Sunday, March 24, 2013

Morgan le Fay (5/5/2000 – 3/18/2013)

Prior to receiving this dog into our family, I had named my animal companions after gods and goddesses. My cats had names like Aphrodite, Artemis, Diana and a brother and sister pair we named Electra and Orestes. Before we got her at nine months, the dog’s name was Winnie. (Welsh for a fair one, white and smooth, fair and pure.) It was a good name, but the dog had not been trained and was out-of-control, which was why we needed to “rescue” her. For a new life, she needed a new name. I searched through Bulfinch’s Mythology not finding any Greek or Roman goddesses who seemed quite right. She deserved a powerful name and then I remembered the Arthurian Legend and Arthur’s sister – the enchantress, Morgan le Fay.

She was well named. She never met a person who could resist her magic spells.

Morgan believed her role in the world was to allow people to express their love for her. She gave everyone, whether they knew they needed it or not, the opportunity to heal through petting her. God gave humans two hands, she often said, so one could experience the joy of petting a dog while the other went about its normal business. If you forgot, she would bump your hand with her head or with the tip of her wet nose.

She was the star pupil at her obedience training classes and preferred carrots as reward treats. At her favorite command, “Belly rub,” she would flop onto her back, four legs into the air, thumping her tail on the floor in anticipation. When I gave her a neck rub along with the belly rub she would close her eyes, tilt her head all the way back and moan with pleasure.

It took her several years to train her “masters” on proper daily routines. If they lapsed she would stand in their presence and huff loudly until they figured out what they had forgotten. Dinnertime was precisely at 5:00 pm and, except for a readjustment period twice a year when humans foolishly reset their clocks, she would begin agitating a couple of minutes before the appointed hour.

She was the protector of the house—as long as that meant being outside and barking at the deer, bear, coyotes and wolves. After years of practice attempting to imitate her fellow canines, she came up with a modest version of a howl and did not take kindly to the human laughter it prompted.

She was omega to anyone or anything’s alpha. If ten-pound Electra (our Calico cat who died last year) chose to eat from Morgan’s food bowl, seventy-pound Morgan would whimper—asking her human parents to solve the problem for her.

Morgan loved the Northwoods. She learned to swim in 2001 when she waded into Shank Lake and discovered her feet no longer touched bottom. She never tired of swimming or chasing the Frisbee, and when forced to go back inside because she was shivering from near freezing water, she would protest. As she stood there you could almost hear her say, “I-I-I’m not c-c-c-c-old.” She loved swimming with her people, but if they weren’t willing to join her in the water, she’d bring her Frisbee and retrieve it for hours. She trained her humans to throw it just far enough to allow a full-gallop run down the dock, leap and belly flop into the lake, snaring the Frisbee in a stroke or two.

She knew the route between Savannah and Cincinnati and Michigan. Awakening from a nap she would request the driver to lower the window so she could sniff the country to know where she was. She insisted on a quick sniff of any city we passed through to confirm we were on the right track. Once we hit the dirt roads in Michigan she paced the whole way in, anticipating freedom without collar. While the humans set up camp for her, she would trot down to the dock and impatiently wait. If the wait was too long, we would hear a splash and sometime later the drenched dog would appear.

She was marvelous with small hands, allowing many unintended abuses as children learned to love her. She was the chaperone as grandchildren first explored the woods on their own.

Despite her self-image, she was not perfect. She snored and she farted, sometimes acting like a junior high student who looks around pretending not to be the culprit.

Morgan was without question the smartest of our dogs and always interested in the world around her.

Were she still physically with us she would sense the tears now forming in my eyes and lay her head in my lap, reminding me that everything she taught me is still in my memory. True, I whisper back, but I miss your huffing at my failures and your licks telling me I am forgiven.

~ Jim

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