July 24, 2007

The still-lie down

Our beautiful, loyal 12-year-old German Shepherd, mistress of all she surveyed on the farm, died last week.

While she was older and ailing, she was nevertheless coping wonderfully and enjoying all the usual summer activities -- chasing chickens, getting to know the new bull, playing and dozing with the cats, gulping down treats left over from barbecues -- until she was hit by a neighbor's truck the week before. After the first few tough days, when we thought we might lose her, she started walking again, albeit stiffly and slowly. She was rallying well until she took a turn for the worse last Tuesday. We're all rather at sea without her now. As Davy said Wednesday morning in tears, "I knew her even before I was born."

As a puppy, she pulled all of the plants out of my windowbox to make a more comfortable bed for herself. As a young dog, she had more than her fair share of adventures, come home from her wanders in the woods and fields smelling of skunk, with a face full of porcupine quills, soaking wet from a quick dip in the pond on a hot day. One early winter I saw her coming across the field lugging what I thought was a long tree branch. It turned out to be the haunch of deer who had died in the trees. She welcomed the arrival of new small people around here, though she occasional knocked them over with her enthusiastic tail, and never showed them anything but love and affection, even in her last moments.

From "Dogs" by Harold Monro (1879-1932), for our friend. We will talk about you and remember you, dear, in the light of candles and in the sunshine.

Thus, for your walk, we took ourselves, and went
Out by the hedge, and tree, to the open ground.
You ran, in delightful strata of wafted scent,
Over the hill without seeing the view;
Beauty is hinted through primitive smells to you:
And that ultimate Beauty you track is but rarely found.

Home . . . and further joy will be waiting there:
Supper full of the lovely taste of bone,
You lift up your nose again, and sniff, and stare
For the rapture known
Of the quick wild gorge of food, then the still lie-down;
While your people will talk above you in the light
Of candles, and your dreams will merge and drown
Into the bed-delicious hours of night.

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