Angel With Yellow Fur

By Ted Peck - May 1, 2011
An angel was born on Aug. 11, 2001 just north of Cassville. She didn't look like an angel according to our perception of angels. This one has a tail instead of wings and soft yellow fur.

I didn't realize Hanna Banana was an angel until last Wednesday. We went on a turkey scouting/shed antler hunting mission on a neighbor's 200 acre farm the day before. I was tired after working along a tall ridge looking for sheds and sign, deciding to take in the vista of the valley below from a large rock. Hanna came over and put her heavy chin on my knee, looking for affection.

Back home she had difficulty getting out of the truck. Once in the house she couldn't get comfortable. The following morning didn't see much improvement. We headed for the vet's office some 20 miles away.

Dr. Brodahl's face was grim when entered the waiting room with blood test results. Hanna's kidneys were shutting down. She needed to stay at his clinic for treatment.

Hanna Banana, Peck's faithful Lab, waits for her master's return with 'Baby' the stuffed animal she has carried since she was a pup. Hanna's caramel eyes pleaded. "I'll be right back, girl," I promised, quickly closing the door behind me and bursting into tears. I knew right then that my best friend would soon be gone. On the long drive home I reflected on our 9 ½ years together. When the truck rolled to a stop with no need to hold the door open for my faithful yellow Lab a voice whispered "she's your angel."

On my third phone call to Dr. Brodahl's office that day he suggested I come pay her a visit. Hanna wasn't eating. He said she was depressed.

My wife, Candy, and I walked quietly toward kennels located along the back wall of the clinic. Hanna's back was turned to the wall. I spoke her name. She jumped up and spun around, yellow tail banging against the stainless steel jail proclaiming salvation.

After a brief walk outside with a leash in one hand and an IV bag in the other we returned to the clinic. Hanna accepted my assurances that we would be right back as she chowed down with wagging tail.

The next morning Dr. Brodahl said Hanna could come home . He had done all he could do for her. Hanna's life was quickly fading away, stolen by a tiny deer tick carrying lyme disease. On the way home we stopped at a park. Hanna bailed out of the truck and dove into a small pond, exhilarated in both freedom and reunion.

Her rally didn't last long. By that afternoon if took considerable effort just to go outside and "be a good dog".

Hanna had an amazing understanding of the English language. She also did an admirable job of teaching me Labrador. Buddies said I had an unnatural affection for Hanna. We were seldom more than five yards apart over those 9 ½ years. We understand each other and simply share a deep and unconditional love.

Three months ago I was penning the final chapter of my book. This chapter is about Hanna. She sensed my angst upon pondering her final days came over and put her heavy head on my knee.

The only blemishes in' perfect dog' status I can recall were the time she chewed through a buddy's trolling motor cable when muskies were in an aggressive mood and another time when she worked far ahead on a pheasant hunt and busted 20 birds into flight too far away to shoot.

Hanna spent more time in a boat than most men allow themselves to dream of in the time she shared my life. She was a solid hunting companion. Hanna was also a beautiful dog. Many strangers said so. Hanna would acknowledge their praise-but only if she felt like it.

She didn't particularly care for the company of other dogs. There was only one other entity in Hanna's world: me.

By Friday afternoon she could only rally enough to go outside and "be a good dog." Saturday afternoon she had to rest for a few minutes before making the 50 foot journey back to the house. I waited by her side in a light but chilly rain.

She didn't have the energy to follow me into the bedroom Saturday night. I awoke at 3 a.m. and saw her next to the bed. It wasn't easy lifting her. But we both knew we needed to be closer.

About 5 a.m. she got down because she heard a noise outside and was compelled to protect us. At 6: 30 I awoke. She only had enough strength to wag her tail and put a paw on my shoulder when I lay down beside her to bawl my eyes out. Again.

Even close to death my angel with yellow fur was trying to comfort me. My heart is torn like old fabric with many threads dangling from both pieces of cloth. My only solace comes from knowing she is without pain. I hesitate in moving to another room, if only for a minute, knowing she will try to follow me.

Candy feeds her a warm mix of rice and lean hamburger several times a day. She eats, but will not take water which might keep her kidneys working. I believe on some level she knows this will hasten the inevitable.

Sunday evening Hanna staggered outside and "be a good dog," collapsing in a heap just inside the door. I woke up to check on her about 3:30 and was greeted by a weakly wagging tail, accepting her invitation to snuggle for awhile. She doesn't seem to be in any pain-at least from the perspective of a 60-year-old guy who has spent the night on the living room floor.

I called Dr. Brodahl first thing Monday morning. Hanna is at peace now. Her bones were laid to rest looking down over the valley where she used to watch for me coming back from the River.

Her spirit has moved on to wait for me on a much higher plane. I believe all good dogs go to heaven. Hanna was more than a dog. She is an angel with yellow fur.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.