Brittney, The Light of My Life

By Linda Carol Knight

 It was a lovely spring day in 1988. I was sitting in my room at Southeastern Guide Dog School in Palmetto, Florida, and wondering, "What kind of dog will I receive this time?"

Suddenly there was a knock on my door, and in walked a trainer with this beautiful 18-month-old yellow Labrador Retriever female. Oh, she was so sweet and so precious. She came right to me and at that moment our bond began to grow. She was so bright and curious.

When Brittney and I went home as a team, we were always together. We took long walks and I can remember the long hours she and I sat on my front porch and I groomed her. I talked to her and yes, I sang songs to her as I ran the brush through her beautiful fur - oh, it was so beautiful. That darling little lady loved to be brushed.

Through my years in college Brittney was at my side and her performance was outstanding. I'll always remember her excitement as I got the harness and oh, how she loved to wear that harness! She was strictly business when she was in it, and how sharp and consistent her memory! For example, one semester when I was taking classes in medical transcription at Pensacola (Florida) Junior College, I was assigned to a certain desk. She knew it, too. The next semester I walked into the same classroom, and yes, without me having to tell her, that remarkable little lady took me to the very same desk. Oh, I was so proud of her.

Another fond memory I have of this great lady was when I was sitting at the desk listening and transcribing medical practice tapes. Suddenly, from the headphones of the transcription machine, I heard the sound of fast chatter. Oh, that darling girl had stretched out and was lying on the foot pedal of the machine and had put the machine in fast forward or rewind. Oh, how funny!

Brittney worked hard and tirelessly. We even went to two campuses a day for classes. She was so dedicated.

There was a time when Brittney and I would walk to the school my children were attending and walk them home. My daughter, Alice, remembers one day when we were walking home - I was holding her hand and Taylor was on the other side of Brittney, and it began to rain. Wow! You should have seen us - we began to run!

When I was volunteering as switchboard operator at the VA Outpatient Clinic in Pensacola around nine years ago, Brittney was right there beside me. I was so proud of her - she was so patient.

However, Brittney was not free from her share of mischief. I can remember one morning when my son asked me if he could make can biscuits. I said yes and proceeded with my chores. Soon I realized I didn't smell biscuits baking and went to investigate. I asked Taylor, who was about nine at the time, and was watching cartoons, if he had put the biscuits in the oven. He said, "I forgot!" I went to the table and found the pan, which felt like it had been greased for baking. Guess what! Brittney had found the biscuits (raw) and devoured them! It was a little scary. I called the vet and he said she should be okay.

There were other memories: We were active in the Catholic Church, and Brittney would take me up to the lectern when it was my turn to read for Sunday Mass. Yes, I was a lector in the church. She would sit patiently till I finished reading and would lead me back to my seat.

When Brittney was about 6-1/2 years of age I noticed she was having difficulty getting up and down. I took her to the vet and he took x-rays. They revealed the beginning of arthritis and she was given occasional medication for pain.

In 1995, I retired Brittney and went to Southeastern again. I received Ralph, a black Labrador. I placed Brittney with a person whom I thought was a friend - but he turned out to be a con man and it didn't last but about three months. After this man was arrested, I got her back and made a vow that I would take care of her the remainder of her natural life. Ralph and Brittney got along very well. Of course she was the boss, for she would see that she and Ralph got their doggy treats.

Sometime in March 1999, I noticed that Brittneys's breath was very strong and also noticed that the glands around her neck were swollen. By this time we had moved to Jacksonville from Pensacola and had been there for four years. My husband, James, was in the process of being transferred to Columbus, Georgia, and things were in chaos. I took Britttney to the vet and he thought it might have been her teeth. She was placed on Cephalexin, an antibiotic. At first things seemed to get better, then the  week before her death, I noticed the glands were larger.

On May 22nd, 1999, a friend of mine took me and both dogs to the vet. I told my friend on the way that I thought Brittney had lymphoma, a painful disease of the lymph nodes. She didn't say anything, for she worked in the medical profession and I think she was afraid to tell me anything.

We walked into the doctor's office and asked him to examine Brittney, and I told him I suspected that my darling girl had lymphoma. He got down and examined Brittney thoroughly this time, and when he stood he confirmed that Brittney had extensive and massive lymphoma. By this time it was obvious and no blood test was needed.

I sometimes wondered how he could have missed it, but you would have to have known my darling girl and how lively and so full of life she was. The doctor told me that since I was moving and would have a new vet, he could probably do something for her. In the meantime, he could place her on massive steroids and it would buy her a little more time.

He also said that he thought she would have less than a year, and that she would soon begin to stop eating. I looked at the veterinarian and told him that since she loved to eat, I couldn't let that  happen to her. I asked that he help ease her suffering. I thought the move to Georgia would be very traumatic for her.

He put his arms around me and gave me a big hug, and told me he would do this, and he was so very sorry he didn't notice this before. By this time I and my friend and the vet were all crying. He placed her on the table and I asked for a few moments with her. I told her how much I loved her and how much I appreciated what she had done for me, and what a privilege and honor it was to have had her as a part of my life. I told her that I would always think of her, and tell others what a great lady she was.

Brittney began her journey across the Rainbow Bridge at 10:45 AM that day. I held her in my arms and she began her new life. A life of no more pain and suffering. A life with joy and peace. A life with  all the other of God's animals.

I will always be grateful to her and to Southeastern Guide Dogs Inc., and her puppy raisers and God for sending Darling Brittney into my life. Her memories stand forever.

Thank you, dear and beloved Brittney - I love you.

Linda Carol Knight

October 22, 2004


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