Feather Go Home

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We don’t know what goes on in their minds when they are with us, but only the smiles and memories they leave in our own hearts and memories when they are gone.

We did not even know her name in 2014 when we first insisted that the white dog go back down the road to the new neighbor’s house where she belonged. Surely her family doesn’t want her wandering too far from home, we reasoned, what with their small boys who would miss the dog if she was gone for long.

I lobbed bits of gravel from the road in her direction in mock threat. “Go home!” I’d tell her, and she’d slink back east, a few tenths of a mile, to where we knew she belonged. We thought this was the right thing to do, especially as the times she did get close enough to the house, our dog, Gandy, would set upon the would-be visitor with bristling bluster and harmless aggression, not willing to share either territory or affections with an interloper.

We went so far as to call her owners once, early on, to let them know where their dog was, lest they worry, like we would worry if she was our dog, gone. They did come to pick her up that time, and we learned her name was Feather. She was also a rescue dog like Gandy; she was the same age and almost the same weight as our dog. But the two dogs did not have a speaking relationship. Yet.

Later that year, we’d see her (you could not miss the long-haired almost-white Labradoodle at the shadows at the edge of the pasture) just watching from a distance as we made our routine walk-abouts down the New Road and back to the house. Gradually, she’d leave the cover of the woods and slink sheepishly towards us near the end of our walk, her approach greeted by Gandy’s challenge and some mild rough-housing. I’d pick up a rock (or maybe throw a pretend rock her way) and say “go home” and she would go.

But after a few months of insistence, Feather and Gandy came to an agreement. By that time, we’d realized Feather’s whereabouts might be lost in the list of concerns of the young couple with full-time jobs and two small children. And Feather had figured out the retired folks with that other dog in the neighborhood who were all outside every day made for a pretty nice day camp. And so we saw her often. Then we saw her every day. And many nights. We did not own her, but she seemed to have decided that she owned us.

And yet, early in that growing relationship and before Feather finally realized which side her bread was buttered on, she was bad to set off on an adventure to find human (and maybe other four-legged) companionship. Feather, it turned out, was the most needy dog ever to be in the company of humans and driven to be touched by hands. And so when nobody was home down the road, she took a road trip.

Her time and distance record were four days and five miles from home. We were frantic during her uncertain absence. It ended well. Another time we saw her picture on Facebook when she had been taken in by some folks we knew about four miles up the mountain, rescued from a bad outcome on a very busy road. We fetched her home in the car.

In those early days, she followed many a bicycle rider out of the valley, certain they had come to sit with and adore her in the cool shade. They didn’t sit, so she just kept running behind them. When this happened on our watch, we jumped in the car and caught up with her, and brought her “home.”

Finally, after some months of routine day camp here, she understood that her needs for adoration could be more than met just up the road from where she technically belonged; plus she really relished the romps, the boxwood chase and the roughhousing with Gandy — eventually to the point that they turned what used to be the yard into a muddy wrestling ring. We lowered our standards of yard care and increased our tolerance for mulch on the hardwood floors, and life was good.

She was a creature of habit, governed by regularity and predictability. We new for certain that it would not be long on any given dawn before her ghostly white form would appear, ambling in no particular hurry, up the road, then up the driveway, and at last to the porch. If we failed to see her arrive we’d be startled (but not surprised) to find her standing with her nose pressed against the back door when we opened it for firewood. She’d enter, greet all, and go to her Feather bed — not far from but not in the same room as Gandy’s cushier loveseat in front of the woodstove.

Predictably, should we be away from the house for a few hours, upon our return, Feather would appear out from under the lilac bush to greet us, always searching with some urgency to find a stick or a piece of gravel or a leaf. In her world it was bad manners to have nothing to offer in exchange for a two-handed head snuzzle. She might even get a brushing if the offering was carefully selected and convincingly presented.

And just as predictably, at the end of the day (on those days when she was required back down the road) the one of us that drew the short straw got the distasteful task of coaxing her out the back door, telling her how happy we were to have shared the day with her, and finally the tough love command: “Feather, go home.”

We never figured out how she learned to obey this directive, but she always did, even though she visible wilted when she heard it. Down the walkway, round the front of the house between the Forsythias and to the road she’d go. One of us — usually Ann — would watch from upstairs to be sure she didn’t double back and hide until dark and show up again just at bedtime. The next morning, she’d punch the clock and another day of romping, wrestling and serious napping would begin.

