I like dogs. Growing up we had dogs. Cats were nice when they want to be, but my mother disliked them. If she visited a house where cats lived she would never eat any food prepared there for fear of cat hair. After all cats were sneaky and got on the countertops. In West Virginia where I lived until I was 10 years old, there were ferrule cats that lurked around our property. My grandmother and grandfather lived next door. My grandmother liked cats, had cats and probably kept them partly to spite my mother. But that is enough about cats.
We had dogs while I was growing up. When we moved to North Carolina I received a pup that I named Tinkerbell. She was a small mixed breed, dark with expressive brown eyebrows. She was my best friend.
When we started our family and moved to the mountains of North Carolina, the first thing on our agenda after buying a house was to find a dog for our children. We found a wonderful Golden Retriever Female we named Kaycee. She was a retriever in every sense of the word, bringing us front door welcome mats from neighboring houses, shoes, and once a plastic bag with two cans of motor oil. We would leave her booty out by the mailbox for our neighbors to claim. When she brought the oil my husband walked down to find someone who had the hood of their car up.
We added to our family of pets, two pomeranians a few years apart, that became in house dogs. When Kaycee died we decided there was not a way to replace her. We had become accustomed to having indoor dogs.
When our son was finishing up college and preparing to move to Colorado he decided he wanted a dog to go with him. He chose a border collie. His name was Asa.
Asa was a few months old when our son took him in. A beautiful, but intense dog. It took the dog a while to get used to the house and the idea of riding in a car.
Asa became proficient with the frisbee and loved accompanying our son on the thing he loved to do most, hike.
Our son took the dog with him to Colorado and traveled with him extensively. Asa flew a number of times with our son when he came back home for a visit.
When the older of our pomeranians died we thought it best to wait and decide if we wanted another dog. The younger of our Poms – Ebby seemed to be functioning very well, though I must admit we spoiled her pretty badly.
“You need to get another dog.” our son announced one day. “one that is not defective!” (he had never openly liked the older dog Cocoa, who had recently passed.I admit she had an attitude and was very aloof).
“You need a miniature Australian Shepherd” he announced. The idea of an Australian Shepherd had been mentioned before. Our son had met one once that was the companion of a climbing buddy. The actual strategy that our son was trying to employ was one that had worked for him many times before. The strategy was to get us to get something that he thought he might want or use eventually.
It was a strategy of it being sort of a test ground where he would not be fully committed but could still have access if he so desired.
On a trip to a neighboring city we saw a pet shop with a sign that said “puppies, puppies, puppies.” The car turned in to the parking lot without me even realizing it. There were puppies of every breed in that place. There near the back of the store were 3 miniature Australian Shepherd puppies. Two females and a male. The females were black and tan, the male a blue merl.
At home that night our son launched into his sales pitch to his dad.
“We don’t need another dog.” my husband insisted.
“You ought to see this dog, dad,” our son wheedled.
Our son went back to school that week and called me every day. “Have you been back to look at that dog?”
“No,” I parroted my husband, “we don’t need another dog.”
Two weeks later our son back in town, hit the door with one question. “Have you been back to take a look at that dog.”
“It is probably gone by now.” I said.
“You could call and find out.” he said.
Why and how exactly it all took place, I’m not sure. A few hours later I was in the back seat, our son driving, my husband in the passenger seat and in my lap was a little blue merl Australian Shepherd. “We will name him Sky.” I announced and my son and husband agreed.
Around Thanksgiving last year my husband came home from work and told me that someone out in the country had a female Border Collie that was “attacking” their cows. “Do you think Asa would like a companion?” my husband asked.
Our son had been on the lookout for another dog as a companion for Asa. Our son was in town again so we went out to look. She was a skinny wriggling traditionally marked border collie, chained to a wire mesh cage with a rug flung over the top. Our son had to go out of town on a school related trip and we were keeping Asa.
“I think I might want that dog.” our son told me before he left.
The weather forecast was calling for snow. I couldn’t stand the thought of the dog out there chained to that cage. “I’m gonna go get her.” I told my husband.
He laughed, “I knew you would.”
Sadie came into our life. Less than a year old she is the fastest dog our family as ever seen. She prefers affection to food.
Our son got to live with her for 8 months before he died.
Sadie and Asa live with our daughter now and both have adapted well. They live in the same house they lived in with him and our daughter is great with them. She is a very disciplined person and routine is something the dogs crave.
Asa makes me feel the saddest of all. I have not let him into the room where our son’s things are stored right now. I do not want to see him sniff and search. Asa is an incredibly smart dog. Our son taught him how to sneeze on command. Of the two border collies is the most obsessive and highly strung. Sadie has settled in to life with our daughter and is finally gaining a little weight.
I wish I could adapt as well as the dogs have.
Sky is a clown. If it were not for my son, Sky would not be living with us. I am training him to do a few things, because our son would expect it of me. Sky can roll over and bow, speak with an “inside voice” and “go around.” He thinks he is an air dog when it comes to frisbee and he wishes those darn squirrels would stay on the ground just a little longer so he could taste their fluffy tails.
Our son had no wife and children. He was dating again, as I have mentioned in previous writings. I cannot imagine how it must be to loose a child and have their family’s grief to deal with. Perhaps it is a blessing at times. I do not know. That is not my experience and I won’t pretend to understand or project how that must be.
I do understand how death can destroy marriages, and wrench families apart. It is so hard to live with the constant reminders.
I find it hard to live inside my own head sometimes. When I wake at night – even now, the first thought in my head is that our son is gone. It annoys me sometimes, that I cannot escape those thoughts for long. But I do sleep, that has not been disrupted since the week after his passing.
Our dogs sleep in their kennels in our room. Our pomeranian Ebby snores and Sky thump, thumps, scratching his collar. I hear them sigh and root around to get more comfortable. They are a comfort to us.
When the border collies come home there is a free-for-all in our den. Sadie and Sky play like long lost cousins. It lightens things up for all of us. We can watch them and enjoy their boundless energy and joy of just being.
Asa comes to me and puts his head on my knees and enjoys a good ear scratch. He is getting older and more stiff. I hate to think about the day when Asa and Ebby are gone, and it will come whether I am here to witness it or not.
I heard someone say concerning the death of a family pet that it was a good lesson for the children. I cannot tell you how outrageous that sounded to me. A good lesson? If that be the case then spare me any more lessons. I have learned too well that there is not one gift you are ever privileged to receive that you can really keep. If that be the lesson then for me then the point is well taken.
When my ashes have been put into a container then I will have no say in any of these matters any more. I told my husband to take them to one of the National Parks and spread them (illegally). But I have changed my mind. If our son’s ashes are still here just mix us up together and put them where ever you will. Maybe up there on the hill where Kaycee and Cocoa are buried. I know I will be in good company there.