Tribute To Emma 5B, My Constant Gardening Companion

Our beloved Black Lab Emma lost her battle with Canine Cushing’s disease on February 1, 2012, just one day after her 11th birthday. While all dogs are special, Emma 5B was not your usual dog.

For those who may be wondering, Emma 5A (aka Baby Emma) died of an illness that couldn’t be diagnosed and lived only 6 months. We grieved for 6 months longer. Perhaps we really never got over it, because we named the new pup Emma 5B feeling that Baby Emma had not had enough time to use her number up.

One of my fondest memories is bringing Emma 5B home, with her “kissing” my cheek the entire way. The same ‘kissie’ she gave me on her last day. She was a faithful companion, pure of heart, generous of spirit, and foster mom to four Seeing Eye puppies: Harriet, Okra, Christine, and Odina.

She did most of the heavy lifting with these pups, giving them lots of play time and affection, and going through their paces with them by illustrating each command. I like to say that she was bilingual, since she understood her own set of commands, as well as those of The Seeing Eye. We find consolation in knowing that these four puppies all carry a part of her with them.

Emma 5B was the only dog I ever knew that had a sense of humor, exemplified by her game, “Free Trade.” Puppies learn what you teach them, but not always what you intend to teach them! I had read in a dog-training book that when your puppy steals an inappropriate item, such as a shoe, you should calmly take the article away and hand them an acceptable dog toy, in this case a squeaky frog. Emma 5B caught on quickly.

A few days later, we opened the closet door to find “Froggie” on the floor. Missing in action was one of Dan’s shoes. What Emma 5B had actually learned was, when she wanted to take a shoe, she had to trade her most prized possession for it.

There were many incarnations of Froggie and when I discovered the toy was no longer being made (what WERE they thinking?), I went to all of the pet stores within 25 miles and bought every one I could find. Froggie was there at Emma’s memorial service.

Several weeks after her death, I realized that Emma 5B and I had spent 24 hours a day together for 11 years. Shortly after she arrived, I had returned to working from home. And, just as Emma 4 had been a Daddy’s Girl Carpenter Dog, Emma 5B became Mommy’s Girl Gardener Dog. She ensured that I was never lonely in the garden and moved from place to place with me, found a comfortable spot to lie down, and was content to garden by observation.

Being the good dog that she was, she never dug up plants from the flowerbeds, being happy just to survey her kingdom from the front porch and the back yard. We spent many pleasant hours outdoors together.

In time, the chronic Cushing’s required extra exercise, in order to stave off muscle loss in her back legs. Our gardening together gave way to long walks in the park. Despite her illness, she kept up an energetic pace that I could barely match. I was thankful that I could provide her with an experience that brought her so much joy. On weekends, these walks became a family outing, with Dan and Odina following behind us.

Happy memories still bring tears for the empty space in our lives without her, but we know that our loving thoughts and open hearts light her path home.

While it’s hard to make the transition, we’re looking forward to Emma 6’s arrival over Easter weekend. She has some mighty big pawprints to fill, but we’re sure she’ll be up to the task.

For more pictures of Emma 5B in the garden and The Seeing Eye puppies, or to read about planning ahead for dogs in your garden, go to:

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