Tessa (September 3, 1996-November 29, 2009)

Tessa the Labradog's full name was "Lagniappe Tessa of Westover," but she used it only on formal occasions. Since formality doesn't have much importance in a Lab's everyday life, we were commanded to use the shorter form. She was born September 3rd, 1996 at Lagniappe Labradors in Springfield, VA and came to us as an 8-week old puppy. Tessa was about as laid-back as a dog can get. She was the easiest pup we ever raised, and didn't even cry on her first night with us. When we remarked on how unusual this was, she stuck her head up out of the box and said, "Mother, littermates, who cares? You're feeding me, right? I'm home!" Tessa's model of Regal Deportment was the late Queen Victoria.

As the picture above shows, she was a languid beauty who believed that since she was hired for her looks, it would have been unreasonable to demand that she be useful as well as decorative. This was actually a good thing: when we got her, her brain was on back order; and when it arrived, it was a size too small. I hadn't realized until then that this is pretty much the standard for Chocolate Labs. I once tried reminding her she was, in fact, a retriever, and her job was, well, retrieving things I'd shot. Her indignant response was, "Listen, buster, if you think I'm going to jump into freezing water and swim just to bring you a dead duck, you're nuts. My role in this household is to keep the fireplace rug from being sucked up the chimney, and to see that Mama doesn't get cold at night!" Nevertheless, she did occasionally revert to her primitive origins. Once she killed a rabbit, much to my wife's dismay, and we suspect she shared Tycho's woodchucks now and then.

Ever respectful of The Code Of Labrador Retriever, she would eat anything that didn't eat her first. The only things we found that she didn't like were black olives and mushrooms. She loved sauerkraut, but giving a Lab sauerkraut is a violation of the Geneva Convention against the production of gas warfare materials, if you know what I mean.

With the arrival of Tycho into the pack in the Spring of 2001, we thought there might have been a change in her status. She had served unchallenged as Senior Dog since Tucker's death in September of 2000. But as she aged she became even more queenly and authoritarian, and she was having none of that kind of talk in her realm. Tycho and she and he had some vigorous discussions of the matter of seniority and who was running the house; after which she assigned him the job of Assistant Dog In Charge Of Yard Patrol. That's where things stood until the end of her reign.

In late 2008 or early 2009, some routine physical exam tests showed a very slight elevation of liver enzymes out of the normal range, but nothing seemed to be terribly amiss. As the months went by all seemed okay with her, but one day she started turning her nose up at food now and then, and occasionally vomiting after a meal. In a Lab this is completely abnormal: and further tests showed her liver enzymes to be "off the charts" and ultrasound showed a mottled liver. We tried some dietary changes and supplementation and medications, but her progress was steadily downhill. She developed jaundice. The veterinary clinic suggested a liver biopsy to determine the cause, but we weren't about to put her through that sort of invasive procedure just to satisfy curiosity as to exactly what was killing her. She seemed not to be in any pain, so we let Nature take its course.

Her time came on November 29th, 2009. She had stopped eating entirely a couple of days before, and was unable to deal with stairs. My wife and I took turns sitting with her through the nights, and later we were both by her side as she gave a single deep sigh and crossed the Rainbow Bridge to wherever it is that good dogs go. She passed out of this life quietly and as elegantly as she did everything.

Tessa was my wife's special companion, her faithful attendant and shadow: wherever Susan went, Tessa went, and I suppose they never spent more than ten minutes a day out of each other's sight when Susan was at home. A bond that close and enduring tears a hole in your heart nothing can fill. The callous sort of people who say "It's just a dog, get over it!" have no real understanding of the nature of the relationship between humans and their pets which is as akin to symbiosis as it can be. Although we have learned to live with the pain of her loss, we never, ever, will "get over it," in this life.

Lagniappe Tessa of Westover, Ave atqua vale!


I loved you the most.
I laid on your foot all day
And warmed you at night.

| Susan | Tycho | Meg | Tessa | Toby | Tucker | Dante | Penny | Gordo |Lucy |Tehya |

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