My Friend

 

Sierra’s journey with us came to an ending point last night.

Sierra is our 13 and a half year old puppy, a collie dog, and has been our companion, protector, watchdog, and most of all friend, all of her life. She spent her entire time unchained and unfettered in the yard, living her life in complete freedom. She, in turn, would never, ever leave the yard, but would patrol and watch over it for us.

She asked for absolutely nothing and complained about even less.

Whenever I would come home, day or night, rain, shine or snow, she would be on the front steps waiting for me. Her tail would wag and she was always happy to see me home. There is nothing like knowing she will be there waiting for me and no matter how poorly the day might have gone, it would be all better with the happy “you’re home” bark and a wag of the tail.

Sierra is a working dog, through and through, and tough as nails. She is a mountain dog, which means she endures some very difficult conditions. Heavy snows, deeper than her (she bounded through it, joyful). Pouring, relentless rain (I am still wondering if she noticed that). The long, hot days of late summer (she knew where the shade was, that’s for sure) and everything in between: yet she enjoyed the day, whatever it would bring. She would circle the house, making sure all is well. She would inspect the barn. She would head to the back woods, making sure no one was there. She would check that all her people were where they should be.

One day, it was cold and looked like snow: Sierra decided that the middle of the driveway was a great place for a nap. An hour later, and the driveway was covered in snow and Sierra just a snow covered lump, save for the steam coming from her black nose. I called to her, and she realized it snowed as she stood up: she really had no idea at all, but was delighted to find it. She would lay in snow by choice, even on the coldest days. Tough dog.

Workers around the house were always warned to never, ever leave their work gloves off their hands. Few, at least the first time, would take my advice seriously. Few left with two gloves, and many none. Clever dog.

One work crew had a Dion’s pizza brought all the way up here, and were they ever looking forward to it. They left it a little too low, and the look of innocence that Sierra gave off was entirely convincing. Smart dog.

Sierra ran faster than the wind. She could, without any seeming effort, outrun rabbits, and out corner them, turning 90 degrees or more at full speed, which is amazing to see. You’d begin to wonder if the words “gravity” and “momentum” and “physics” apply to her. Collies are good like that. She would also run circles around cars in the driveway. Moving cars. Fast dog.

If I went outside, she was right there by my side. Even when I tried to sneak out the back door, she was there before I could take but a few steps. She would follow me as I walked the yard. She would sit by me as I worked outside. She would keep me company, each and every day. She would sleep by the side of my bed in her later years, and watch over me at night. She would wait for me to wake, then head outside for her day job. She let me know when something needed attention, and she gave her all whenever it was needed. My dog. My companion. My friend.

She was never ill or sick a day in her life. The worst injury she suffered was a very bloody nose as a puppy. In that case, a cat took the opportunity to teach her a lesson about cats and sharp claws; a lesson that she took to heart for all her life. As she would come into the house she would seek the cats out, and wait for them to inspect her, before doing anything else. Cats had the right of way at all times. Yet should a cat end up outside, Sierra would have none of that, and wouldn’t let up until the cat was returned to inside. Inside was for cats. Outside was for Sierra. It was her outside, and she knew it.

In the end, old age took her. She aged gracefully; so gracefully that it snuck right up on me. She never, ever complained when her bones must have ached: she had work to do, you see. As she grew older and weaker, she would fall. Rather than whine, she would simply give a few barks asking for a little help, when we had a moment or two. No hurry, you see. We would stand her back up and she would thank us, then continue on. She had a good bit of arthritis which slowed her down, but didn’t stop her. Last week she was trotting in the yard. Her last day with me was spent checking out the yard, just to make sure all was well. Today, she is too, but rather running free upon the winds.

She passed on the front porch, with all us there by her side. It was quiet and peaceful, although there were a lot of tears. Her heart was failing. Her lungs were filling up quickly. Her kidneys had failed in the last day. She barely had the strength to stand, yet to her, these were minor inconveniences, even at the end. I cradled her head for her last breath, and my tears flowed in place of hers. The light faded from her eyes, but it will never fade from my heart.

It snowed last night. There were no tracks outside, and the front porch was quiet, and the tears flowed again . I miss my friend, my fast dog, my smart dog, my clever dog, my tough dog. Yet, I celebrate her time with us, too and she was there by my side, and helped me through some of the dark days in my life and brought joy and life into every day. Her light lit my way. Always will.

And one day, I hope to see her again, waiting there for me, her joyful bark and happy tail, free upon the wind.

Goodbye, for now, Sierra, my friend. I love you.