Whenever Nanci and I watch the movie Marley and Me,
a movie about a dog that causes lots of mischief (we’ve seen it many times), I think that I should have written my own sequel. We were a family of Labrador Retrievers for nearly 40 years. We had a black, chocolate and yellow lab. We changed colors after each dog’s passing and always said, “No more pets,” it’s too emotional to lose a pet that you loved. However, each time a pet died, our kids convinced us we needed another.
Boomer, a black lab, was our first and most challenging. When Guy, one of my eighth grade students back in the 1970s showed up at our door one stormy night with tears streaming down his face, saying, “My foster parents told me that if I didn’t get rid of the dog immediately, they would. Will you take him?”
Of course, I couldn’t say “No.”
Boomer was less than a year old, not housebroken and a runner. We tried keeping Boomer out in the garage, but the neighbors didn’t take to his barking. So Boomer became a frequent house dog. Boomer was a master at slipping out of his collar and made several visits to our elementary school. The first time the principal called and Nanci went to get him; the second time, Mr. Slack just asked Steff, a third grader at the time, to please take Boomer home. After that, each time Boomer showed up at school, either Steff or Stacy just took him home. They didn’t need to ask permission.
That year, we also received a phone call from Steff’s teacher, Mrs. Boheman, that Boomer was helping with groceries in her kitchen. We lived in a small town and most in the community knew Boomer and seemed to like the friendly mutt. Nanci was city clerk during the Boomer years and had a good relationship with Pat, our police chief. On several occasions while on patrol, Pat would spot Boomer cruising through the alleys, open the door of his squad car and return Boomer to our garage. The next day Pat would remind Nanci that Boomer was out on the town again.
We owned a small fishing cabin in northeast Iowa on the Mississippi River, Boomer’s favorite place to visit. He could swim, and he could run at his pleasure. On one occasion, Jeff, Nanci’s brother; our son, Stacy, and I were hiking the bluffs along the river. Jeff peeked over the edge, looking for a shortcut back to the cabin. As Jeff was leaning over the edge, Boomer came running by, hitting Jeff in the back of his legs, sending Jeff flailing over the bluff. He landed in a bush about eight feet down. Both Jeff and Boomer survived.
On another visit to the river, Boomer apparently followed some hikers down the railroad tracks behind our cabin. When it was time for us to return to our home in Ackley, Iowa, Boomer was nowhere to be found. After an afternoon of calling and whistling, we had to leave our river cabin. There were lots of tears during the three-hour ride back to Ackley. We assured the kids that Boomer could fend for himself; he’d be just fine. Several days later, we received a phone call from our county sheriff’s office. Boomer had shown up at someone’s door step, hungry. So off we traveled to the river to retrieve our retriever and home again.
Boomer stories are endless, but fortunately after about seven years, Boomer’s escapades decreased. He lived to be 13; the end was sad, but that crazy dog filled our lives with tons of joy, and endless stories.