Monday, August 17, 2015

Countdown - Part 1

     If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that most of our posts are pretty upbeat in tone. We take a great deal of joy in being a family who loves wild things, wild places, and each other. Once in a while, though, a little sadness creeps in. That’s OK. Life is not, as Long Rifle’s daughter reminded me recently, “pink fluffy unicorns dancing on gumdrops” all the time. We’re losing a member of the crew right now, and it hurts - bad. Missy, the almost-15-year-old Labrador is dying.      

     Monday, 3:30 PM - She came to us in 2008, already a middle-aged dog. She was a project, a rescue dog from our friends at the W9. She was in pretty bad shape, and she’d been through a rough time. She was thin and ragged looking, with a dull brownish coat. She was afraid of pretty much everything, especially men. We weren’t real sure we had room in our life for a dog anymore, but we couldn’t say no. She came aboard a few days short of her 8th birthday.     
     She was Grandma’s dog from the start. They learned to go for a run together every morning. It wasn’t easy. Missy didn’t understand what was expected of her at first. We even had to call in
an expert to teach us to redirect her attention so she didn’t go
berserk every time she saw another dog or a person or a rabbit. But in time, she came around. As the weeks went by, she learned quickly. And she morphed into an amazing dog. The dull brown coat all blew out and she was as shiny and black as a piece of obsidian. And just about as hard – she had muscles on top of muscles everywhere, as she settled in to a high quality diet and daily exercise. At 75 pounds and 0 percent body fat, she could lope forever. And sometimes she did.
       It was easy to see from the beginning that she would never hunt. Her bloodline was great, but too much troubled water had passed under the bridge and she was terrified of any loud, sudden noise. Gunfire, fireworks, thunderstorms were her demons. So we put away the notion that we had a hunter and loved her for who she was – sweet, strong and happy. She fit in at our outfit like she’d been born here. That winter, when Grandma’s running moved indoors to the treadmill, Missy and I moved outdoors to the school section west of our place. She’d retrieve a tennis ball no matter how far I threw it, no matter how many times I threw it, no matter how deep it was buried in the snow. Lots of times, it was pitch dark when we’d go out in the morning and she’d disappear into the void in her perfect nighttime camo, then reappear spectral a few seconds later with the snowy tennis ball clutched in her mouth. We became buddies that winter. We’ll always be buddies.


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