Monday, August 03, 2009

CARRIE - November 28, 1995 - August 1, 2009


On Saturday in Woodstock, Georgia, my devoted pet and companion of fourteen years, Carrie, exited this life. My dear friends, Vicki and Jason Tinnel, and I were with her until her last breath.

Carrie was the pick of a litter of nine Labrador retrievers born in Jurmala, Latvia, on a snowy night to Gracie, dog of my friends Bob and Sharon Perry. Gracie didn’t understand motherhood yet, and dropped her pups all over the house or outside in the snow, then totally ignored them. Sharon--not noted for her strong stomach in such matters, but an intrepid woman--rushed from pup to pup, ripping the sacks off them with her bare hands and rubbing each one dry with a towel, saving them from certain death. Thus my Carrie came into the world.

Bob and Sharon knew that I loved Labs more than anything and chose Carrie from the litter as a gift for me, raising her for me until I returned to Latvia from the States three months later. When I arrived at last, it was love at first sight, and she enthusiastically embraced me as her “mama.” It was sheer joy. I remember I would sit in Pastor Bob’s big recliner in their basement, and Carrie would bound across the room and leap into my lap with the force of a cannon ball—more fun for her than me once she reached 30 or 40 pounds.

Of course, it wasn’t all joy during Carrie’s puppyhood. We moved into a newly renovated apartment. The following November, a church group in Virginia had gone to great expense to ship me materials to make chocolate chip cookies for my holidays so far away from home. One night I baked the cookies for some friends who had come for a movie night, two 9 x 13 pans full. While we were engrossed in the movie, Carrie sneaked up on the counter and ate every last one. The next day, she destroyed a wooden chair belonging to the landlord by chewing it to death, then proceeded to rip a great expanse of freshly hung wallpaper off a hallway wall. (I quickly learned how to strip and hang wallpaper!) Later, she chewed up the custom millwork of our beautiful wooden balcony. That one cost me $500 to fix—a lot of money for a missionary on a tight budget. I often said that she was the most expensive “free” dog in the world. Surprisingly, the landlord and his family still loved her.

Less destructive were our great times walking together on the beach in our Baltic Sea resort town. She would make a beeline for the water, even in winter when ice chunks cluttered the surf. When it was frozen solid, she would trot out across the slick surface to explore with her nose to the ice. She loved chasing crows and seagulls, and bouncing through snow up to her belly. When the beach was deserted, I would risk the $100 fine and let her off the leash to run free. She would run way ahead of me, and then come back as if to check in before dashing off again.

Carrie was a favorite among my friends, both here and abroad, and I never had a shortage of dog sitting volunteers when I needed them. She welcomed everyone to our various homes enthusiastically, but politely, without jumping on people or licking them. Once guests were seated, she would go to each one in turn, leaning against their legs and placing her head on their knees in search of a head scratch. Even the most stolid natures were won over.

When I finally returned to the States for good, I brought her with me on my transatlantic flight with four connections to make before our destination of Greenville, South Carolina. I was a nervous wreck for her, but Carrie was completely calm. The vet’s tranquilizers went unused. She had to go 26 hours without food, water, or a potty break, but arrived quite unfazed, except for a little jetlag.

I could go on and on, but could never adequately describe her wonderful personality, loyalty, kindness, love and faithfulness. Everyone, of course, thinks their dog is the best ever, but there could not possibly have been a dog more perfect for me, or a truer friend. She saw me through the loneliness of missionary life, financial difficulties, heartbreak, the loss of my mother, uncertainty about the future, and several moves between continents and cities. She made endless road trips with me, always happy to be with me even when it meant being cooped up in a car for hours. She was the constant in my life when everything else was changing. There will never be another dog like her. Like me, she had friends all over the world. We will all miss her terribly.

Carrie, rest in peace, sweet pea.

Places to See