Robbie, my nine year old Chocolate Labrador Retriever, was my gift to myself on my sixtieth birthday.
I made the decision to get a dog after not having had one for a number of years. I wanted a Lab and thought always of a female yellow Lab who I would call Maggie. I am not certain how or when it happened; but, suddenly I fixed on a Chocolate Lab. Male. I began referring to him as Robbie. The name was inspired by the character in Stephen Sondheim’s musical, Company. “Robbie. Bobby. Baby. Bubee.” That’s what he’s called. Or, “Robert Brown.” Or, “Robbie Brown.” When I get down on the floor with him and he cuddles up to me with his head on my chest, I sing “You’re My Best Boy” from Mame.
I began looking for Robbie early in March. A breeder about fifty miles from where I lived had a litter on the ground; but, the pups were going to be ready too soon. I was off all summer and didn’t want a puppy until the end of May when I could be at home full time with him. The breeder referred me to two other breeders. One breeder I couldn’t reach. The other turned out to be a gem.
To make certain I would be a fit owner of one of her puppies, Robbie’s breeder put me through a rigorous screening process. We talked several time on the phone before she agreed to sell me a puppy. “I think I know what kind of puppy will work for you,” she said at last. “I wonder if you will let me choose your puppy?” I agreed.
The kennel is in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The breeder’s husband makes bi-weekly trips to the Los Angeles and delivers puppies if there are new owners in the area. Robbie was as cute as could be; it was love at first sight. We’ve been together for nine years with never a problem. He’s well behaved—well, I spent a lot of time and money on obedience training. And, he passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen test.
I thought Robbie might make a fine therapy dog after his first visit to the assisted living facility where my mother was at the time. He loved those old people who were so pleased that he came to visit then. Unfortunately, Robbie was too enthusiastic for therapy dog work. Even at nine, he is enthusiastic. “Labs are always puppies,” another Lab owner told me early on.
One day last January, Robbie stopped eating. That is unusual for a Lab. They are chow hounds. I took him to the vet. The vet discovered Robbie’s bladder was engorged. He wanted to keep Robbie to collect a urine specimen and to take an xray. He called after an hour. “This is serious,” the vet said. “We found blood in his urine and the xray shows a mass of some sort in his abdomen. I think you need to take him to a veterinary medical surgical practice where they can perform an ultrasound.”
I picked up Robbie for the drive to Ventura. We walked to the car. Robbie hopped into the back seat as he always does. When he turned and looked at me with his beautiful brown eyes, I lost it.
The med/surg office was a nightmare. They first wanted to run endless tests at a phenomenal cost. “No,” I said. “My vet ordered an ultrasound and that is what I want.” They did the ultra sound.
“There’s good news,” the young vet said as she came into the exam room where I’d sat for the past forty-five minutes. “The ultrasound shows a large lipoma in Robbie’s abdomen,” she said. “There is no cancer and the growth does not appear to involve any of his organs.”
“That is good news,” I said.
“The surgery is quite risky,” I was told. The cost took my breath away.
“I am going to take Robbie home,” I said. “I’ll check with my vet tomorrow and see what he says.
Dr. Willis had the reports from the med/surg practice when I got to the clinic the next morning. “This is routine surgery,” he said. “I am confident I can handle it.” I agreed.
The surgery was scheduled for the following morning. At two o’clock the next afternoon, my phone rang. “Robbie came through the surgery with flying colors,” Jaimie, the vet technician, reported. A twelve pound lipoma, the size of a basketball, was removed from Robbie’s abdomen.
Robbie is back to his usual happy self, eating with gusto.