Monday, March 3, 2008


Emma, Feb 29/08

Emma is a three year old yellow lab who lives with my ex. Unfortunately, the courts consider dogs to be property, not family members. Therefore, when a divorcing couple have two dogs and contest who should get one or both of them, the courts will generally order each person gets one . “The best interests of the child” doesn’t apply to canine “children”. And so Charley came with me, and Emma stayed with my ex.

But this entry is not to air dirty laundry about a nasty divorce or complain about an archaic court system. It is about Emma, a happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy lab. Did I mention she is a very happy lab????

Three years ago, while I was searching rescues and shelters for a young yellow lab to add to our family , my then-husband walked in the door with a little wriggling pup bought from a back yard breeder. [Unclench gritted teeth here – we’ll deal with why NOT to support back yard breeders in another post another time!]. She had entropion, a condition in which the eyelashes turn inward and scratch the surface of the eye, so he got her at a bargain price since she would require (rather expensive!) surgery. But she was a sweetheart.

Emma, age 3 months

I was just beginning an eight-month sabbatical, so was an “at-home” mom to Emma and (don’t tell my employers) spent an inordinate amount of time training her, socializing here, playing with her, and simply being amused by her when I should have been working on my research. And it was fun. It was an experience to remember. Although I’d had many dogs, it was the first time I’d really been able to attend to training a dog well, to research training methods as well as health and nutritional and socialization issues, and to become totally besotted with the daily life of a pup.

Emma and her daycare buddies - May 2005

I was told by several people that labs are puppies until they are about eight years old; that it is rather like having a perpetual toddler or a child with ADHD; that they are smart but very, very, very active. Right on all counts. But those people forgot to mention lovable, endearing, huggable, affectionate, eager to learn, very food motivated, and just plain cute as a button. We spent lots of time playing and walking and running and swimming and training -- a tired dog is a good dog!

Emma's favourite activity

Tired Emma. Dec 2005

Quickly, she learned to sit, stay, wait, come, heel, leave it, and generally to be an active but well behaved pup. She could still cause mischief, but most of the time she knew her boundaries and respected them.

"Watcha readin' mom? - Noooooo, I'm not trying to get the popcorn! Me?????" March 2006

Under the terms of our divorce agreement I get to see my Emma for 30 minutes one day a month in my ex’s backyard. It’s not much but it is better than nothing. And I stubbornly and insistently exercise that right.

"Mom! You came!!" December 2006 - Emma's second birthday

"Your serve, mom!" November 2007

Emma is healthy and just as bouncy as ever, though I suspect she is lonely without a doggy companion during the long hours she is left in the backyard while my ex works. [Unclench jaw; no, I do not support leaving dogs alone in the backyard!]

Her exuberance when she sees me warms my heart; her insistence we play ball is relentless; her eagerness to run through the routines I taught her is gratifying; and her appetite for the tasty morsels of dried liver and other treats in my pocket is unending.

"It's not yucky, Mom - throw it again!" February 2008

I miss having my Emma in my life every day. I worry about her. I know she is loved, I know she gets fed regularly and has warm shelter both inside and out, I know she does spend time every day with her dad, sleeps on his bed and is likely spoiled rotten when he is home. But dogs are pack animals and Emma, in particular, is a little social butterfly who was used to lots of company (canine and human), who attended daycare on days when we both had to be away from home for a long time, who loved walks in off leash parks. And I love her. Leaving her was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. And I cherish those 30 minutes, once a month, that I get to spend with her.

I don’t write much about her because it is painful to do so. But my friends ask after her, and my time with her is so special, and so I wanted to share these pictures of my Emma. She deserves a place on this blog.

Love ya Ems.


Colleen said...

She's beautiful Jean!

Look at that sparkle in her eyes!!


Anonymous said...

What a difficult separation for both you and Emma. Thanks for the strength to write about this.

I wish you had full custody of Emma, I really do.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jean,
Yes, Emma is a beautiful dog,it is sad that you only see her once a month. I guess you have to make the most of your visits together.


Sarah Henderson, BCCDC said...

I'm not a lab person, but I have met a couple through flyball that I really like. Emma is a beauty.