlike the boisterous and obedient Abbey, she rarely followed instructions and seemed to sleep on her rug 18 hours a day. Even when we tried exercising her out of her lethargic behaviour, she would just sleep longer.
In her later life, for some strange reason, Etti seemed to assert her independence and would sneak out of the side gate if ever a visitor to the house forgot to close it properly. One dark October evening, Etti, who had free run of the house and garden, slipped out the side gate that someone hadn't closed properly. We never realised she had gone until some neighbough knocked on our door to tell us that a waggon had hit Etti.
We took her to the vets and after they'd kept her for the night, they informed us the following morning that her hind leg, which had been virtually hanging off, along with other internal injuries, had led them to put her down during the early morning.
After we lost Ettie, my heart was too fragile to take on another dog and had I not met Sheila, I would never have allowed myself to get attached to another dog. Sheila was a dog lover with two Rough Collies. Prince died shortly after we met and Lady became the house dog we both adored. She died within the past six months and I still find myself looking for her around the house and commenting to her to 'make way for the champ' whenever I win Sheila at Scrabble and pretend to strut my stuff around the lounge.
While we will probably never have another dog, I will never lose my admiration for any I pass. They are surely blessed for the love they have brought over the years." William Forde: February 23rd, 2017.