Winston, named after Sir Winston Churchill, by my history-loving husband, was our first child, and possibly our easiest child. For some, those words seem too strong but for us they were true. Animals have always been an integral part of my family growing up and Winston was my/our first dog as an adult.
He was dropped off as a puppy in the middle of campus where I worked, a true “Sewanee Dog.” He was a lab-chow mix, our perfect mutt. He had a soft black coat, black spots on his tongue and one ear that just never fully dropped. More importantly he was perfect for our family, big but soft, sweet but protective.
He loved car rides, chasing birds at the beach, peanut butter, whipped cream, ice cream, being in the water, licking people with his extra long and spotted tongue, and he always wanted to be with us. We affectionally referred to him as “a people dog.” His favorite words were walk, car ride, treat and greenie.
For the first year of his life he commuted from Sewanee to St. Louis until Dave and I were married. I think that must have started his love of car trips. After that, he always wanted to join us and was a very handsome co-pilot. It must have felt amazing to sit in the front seat and feel the wind blowing in his face.
He loved the beach. We would drive (14 hours) instead of fly every summer to NC just so we could take him knowing how much he loved to chase the birds, and romp in the water (video). Strolling down the beach not on a leash with his tail swinging high in the air you could sense he had a smile on his face and you knew he was enjoying “his happy place”. On one beach trip he met a dog of a famous person and he did not act like a gentleman. You all will have to ask Dave in person about that one.
He was master of his domain and would sit on top of our steps looking out on his yard. When anyone would come he would run down the stairs and circle the yard, his lair. He also loved to snuff out the bunnies in the bushes come spring and thankfully never could catch one. Here’s a video from our Easter Egg Hunt in the backyard where thankfully he was unsuccessful. The only bad habit that occasionally surfaced was something we called “armadillo dog”. Once in awhile in the back yard he would tuck his tail between his legs and run in circles trying to nip/bite us.
After we had children he became fiercely loyal, still loving humans but not other dogs. As he aged, he grew to hate thunderstorms, fireworks and having his nails trimmed. Many nights I lay awake with him scratching the bed and wall at my side. I’d try and create a little “nook” where he would feel safe but often ended up on the floor sleeping with him. He put up with a lot (moves, marriage, children, cats, foster animals) but complained the least.
He was loved by all and provided much humor. Some of our funniest family memories involved Winston including a skunk attack and losing his stool in the car while Dave was making a donut run. Thankfully Dave was able to catch it with his free hand and deposit it outside the window while driving. On the rare occasion we had a dessert with whipped cream on top, we would let him lick it and his eyes would literally pop out.
For the last two years of his life we would say how thankful we were for his health and dreaded the day he would one day leave us. It would always come too soon.
June of 2018 he somehow hurt his back, most likely fell down part of our outdoor steps. For a couple of weeks he continued to decline as we tried to help manage the pain with medicine and still get him to eat. I won’t describe those last two weeks, it’s still too painful and I still regret not keeping him alive longer to see if he could have eventually rebounded and overcome the injury.
When he threw up his pain medicine, unable to eat any real food, we took that as a sign. With many hours before the appointment we all cried in anticipation of what was to come, held a service for him, and told him how much we loved him. It was the first time the kids saw Dave cry. Amongst the sadness, God also provided some joy. We all spent time that morning outside together as a family and Winston got to enjoy the water one last time as he drank from the faucet. True to his personality he was with us all day, a loyal companion and enjoying the water as he always had.
As hard as the decision was to let him fall asleep peacefully, to put an end to the pain and let him rejoice with his Father in heaven none of us were prepared for the gravity of the loss. Back home the memories of him remain-everywhere. The house was built around and transformed for him the fence in the back yard, a desk in the kitchen instead of a reading space so there was room for his food and water, a bigger bed so he could sleep on it too, carpet treads added on all the stairs a few years back when he got harder for him to walk down the stairs. It’s amazing how many things in our lives were altered because of him from the size of our bed to the car we drove. We made decisions around him because he was a special part of our family.
Winston was the best! He was an integral part of our family-as my husband would say he was “the glue.” He was the constant that always brought joy. He really never demanded much but always wanted attention. He loved to lick-that’s how he showed his love. He would lick Dave’s feet for a long time. While it grossed me out it was a special bond they shared.
Over a year now since he has passed, I don’t want to forget the little things, his room clearing toots, his loud deep snore after a big day, the howl he made when he heard a siren from an ambulance or fire engine, the way his eyes would pop out when he got to lick whipped cream, the joy of running in his sleep, the fact that he chose to poop in the monkey grass at the back of the yard where no one went. It all matters, from his funny quirks to his big heart, they all made him our beloved Winston.
God gave us Winston and he gave us 14 beautiful years. He will be forever remembered by our children as their first dog and by my husband and I as our first child. He has left a lasting paw print on our hearts.
We miss him every day but are thankful for his faithful love and companionship. We hope and pray all families get to experience that same love and joy!