We said goodbye to our 12-year-old dog, Grizzly, today. He was a mutt, a dark chocolate lab/beagle mix who was medium-sized and largely nondescript. He barked only at some breeds of vermin, Farmer H walking across the Mansion grounds, and for no reason. He was friendly with our own kids, and stalked scornfully away from other children and puppies and kittens.
Grizzly arrived at the Mansion after we picked him out of a litter at the Humane Society. He was the runt, the little fraidy-cat puppy lurking behind his feisty, clamoring littermates. We took him to Johnson Shut-Ins State Park soon after we got him. He was a mere puppy on a string. The #1 son was 3 at the time. He wanted to walk Grizzly. After all, that was his first dog. A man at the park asked, "Is he walking that dog, or is the dog walking him?" Grizzly never did learn to walk on a leash. Unless by walk, you mean drag along the ground while a human pulls on the leash.
Grizzly was the same age as The Pony, who was born in February, 1998. That means 12 for The Pony, and 88 for Grizzly. He had slowed down this past year, no longer jumping off the porch to chase after rabbits or imaginary intruders. For the last two winters, I was afraid we would wake up to find Grizzly cold on the porch. He made it, though. He made it to a 98-degree day that would warm his old bones to the marrow.
The Pony found him around 12:30, when we returned home from school today. He said Grizzly was laying behind the Scout, over by the goat pen. The shepherd, Ann, lays over there now, ever since the chickens took over the ground under the 5th-wheel camper in the front yard. Grizzly wasn't there when The Pony checked to see if any goats had their head stuck in the fence this morning at 7:00. I suppose Grizzly waited for us all to leave the Mansion. He's usually on the porch in the mornings, but not today. He either laid down for a permanent nap, or fell over while making his daily rounds of Hillmomba.
The #1 son dug the grave, and Farmer H buried Grizzly when he got home from work. He's in our little pet cemetery in the side yard, near the chicken pen, with Gizmo the kitten and Cubby, Ann's dumber brother. It's a few feet from where Grizzly went crazy barking over a giant snapping turtle when The Pony was just a toddler. A few feet in the other direction is the former rabbit nest where Grizzly again went crazy barking over a six-foot black snake that was eating baby rabbits. That's about as protective as he got. He was a mellow hound who would nudge his head under your hand for more if you dared to stop petting him.
#1 broke the somber news to me. The Pony had gone off to be by himself in the basement, and when I called him up, he shed a few tears. I reminded him that Grizzly had lived longer than most dogs. #1 told The Pony, "Let's face it. He lived like a king here." He had the run of several hundred acres in the greater Hillmomba area, with only a few gravel roads to endanger him. Rabbits were plentiful. Every now and then he would score a deer hindquarter. He had a pack to run with, a porch to lay on, and fresh food and water every morning. Plus his human pack for kind words and meal scraps. What more could a dog ask for? Or any of us, for that matter.
Goodbye, Grizzly. You've been a good dog.