Dancer came to us as a gift. We had just put Czorro down so we had room for one more. We went to the MVLRC (Miami Valley Labrador Retriever Club) meeting. Kurt said, “Here Orrin. You like these tall lanky dogs.” So Dancer came home with us. It was a Monday night. When we got home, he greeted Purlie by dancing on Purlie’s head. Purlie just looked up at me as if to say, “Mom, what is he doing?” That is how he earned his name: Monday’s Dancer. Although the shelter was going to put him down as dog aggressive, he was the most gentle dog I’ve ever had. He knew how to play with any dog of any size. He would adjust his speed to run with the neighbor’s Shitzu or a puppy, running just fast enough to keep the game going. He talked more than he barked, especially with me. He would lie on the bed and woof at me to come pay attention or to put him to bed. He learned to read me very quickly. If he had escaped and run off at home, he wouldn’t come back until I stopped being upset and pictured him coming home in my mind. At Lab Land, he could run free, something he needed to do since he was half greyhound. He kept track of me. Sometimes he would stop and stand somewhere waiting for me to say, “I see you!” Then he would go back to playing. When it was time to go home, I just walked Decker back to the car and he appeared before we got there. He still wanted to get hippo out when we got to Lab Land but lately he just left him near the car.
When we rescued Decker after Purlie had died, we brought Holly home too. She was Decker’s chocolate pup. They put both dogs in a run at animal control. Another dog woofed at Holly. Decker came over and stood over her and woofed back saying, “She’s mine. Leave her alone.” My heart melted. These 2 needed to be together. Dancer may have been an “uncle” but Holly had 2 built-in playmates and protectors. If Holly ever strayed at Lab Land, she was followed by Dancer. He went along to make sure she stayed safe and to get her back home. Holly doesn’t remember life without Dancer and Decker has always had him as his playmate as well. Both also are missing their forever companion.
Dancer didn’t know that he could use his nose when we got him. He was a sight hound. We put scent circles and serpentines together to teach him to use his nose. It paid off because he followed a deer one day and was gone for about 2 hours. He had finally learned to use his nose to get back to Lab Land. He loved to track with me but he would also track where I had gone in the golf cart. He tracked with many campers helping them learn to read a dog different from their own. He welcomed every other dog to Lab Land with no aggression. He wasn’t protective of the property from other dogs. Yet one day a very small beagle came running into the open at Lab Land. She was being chased by a big ugly grey dog of unknown origin or parentage. Purlie greeted the beagle while Dancer ran off the other dog. This was the only time I ever saw him do this. I had never seen him run so fast. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see him again. Turned out the beagle was coming into season so he was protecting her from a possible demise. Once he was satisfied that the ugly dog would not come back, he came right back to Lab Land.
Dancer was our hero, literally. He saved Purlie’s life. Purlie had fallen through the ice in a pond that was half frozen. He was surrounded by ice and inch thick and he could not break his way out. Orrin tried to get to him using a small pram. He had a board to paddle with and a broom to try to break the ice. He was not making much progress. Finally, Dancer went to the water’s edge and swam out to a crack that had appeared from where Purlie was entrapped to the open water. Then Dancer switched to doing the dog paddle, lifting each paw high enough to beat down on the ice. He proceeded to act as an icebreaker, making a path for Purlie to swim out. Then, exhausted, he was about to give up when I called him and encouraged him. Then he was re energized and swam out. He was willing to give his life to save his buddy.
One evening, Dancer was sitting on the bed and he started to bark. He wouldn’t stop barking at me so I finally got up and sat beside him to see at what he was barking. There was an oriole who had gotten his foot stuck between two poles holding bird feeders. I went out and carefully separated the poles to release the oriole.
Dancer loved to be called Our Hero. He was so proud whenever we said that. I doubt that he knew what it meant but he knew he was special and that we loved him so he would just beam.
Before Purlie died, Purlie started to sleep with Orrin so Dancer would take his place in my bed. It was Purlie’s way of telling Dancer he needed to know that Dancer would take care of me. The first night after Dancer died, that place was empty. Decker still slept with me as usual but he stayed at the foot of the bed where he had slept before. The next night, he tentatively came up and took the place beside me. He is feeling his way into filling Dancer’s shoes.
Dancer has joined Purlie, Czorro and Deo over the Rainbow Bridge. I can picture them running together enjoying life, waiting until we join them. Dancer, we will forever celebrate your life a little more on Thanksgiving than on other days but you live in our hearts forever as Our Hero.