Monday, May 6, 2013


We retired my 2003 Subaru Forrester over the weekend.

She was loyal and true and sure of foot over the 160,000+ miles we logged together, and although I'm enjoying the smoother, quieter ride of her replacement, at some level I'm going to miss her.

Yes, she was a little saggy and a little draggy. But then again, so am I.

The Forrester was purchased mainly as transport for me to/from work. But her SUV style and room was appealing because of Wesley, our black Labrador Retriever. Before the Sube, Wes rode in the back seat of a Ford Escort I had at the time, and he enjoyed leaning his head on my shoulder as I drove. Which was really cute, but when I'd turn around to back up, he took it as an invitation to schlurp my cheek with kisses.

Not exactly the safest method of travel.

So the advantage to the Sube was the cargo area in the back, which we blocked off with a metal grate to contain him.

It worked perfectly; he treated it in the same way as a crate and rode safely.

Which didn't stop him from getting bored and antsy back there. And in that boredom, he would chew. Which is how I lost my radio in the Sube. Wesley chewed through the antenna wires that connected the console to the antenna in the rear windows. Cool design, Subaru, for your average car owner (no ugly antenna outside the car, where it can be caught and mangled in a car wash). Not so good for a stressy Lab who's now angry that he can no longer kiss Daddy during backups.

The fix for that antenna was prohibitive from a budget standpoint, involving a tear-out of wiring all throughout the body of the car, so I did without, relying on my iPod for music and my instincts for traffic info.

Wesley and I commuted a lot in that car: dog obedience classes; shows; therapy visits. Over the years, the "wayback" as I called it, collected great tufts of fur, thanks to his steady shedding. I'd vacuum it out periodically, but before long, feathery piles of black hair accumulated in the corners and crevices.

It really didn't bother me. Nor Wes.

I took Wesley to his last vet visit in that car. He could no longer manage a jump to/from the wayback, so he took to riding in the back seat during his senior years.

His penchant for en-route kisses had faded with age.

With great concern, I loaded him into that backseat on what would be his final morning with us. I wasn't sure I could get him in there by myself; he was very unsteady on his feet at that point.

But as if he understood where we were going and why, he shuffled himself in.

And a handful of hours later, I arrived home. Alone. Dogless. Having released Wesley from a cancer that I didn't even know he had.

And then Parker came into our lives. And he, too, commuted in the Sube. And an interesting thing started happening in the wayback: The remaining tufts of black hair started mixing with tufts of yellow hair. First with the downy soft puppy fur that Parker arrived home with. And eventually the stiffer, saffron coat of an adult yellow Labrador Retriever.

And this weekend, we signed the Sube over to the dealer, cashed her in on our new car, and waved goodbye.

I'm usually not sentimental over cars.

But this replacement exercise is a little wistful.

Driving away from the dealership and leaving my old Sube behind also meant we left some of the last physical remnants of Wesley -- a dog who was loved from nose-tip to tail-tip.

Fortunately, his other remembrances, the ones on film and in his AKC records and especially in our hearts, those will last forever.

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