This is a post I most certainly don’t want to write.

To get the worst part out of the way, and before I get to the good stuff:  we lost our Uga.  The condensed story is that she became overheated on a walk yesterday, and while she and I tried to get her cooled down quickly, she never really recovered, and at 9:30 pm last night, she died in my arms.

Our family has always had golden retrievers.  We’ve had Maggie, Gracie, Roscoe, Lucy, and Boo.  They have always fit in with our traveling, adventuresome family beautifully, and we have loved each of them.  While each of them had a distinct personality, they all conformed to the classic Golden profile of loyalty, enthusiasm, and energy.

So when Jesse finally capitulated to my whining of 25 years for a bulldog, we were in for a surprise.  This little while block of tiny puppy muscle snorted, farted, and drooled her way into our hearts at first sight.

One of the distinguishing features about a bulldog is their compact, muscular build.  Uga was petite for a bulldog, but she had the classic bulldog stance with her broad shoulders, narrow hips, and endearing underbite.  While you could hold her in one hand when we got her, it didn’t take her long to fill out to her delicate 50 pound self.  Being a 50 pound dog is not unusual, until you take into account her height, putting all of that muscle mass on 4 short, stocky legs.  Watching her try to get up on to the couch was endlessly entertaining.  She did great with the first two, her front legs, and didn’t have too much trouble hooking the toenail of one her back legs onto the piping of the cushion.  It was that last heave up that was the funny part.  We would actually alert the household that Uga was going to get on the couch, just for the entertainment value, and Jesse never failed to give ongoing commentary to encourage her along.

We have scads of pictures of Uga in her spot on the couch in her favorite position.  Like every pet we’ve ever had, we had no rules for where she could sleep, and most of her day was spent high on the back of the couch, ultimately completely breaking down that particular cushion.  I think she liked it there because everyone could touch her coming through the house.  You just could not pass that wrinkly face and upturned belly without a little rub.

Many bulldogs struggle with their weight; in her youth Uga had not had that problem, but there is no doubt that she was a C-H-O-W-H-O-U-N-D.  She could be totally relaxed on her throne, but if you opened a drawer or cabinet in the kitchen, she could be as fleet as a gazelle, and be at your feet looking up expectantly in under 5 seconds.  Again, our family made a game of this, seeing how quietly we could make a kitchen sound that would still wake her.  Pretty quietly.  The Sit command, which we taught her to do before we would give her a treat, was her most reliable trick.  And if something accidentally fell to the floor…forget about it.  Even and especially the ice from the icemaker.  Yum.

Uga, for her short life, went on many adventures with us.  She traveled to Florida in 2009 for a race I had in Panama City.  She made several trips to Atlanta when we visited family; she even went on a ski trip to Colorado.  But her biggest adventure every year was on the family trip to Ragbrai, the bike ride we take each year to Iowa.  We take a team of 16-20 people on a converted school bus, and she and Boo have served as team mascots the past several years.  This past year, just 2 weeks ago, son Sam configured a way for Uggs to get to be out on the ride itself, instead of just confined to bus patrol.  In her 2 days of riding, 6-8 hours each, she never once laid down in that basket.  Too much to see, too many people to smell, too many pictures to pose for.

Jesse has a theory about this next Uga feature.  (I don’t know if I’ll have any success uploading the video – if not it’s on my Facebook videos).  Uga was a Wasp Warrior.  Here in Tennessee in the summer, there are always wasps.  We have a screened porch, the doors to which we leave open so the dogs can come and go.  Often wasps fly in, buzz around a bit, and eventually fly out again.  Unless.  Uga the Warrior did NOT LIKE WASPS.  They had no business being on the porch, and she took it as a personal affront if she found one in there.  She would spot one buzzing against the screen, sit quietly watching, watching, and when it flew low enough, BAM!  She went into attack mode, and we never once saw her miss.  She would snatch it into her mouth, chew, sling, bite, and eat every one.  Jesse says she must have been stung a time or two and her aggressive fighter instincts led her to defend the turf.

Bulldogs are pretty content to lie about the place for hours in a day, and Uga fit the profile well.  However, when I would suit up to go for a run on the property – hot/cold/rainy/dark/light – she was ready to go.  She would run on those short legs, enjoying the smells and textures of the farm, rolling in the horse and cow manure, wading in the ponds, chasing rabbits and turkeys, and end up back at the house, panting, tired, and, I’ll speak for her, happy.

Each member of our family loved Uga, and we grieve her far-too-early death.  It gives us joy to know what a delightful life she led, and the sweet memories she leaves with us.  I may not watch as many Georgia games this fall — too many shots of that Uga.  I never pass a bully in town without commenting and asking for permission to rub those irresistible face folds.  Daughter Glenda created a Facebook page for her years ago, and she had LOTS of friends.

This is one of those 3am posts, so for my errors and misspellings, forgive me – I can hardly see the screen.

Rest in Peace precious girl.

Thanks for reading.

That face
The indignity of being leashed at Mellow Mushroom
Fam portrait, 2008
cuz sometimes you need a rain jacket
very typical configuration
always up for kisses
This face. This.
What? Doesn't everyone's 50# bulldog sleep on a glass table?
Lots of this
On the Ragbrai bus
In the princess seat