Another Goodbye

I feel like I’ve had to say goodbye to too many of my favourite peeps and hounds these last couple of years and this one’s a toughie. Whether he was friend or family depends on how you view us four-legged additions to the household, but to me, he was my grandpa. Somewhere I have, or had, an actual grandfather, or grandsire as he’d be called in the dog world, but I likely never met him, don’t even recall meeting my father. Such is the way of life for dogs. We leave our birth families at a very young age and adopt a human family. They say they adopt us but we know it’s the other way around.

Nollind and his dad.

So my grandpa and friend, David, left us last weekend, quietly, peacefully. The struggle with disease started eight years ago but, in the end, his decline was mercifully rapid, allowing him to live right up until he died. Just a month ago, he hosted a Thanksgiving meal at his condo for the whole clan. And what a feast it was with all of the dishes of his childhood present and accounted for. As it turned out, it was somewhat of a farewell dinner. He was in hospital a week later. I didn’t get to visit him in the hospital but, from what I heard, he was still going for walks and maintaining his card-shark status during his stay.

Thanksgiving cuddles.

In the years I knew him, David was never anything but kind to me. He was at our place a lot one summer and fall, helping Nollind with a bunch of building projects and, when it was tea time, he always had one hand for his cup and one for me. I’d park myself beside his favourite stool in the kitchen and he’d stroke my head for as long as I stayed or until they went back to work.

Siding the hay shed.

And that one year was not the only time David was at the farm lending a hand. If you took a gander around our yard you’d be hard pressed to spot a thing that he hasn’t touched in some way. From helping T and Nollind paint the inside of the house way back when they bought the place, to rewiring the old barn, to straightening the old barn, to building the carport and the hay shed and the new outhouse, to replacing the awning on Sid, to planting the first garden. The list goes on and on. If we wanted to memorialize him with a sign on something he helped build, we’d pretty much just hang it on the gate at the entrance (come to think of it he helped with that too).

Working in the garden.

Even though David wasn’t technically a dog person, as in he never had a dog of his own beyond his childhood on the farm, whenever family events were hosted at his condo, we dogs were included. On Thanksgiving this year he even bought me a nice big, beef bone. When I pulled it out of the dish to go chew in a more private location, T and Nollind jumped up in a panic, but David just smiled without concern.

Hanging out bedside last Friday.

Last Friday, the whole family was called to spend the day with David at his condo. He was in bed and I could feel that he was leaving us. I curled up beside him and he reached out his hand to stroke me as he always did. He went to hospice that afternoon and died the next evening so the feel of my fur was one of his final experiences in this life. I hope it was a comfort.

I’ll sure miss him.

I don’t know where we go when we die but they say that pets cross the Rainbow Bridge. I think David would appreciate a bridge built from rainbows, and likely pitch in on any needed repairs. I hope he and Logan are over there enjoying it together.

Just a Dog

It’s September and, one year ago today, I was hanging out in Logie-land with its namesake, my good buddy Logan. Little did I know that in just a few weeks we’d be saying goodbye … forever. Although the day he died was terrible, the permanence of his leaving took time to settle in, and that’s where I’m at now, I think all of us are, that stage where the pain is eased but the permanence is felt with each passing month. I’m not sure what we’ll do on the anniversary of his death on the 28th of September, but I know we’ll do it together, me, T and Nollind, Logan’s family.

September 3, 2018 – a little couch time with T

T told me a sad story from many years ago when she lost a young dog to a huge piece of ice that slid off the roof of the house and landed on him. Terrible, right? It’s been thirty-five years and she still tears up when she talks about Bo. But what makes this story even more tragic, and something T has never forgotten, is the response of one of her “friends” who asked that same evening over drinks, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a dog.”

September 7, 2018 – nap time with a favourite toy

And therein lies the insult to injury that dog people often experience when they lose one of us canine family members. Even if it’s not stated outright, the message is there in the silence … It’s just a dog.

September 17, 2018 – autumn sun

When Logan died, the sympathy cards, condolence messages, and fuzzy blankets covered in paw prints were a great comfort to T (she still hasn’t put the cards away). They brought the message, “He wasn’t just a dog, he was a much-loved member of your family for fourteen years.”

September 25, 2018 – still up for a short walk.

