March 2, 2014


I’m an unabashed animal lover. Otherwise my house wouldn’t have two Labs and three cats. I’ve lived with English Labs since I was first dating my future wife, some 32 years ago. My wife had a big yellow Lab named Rhett (after Rhett Butler).

The first night I dated my future wife Rhett tried to get my attention by bringing out his various toys and dropping them near my feet. He was three years old at the time, and still full of juvenile playfulness. By the time Rhett was done he’d literally built up a pile off to the side, big enough that I had to walk around it. And he was sitting there quietly, waiting for me to pick one out of his pile of treasures and play with him.

As my future wife and I dated, she would drop Rhett off by my apartment with his small leatherette suitcase. Inside would be some treats and a few chew toys, as well as his blanket. I lived in two apartments during this period, and he reacted to each one differently. One evening, when I was late coming home to Atlanta from California, my wife dropped Rhett off in my apartment before coming to pick me at Hartsfield. She made the mistake of putting him in my bedroom and closing the door. When we got back to my apartment Rhett had pulled the knobs off an old radio and had hidden them around the bedroom. When he finished with that he’d pulled the cheap laminate off the bottom edge of my bedroom door.

The next apartment I lived in had a walk-in closet. The first time Rhett saw it he claimed it as his own, an apartment within an apartment. When he’d stay overnight with me (while my future wife was traveling herself) that was where he’d sleep. On weekends around midnight when we were batching together, we’d go out to the local Del Taco where he’d get green burritos and I’d get chicken. He was fashionably fox red and fit perfectly in with my tan Honda Civic on the shotgun side. He was a great chick magnet, which was kind of sad as I was already spoken for. After all, it seems a little disloyal to pick up dates with your girlfriend’s Lab. And Rhett would give a low warning growl if they got a little too close or lingered a little too long. He kept me loyal.

If he stayed with me on the week days, he’d spend time in there, coming out to check to see me coming home from work. Since I worked really close to where I lived, I’d always come home for lunch and take him out.

As the years rolled on Rhett was best Lab at our marriage; went with us on our honeymoon to Buxton, NC, near Cape Hatteras, where he tried to dig after crabs on the shore; moved with us down to Orlando; traveled with us when we traveled, especially after the girls were born. Rhett lived until 1995 to the ripe old age of 16.

If there was one character trait that Rhett had, it was the patience to wait for us. He was loyal. And he would wait until we returned.

That’s what I saw in this guy in the car this morning. He wasn’t tied down, at least as far as I could tell. He was sitting patently in shotgun, waiting for his person to return. He knew he was supposed to sit there, not jump out and leave the car. Even though I got close enough to grab this photo, his gaze seldom strayed form looking in the direction I know he knew where his person had gone to. He was loyal to his person, and he was waiting patently for his person to return.

Loyalty and waiting surely weren’t unique to Rhett, but when I see it in other big guys, it makes me think of Rhett, and how I still miss him.