The Unfinished Painting


Maddy Halbach, Contributing Writer

Maddy Halbach

William Shakespeare Lewis is a noble name for my noble white Labrador Retriever. He was Will to me, or “My Boy.” When I first met him, he was 3 years old and severely underweight.  My friend Phyllis rescued him from a shelter just a few weeks before I visited her in Virginia Beach.  She said he was timid and hesitant to go near people, so we were surprised when, without prompting, Will came slowly towards my chair. He looked up at me with his big brown sorrowful eyes, tail hanging low, and put his head on my lap. I looked down and patted his head; he started nudging my leg, looked up and smiled. 

I guess you would say he imprinted on me. “Can I take him home?” I asked.

 “He just got here,” Phyllis said. “Let me think about it.”  

Will never left my side. The following morning, seeing how attached he was to me, Phyllis agreed. I opened the car door and he leapt in. I swear I could almost hear him say, “Take me home to Maryland.” I called my husband to let him know I was bringing William Shakespeare home. Larry said, “I’m not a Shakespeare kind of guy, but which book did you get?” Almost giddy I said, “Not a book, a dog.” 

In short work Will became part of the family. He would begin pacing just before I arrived home from teaching and Larry would let him out. Will just knew it was time for me to come home. He would wait under our crepe myrtle until he could see my car pull into the driveway. Then he would spring up, come bounding around the house, ears flapping with a big smile on his face, every day without fail. Everything was okay in his world once again. 

At 8 p.m. every night William would slink away to the guest room, which became William’s room. He would stay there until I would come up to bed. Then he would jump up on mine.  If my husband wasn’t already in bed, William would snarl, snap and try to attack him when he approached.  A habit we could not break. Larry quickly learned that “Mr. William” as he called him would behave for treats, thus every night a treat at bedtime. Once we were settled, Will would cuddle with both of us until he was tired of the attention and then go back to his bedroom again.

William loved me unconditionally, and I him in return for over nine years. A more loving and grateful friend I have yet to meet. 

A couple of years ago, William died in my arms, I’m sure, right where he wanted to be.  I still think of him often, miss his smile and even his odd behaviors. Since he passed, I have been painting his picture. It still leans unfinished against the easel in my art studio. One day I will capture him perfectly or I might never finish it. Just like I will never forget him.

Happy Valentine’s Day, William, My Boy. 

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Caption:  Memories cannot always be perfectly captured on canvas.