A poem by Richard A. Biby…

From time to time, people tell me, “lighten up, it’s just a dog,” or “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.” They don’t understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for “just a dog.”

Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.” Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a dog,” but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog,” and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,” then you will probably understand phrases like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”

“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure and unbridled joy.

“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person.

Because of “just a dog,” I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So for me, and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog” but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.

I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a dog,” but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a woman.” So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog,” just smile–because they “just don’t understand.”

September 28, 2018 – early morning

Thanks, Mr. Biby and thanks everyone else who understands that there’s no such thing as “just a dog”. I know I’d sure hate to be such a thing.

September 28, 2018
September 28, 2018

WWLD – A Tribute

We’ve crossed paths with a lot of great peeps in our travels, and our California friend Leon is right up there at the top of the list. Partly because he brought Sue and her endless supply of treats, but also because he was just one of those kind and gentle human beings that we dogs are drawn to.

Hangin’ at “The Pond”

We first met Leon back in 2012 on our first big RV adventure in the desert. We were boondocking at a little lake called Fortuna Pond near Yuma, Arizona. “The Pond” is a popular spot for snowbirds because you can park right beside the water … and it’s free!

That cowboy hat in the background would become very familiar.

Fortuna was pretty crowded when we arrived but, after consulting a Washington couple on how comfortable they were with us parked off the nose of their rig, we pulled in close to them, leaving enough room for maybe one small trailer between us and the next camp.

A couple of days later, we were off exploring the area and, when we returned, there was not one, but two good-sized motorhomes squeezed into the space we thought barely big enough for one. As it turned out, it was lucky for us these particular Californians were handy at fitting into small spaces because one of those motorhomes belonged to Sue & Leon and the other to their friend Rick.

There goes the neighbourhood!

That week at Fortuna was filled with many games of ladder ball, a few alcoholic beverages (the peeps not us), and many a campfire tale with our new friends (along with a few unsanctioned visits to Sue’s place for snacks). It was tough to say goodbye when it came time for the next leg of our journey, but we drove off confident we’d see our friends again.

Saying goodbye … or rather, “See you again soon!”

And we did, a few years later in Quartzsite when we visited their camp at Scaddan Wash. And then again the following year, when they invited us to camp with them at Ogilby Road near Yuma. We had such a good time those ten days and the fun continued when they joined our camp a few weeks later at Wickenburg.

The camp on Ogilby Road.
No doubt imparting some wisdom as Nollind hitches up Sid.

You may be wondering about the title of this blog, WWLD. You see, Leon was like an RV sage, all knowing, ever wise. He’d been RVing for years, had spent a lot of time off the grid, and there wasn’t a trick he hadn’t picked up, a shortcut he didn’t know about. So, when T and Nollind are stuck, they always ask, “What would Leon do?” At Ogilby, my peeps were ready to start adding to the propane tank system on Sid until Leon wandered over to have a look and ask a few important questions. Turned out the system already had the thing they were going to install!

Leon taking his girl for a spin in Fang.
A fond farewell at Ogilby … but not for long as it turned out.

From my perspective, the answer to WWLD is put a beer in your hand, a smile on your face, and wander from camp to camp getting to know the neighbours. Leon would know a little about everybody within an easy sauntering radius, always having time to listen to a story or tell one. He loved campfire time like no one I’ve ever met, and even built a cozy surround for the sometimes windy desert evenings.

Campfire time at Vulture Peak near Wickenburg, AZ.
The campfire surround set up at Ogilby Road.

We saw Leon the winter before last when we joined their camp at Scaddan Wash in early February. He seemed to be slowing down a little but still had that same sparkle in his eye, that same love of a good story.

Another winter, another gathering at Quartzsite.
A couple of old boys sharing a drink at Scaddan Wash in 2018.

Leon lost his battle with cancer a week ago and the celebration of his life is tomorrow. If Sacramento weren’t so far away, we’d be there to tell our Leon stories. I have no idea how his friends and family will possibly fit all those tall tales into one short afternoon.

Always time for one more story…
And one last goodbye.

As for us, I’m pretty sure the next time we travel south the desert will feel a little emptier. But, we’ll enjoy a campfire, take a walk, get to know a neighbour … because that’s what Leon would do.