Seven years ago, ready to adopt a dog, I found a shelter with labradoodle pups. My husband was leaving town. His parting words, "I'm open to other dogs, but just not a Chocolate Lab." He had heard they were not too intelligent, at least compared to their black and yellow brethren.
My daughter came to the shelter with me, and we quickly agreed that the puppies were cute. So cute that I still remember how soft the one named Duncan felt. But the wise women that ran this shelter steered us to a room where we met Penelope, a fat, greasy looking Chocolate Lab. She was grey in the muzzle. She smelled bad. And, she just had one knee replacement and was awaiting the second.
She put her head in my lap and looked up at me with big, mustard brown eyes. I could almost hear her say, "I know I am not as cute as those puppies but I'm a loyal and kind dog and will be by your side through whatever life has in store. " Sitting next to Penelope, I started to cry.
Imagine trying to sell my husband on a middle-aged, overweight, flatulent and orthopedically challenged Labrador of the chocolate variety. I knew she could do it better. We returned to visit Penny, and discretely looked away from the small pile of poo next to her. She put her head in his lap and looked up at him.
Her head rested on my lap on the drive home, where it has stayed firmly planted. It has meant "I need to go out," "I want to eat," or just, "You look like you want to pet me." For the seven years we were lucky enough to love Penny, our laps were rarely empty.