Sharper Focus

Many people dream of seeing the world. Ask vision-challenged globetrotter Amy Bovaird, and she will settle for seeing it in a little sharper focus. Follow Amy--but not too closely--on adventures foreign and domestic as she recounts tales of trips and travel.

Not Just Any Old Dog Blanket

Avis would know just how to make what I wanted for my dog!

For this special job, I called on the expertise of a friend my mother’s age. Avis, a skilled artisan  able to stitch anything, would know how to sew what I wanted. “That’s easy to make. There’s a place I’d like to explore off the main road,” she said. “It’s a second-hand upholstery shop. We might just find the right cloth.”

Inside, I followed, waif-like, my fingers trailing the bolts of material until she stopped suddenly. “Amy, did you see this?”

“No, but that’s exactly what I want!”

How could I have missed this beautiful piece? The cloth looked like a tapestry with a repeated pattern of a black Labrador retriever stretched out in front of a cozy fireplace. “It seems as if there’s plenty of it. I hope there’s enough…” I imagined it covering my tan loveseat, which served as a dog bed for Buddy, the black Lab mix I brought back from the Middle East. “But can we line it?” I asked. “I want something soft for him to cuddle up on.”

We continued to browse for a compatible “nestling” material. “This might do,” Avis said, running her hands over a bolt of velour, solid taupe-colored cloth. I held my breath when an attendant measured it. Not quite as much as the tapestry material. I looked at Avis. She and the attendant figured it to be roughly 5’ x 4’.  “Don’t worry. I think it’ll work. We’ll just have to make it into a smaller cover. With the extra Labrador print material, I can sew some matching stool cushions for your breakfast bar,” she offered.

“Could you? Great! We’ll take it!” I cried excitedly to the attendant.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune and floated out of the second-hand shop that day.  “This is going to be a one-of-a-kind blanket. Buddy couldn’t ask for a better welcome.”

A week later, I held the finished covering with the soft velour backing. When I called Buddy, he bounded over to the loveseat, jumped up and lay down on the comforter. He rolled on his back, his goofy grin showing how much he liked it. Since Avis had to cut it down to size, it didn’t quite cover the whole loveseat but it would do just fine.

“It’s the most perfect dog bed ever!” I said, grateful for all the effort Avis had put into the project.

Over the next five years, the blanket shrunk even more from periodic washings, and Buddy rolled around more, leaving it permanently wrinkled. But we loved it. When his arthritis kept him from jumping up and sleeping on the loveseat, the blanket went into the closet.  But it  remained too special to give up. Several times I picked it up, wondering who to pass it on to. It had to be for the right dog. But which one? How would I know? Without any clear direction, I stored it away, peeking at it with nostalgia every once in awhile.

Finally,  I made up my mind to pass it on. It wasn’t doing any good on the closet shelf. I held the blanket in my arms, remembering the hours I watched Buddy get comfortable, burrow his snout into the corner seam and let out big satisfied doggy sighs. Now, my turn to sigh, I folded it up and placed it in a bag. The time felt right.

That day, a friend drove me to the Humane Society. When we arrived, the shelter was closed but it had a drop-off bin and we saw some volunteers exercising the dogs on the run behind.  I reached for my bag of stuffed animals I planned to donate but stopped at the brink of giving away the blanket.  When it came down to it, I couldn’t hand the latter over, not knowing what would become of it.   “I don’t want it to go just any dog, I want this blanket to go to a very special dog,” I said to my friend as I smoothed the material between my fingers.

Judy cleared her throat and glanced at the blanket still in the back seat.  She hesitated, then said almost apologetically, “My dog is special. Can I have it for Toby?”

“Of course,” I said at once. “He’ll love it.” This felt right. I could have kicked myself for not offering it to her dog sooner.

A week later I met up again with Judy.

She buckled her seatbelt and backed out of the driveway to take me on my errands. “We had a bad day yesterday…”

“What happened?” I asked, concerned.

She described how a suspected stroke had incapacitated their fourteen-year-old dog earlier in the week and ultimately, that their family had decided to end her suffering. “We had to…put…our dear Toby down,” she said, her voice trembling.

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“My family loved that special blanket,” she said softly. She relayed how, the day I gave it to her, that her daughter went into the attic and uncovered a large foam pad, which fit nicely under the blanket, making it a perfect bed for their pet. “He took to it right away. Turns out, he had a warm bed to sleep on for the final week of his life…”

When they took Toby into the vet’s office the last time, the whole family came up with the idea of taking the blanket to comfort him. “That’ll be good. He won’t have to lie on a cold table,” someone said.

As  she finished the story, her voice caught– “Amy, you can’t even k-know…” her voice trailed away as she tried to get the words out. “know what a blessing” again, she stopped and collected herself, “… that special blanket was …  to our Toby.”

Oh my goodness.

A few minutes later I said, gently, “What happened to the blanket?” I wondered if they buried Toby in it.

I learned Toby was cremated.

“My daughter took the blanket home.” She paused, wiping away the tears. “She’s so sad right now. Having that blanket is a real comfort to her. Maybe it’ll be put to good use again if she chooses to get another dog…”

As an animal lover, I was grateful I could pass on a cherished belonging, knowing it filled a need at just the right time.

© Amy Bovaird 2013. You’ve just read “Not Just Any Old Blanket.”
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