My step-father Andy found Ichabod as a puppy while walking through the woods. He was all skin and bones and he was inside of a flipped over pet carrier at the bottom of a ravine. He had clearly been dumped there and left to die. He had scars, all his ribs were showing and he looked like a little fawn, but of course he came home. Growing up, our house was a refuge for lost critters of all shapes and sizes.
Like every furry creature that came our way, my parents claimed that we couldn't keep this puppy because we already had too many pets, and as always they fell in love with him and couldn't give him up.
He was a lap dog from the beginning, and even once he grew to his full size (80lbs) he would still climb into a chair and onto your lap for cuddle time. Short and stocky in stature, he wasn't a graceful dog, but he was handsome, powerful and most of all sweet. Not the brightest dog you ever met, but there was something so tender in his simple-mindedness that you always saw and felt how much he loved his family. He had clearly been abused by the time we found him, but instead of becoming hostile and untrusting he was just appreciative. It always felt like he knew he had gotten lucky that day in the woods and every walk with Andy was filled with moments near the man he treasured most.
At Lincoln Woods they had a ritual where Ichabod would refuse to go swimming unless Andy sent him into the water. This involved Andy talking to Ichabod and offering him the option to go home and see our cat Clover (a terror in Ichabod's world) or jump into the water. At this last option Andy would throw his arms into the air, yell, "jump right in!" and Ichabod would let out a yelp and launch himself off the rock and into the cool water. He would spend a few minutes swimming in circles, then without fail he would dunk his head under, grab his leash with his mouth and essentially pull himself to shore by it. He could have done this for hours and we even used to joke that if we didn't stop him, he would repeat this until he died from exhaustion.
Ichabod was not perfect, he was a nervous dog when it came to strangers; he was very protective. Pair that with a slow-moving thought process and I think he spent a lot of time in fear that something or someone was going to come and threaten his world. Our family had a few scares when he went at people who approached him blindly, but with us alone there was no gentler soul. He always seemed to have a smile on his face and the force with which he would press his warm furry body against yours when he cuddled remains unrivaled by any pet I've known since. We may have all joked about how he was missing a few marbles, but we always knew he was special and he never went a day without affection.
This past Sunday he passed away peacefully at home with my mother and step-father at his side. I can't help but feel like he knew more than all of us combined and this is what I will take away from my childhood friend:
1. There is always hope. Even if you end up at the bottom of a ravine, there are good people in this world who can show up and turn things around if you let them.
2. Appreciate all that you have. Life may not have been perfect, and you may have memories of past hurt, but if your life is good today you should be sure to smile and wag your tail.
3.Cuddle like you mean it. You may get too big to sit in your parents lap, but that shouldn't stop you if it's where you want to be.
4. If there is something you love to do, give it everything you have. Swim until you can't swim anymore and don't stop a second earlier.