Someone very dear to me suffers from depression. It’s a heart-wrenching affliction- for both those who have it, and those who love someone who has it. And my Very Dear Someone was about to face a long summer alone. Her husband would be away, visits would be infrequent. Of course they would talk on the phone, but that’s not the same and we all know it. Then along came Umbro.
A gorgeous black labrador retriever who had served her first purpose in life whelping puppies, Umbro was now retired and living with the breeder’s son who happened to be one of Very’s old college friends. The relationship between Very and Umbro began as a dog-walking gig that morphed into dog sitting gig. Then the college friend went away… traveled somewhere… I’m not sure; I don’t remember. What I do remember is that Umbro just wound up with Very, at her house. All the time. No driving to and fro and far more convenient for all involved. And with Umbro’s genial disposition and unassuming ways, she made it impossible for the resident cats to complain about her presence in their home.
A multi-talented, active girl, Umbro enjoyed swimming, hiking, running, and walking with Very. Umbro was a jovial companion, up for just about anything, or nothing at all. But if she could talk, (and she all but could…) she’d tell you her most favorite activity, the one she lived for… was fetch. Umbro would fetch the Chuck-It launcher to bring to her person. (Subtle, no?) This handy tool launched the ball to the outer reaches of the property, distance being an important component of a worthy game. And the nothing at all? Well, it was something: Umbro was a quiet, solid presence in the alone, in the dark, those long summer evenings, where time could sometimes stretch out endlessly. Some evenings, the two of them enjoyed watching cult movies and munching popcorn. Other times, Umbro was content to doze peacefully at Very’s feet while she read. They grew to enjoy each other’s company immensely; they were terribly fond of one another.
When the grey cloud of depression descended, Umbro seemed to know and understand that getting Very up and out was important; it was necessary. Umbro would rouse Very from bed, gently insisting it was time for a potty break, time for dinner, time for a walk, or time for play. It was time for something– something that might potentially lift the melancholy and help give purpose to the day. These were the days when Very learned that Umbro could, would, insist upon playing fetch, albeit gently, by presenting the Chuck-It launcher at Very’s feet. Umbro would then back away slowly, tail wagging softly, brown eyes beseeching… please, please come out and play with me… How then is it possible for one to say ‘no’?
Reading Susannah Charleston’s The Possibility Dogs, triggered the memories of Umbro, Very, and that summer years ago. How was it that Umbro knew what was needed and was able to help? I know Very would not have managed half as well without this dear, gentle companion. Umbro came into her life at a time when Very most needed her, and stayed. Yes, College Friend realized where Umbro was happiest and truly belonged. She was Very’s friend, confidant, and family.
I will forever have a special place in my heart for this remarkable dog, remembering her with abiding affection and deep gratitude for keeping my daughter’s head above water. It was easy to love Umbro.