I am going to be sick.
Just two weeks ago, we lost our beloved dog, Tabasco, to lung disease and old age. She was a close companion, which made the loss more difficult, but we were grateful we had a month or so get used to the idea that she was in a fatal decline.
We got no such warning last night. The kids were in bed, and I’d gone out to my office to watch the end of a television program. At about 10:45, I heard Scooter the border collie barking like I’d never heard him bark before. In fact, at first I wasn’t even sure it was him. The bark was higher pitched, desperate, and very intense. I grabbed my spotlight and went out to investigate, thinking perhaps he’d gotten in a fight with (or simply cornered) a wild animal. The bark was coming from the direction of the road, and was now so urgent that I broke into a full run down the driveway.
When I reached the road, I found no wild animal. Just Scooter, laying in the middle of the street, struggling — but failing — to get up. I ran still faster, to help him, but he’d clearly been injured very badly. He smelled awful, like the stuffing had been knocked out of him. I had to get him out of the road, and I wondered if we could make it to the vet in time.
I’m not sure if my attempt to move him aggravated an internal injury, but he was already going into shock when I tried to pick him up. A passing motorist stopped and carried my light for me as I hauled Scooter to the back porch; I didn’t get his name, but his sympathy was greatly appreciated and I wish I could thank him again.
Scooter was limp by the time I laid him on the porch. I ran in to tell Mrs. Yeoman Farmer; she’d heard the yelps, but hadn’t known what they were. She was as upset as I was about the whole thing, but we were glad the kids were already asleep.
I returned to Scooter’s body, and was surprised I could still feel a heartbeat. His eyes were glazed over, and his body was doing little other than twitching. I didn’t know if he could hear me, but I told him over and over what a good boy he was. And kept my hand on his chest, feeling his heart beat. Finally, he made one big sudden twitch…and then I couldn’t feel his heart beating anymore.
Not wanting the kids to discover the body in the morning, I hauled Scooter to the pasture where he’d gotten so much joy in giving us so much tremendous service. This morning, I got up early and dug a grave near where we buried Tabasco…but closer to the main path the sheep take to return to their paddock at night. I thought that’s where Scooter should rest: right near the place where he did his favorite work.
He was only four years old. He was in the absolute prime and vigor of health. He loved every instant of his life, and the things he got to do here on the farm: bringing sheep in and out from pasture, rounding up the goats when they’d broken through a fence, chasing down errant birds and holding them carefully until I could pick them up, getting big squirts of milk when the Yeoman Farm Children milked the goats, taking romps with me through the woods as I inspected a trap or fence line…I’ll never forget the way he’d yelp with joy and practically jump out of his skin when he realized it was time to get to work.
Which is what I need to do right now, actually. Stop typing and get to work, that is. I’m not yelping and jumping out of my skin at the prospect, but these weeks are absolutely jam packed with professional work for me. Which makes it the absolute worst time to have to cope with losing the Best Companion Dog Ever and the Best Farm Dog Ever in rapid succession. I am glad I have lots of work to immerse myself in. I’ll try to approach it with the enthusiasm Scooter would have for work on the farm.
But right now, my heart is too heavy and my eyes are too full to do anything but grieve.