We call you the firstborn. You were actually born before we even got married, though only by six weeks. We got married and thought a dog would be a good idea. In the long term we were right; in the short term it was a hard few months, adjusting to married life, a full workload at school, a hard-working husband.
He wanted a lab, and we saw an ad in the paper for you. A house in town, with three children and several cats, and this lab puppy who has just too much energy, the lady said on the phone, sounding wiped out. Alright, we said, and we showed up at the door at suppertime, the height of chaos, because when Daddy gets an idea in his head, he doesn't budge. There were children crying and people shouting and the man at the house tried desperately to explain your finer points. Suddenly you barrelled around the corner, black as the night with a white star on your chest, and you launched yourself at Daddy's shoe, yanking on the laces with your sharp little puppy teeth, and for a moment he couldn't talk, until he was about to say you were ours.
You saw me through my final year of school, sitting and staring at me while I studied, barking to get my attention. You survived getting run over by Daddy on his birthday. You learned to retrieve ducks. You laid your head on my lap when I cried and cried that March day. A year and a half later we fretted over bringing home our new baby, and how you would react, and we even videoed the grand introduction, and you sniffed him once and carried on. That kind of blind trust is what makes us love a dog.
You have seen us through illness and a second child and home renovations and a new truck and fishing at the brook and picking blackberries.
Nowadays you are going on 13 years old, a grand old age for a dog, and your whiskers are grey and you sleep a lot and can't hear a darn thing.
You also cannot appear normal in a photo to save your life.
I love that.