In my private recollections and journal but not here, I will enumerate a long list of very particular behaviors and attitudes and already-fading memories of Feather — a character in my life that I never want to forget. It is both a kindness and a tragedy that the wounds of such a loss do become less painful with time, but words can give the faint solace of a kind of immortality.

We are grateful to have had so many hands-on moments with our unofficially-adopted grand-dog, to have had so many smiles over so many miles with the two good friends; to have had so many sweet encounters with a creature that we always knew would likely go before we would — though not certainly at our ages, pushing seven dog years now.

We never took her for granted, nor do we the days we have left with Gandy — who has not yet given up on the notion that a white form will appear out of the morning gloom. I don’t think she’ll ever quit watching and hoping. Those two dogs were quite a team. We make a point now not to say F’s name out loud so Gandy will hear it and rush to the window expectantly, with her tail wagging.

The blessing was that the decline in Feather’s regular, predictable habits was a quick and painless goodbye. We’d noticed for some time that she was losing weight, but it made no apparent difference to her ability to reach the top of any ridge with amazing speed and endurance, even during her last week. But when she could not keep food on her stomach, she visibly faded. The vet diagnosed her condition as kidney failure. Monday January 23rd was her last day. And Feather went home.

Doggy Delegation: I Come in Peace

A year ago, every time the neighbors shaggy white dog Feather would appear at the margins of our property, Gandy would bristle and charge and invariably run Feather back across enemy lines.

About three months ago, something changed between them. The two dogs, about the same age and size, came to some kind of an agreement. In one of the clauses it must have stated the terms:

1) Feather comes and goes as she pleases but Gandy agrees to remain close enough to home to hear us calling, and NEVER goes to visit at Feather’s house.

2) Feather will arrive not later than 8:00 a.m. (adjusted earlier as the days get longer) and will obediently “go home” upon the command, although if it is too early of an afternoon, she did not sign the agreement to stay home.

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3) Each new greeting (upon a human arriving home in a car or upon exiting the back door for any reason) will result in a token offering of any kind (stick, rock, leaf) as act of appeasement.

Yesterday’s offering as I crossed the footbridge fresh home from town struck me as Feather’s Olive Branch of peace. It is a fragment from a privet bush.

IMG_4045feather2I came in and put up groceries, only to come to back door and see that I had failed to adequately accept the dog’s symbolic  indication of her peaceful intentions on our household and our resident dog. The latter was let out the door, promptly to begin the mock-combat they so dearly love, to heck with Feather’s silly gift.

I retrieved the Olive branch to a safe place indoors. It was the diplomatic thing to do.

And even as we speak, four thrashing dog paws are stripping away any remaining grass that once grew in what once was a yard before it became a Saturday Nite Wrastlin’ Rink.

Three Dog Night

By all rights we should not have had a very small puppy in a wire crate next to our bed on the morning of December 19, three years ago. When Tsuga died suddenly on December 5, we vowed we’d live out the pain before we dared open our home and hearts to another darned dog.

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You know how such things go–the empty places where their faces always appeared, the missing sounds, the unmet need to love and to be warmed in the guileless fidelity of a familiar friend, now gone. You think you can live without them once that the decision has been thrust by mortality upon you and that is just the way things are.

But this far-flung fenceless playground and Mole Ranch (and its ranchers) could not go on until the pain subsided, and on December 18, we brought home an 8-week rescue pup from a Walmart parking lot in Carroll County.  We called her Gandy–my crafted feminine for gander–of Goose Creek.

And on December 19, we began our first full day together.  So how could I, this very morning, write about anything else? Herself watches me at the keyboard from her accustomed place on the loveseat–HER loveseat now–where Buster, then Tsuga could nestle briefly and by invitation only.  She OTOH is nestled permanently and sometimes grants us permission to share.

So happy three-year homecoming anniversary, mutt. We hope you’ll keep us as we’re paper-trained and don’t jump up on visitors or sniff inappropriately at strangers or delivery persons.

Gandy Has Entered the Building! | Fragments from Floyd

If Life Gives You Gandy… | Fragments from Floyd

 

Gone to the Dog. And When She Says GO

Now wait a minute. Those of you who once snarked that Fragments had become “all Gandy all the time” have no paws to stand on. It’s been a while. And over the intervening years since Tsuga passed three years ago December 5, my dog lover-readers have wandered off to Facebook anyway.

Meanwhile, Gandy of Goose Creek (Gandy, ostensibly the female counterpart of gander) has become the Dog of the House, her eyes ever-watching from her throne–the loveseat where Tsuga could go with permission, and now, where we might rest–with permission. The dog and I make a great napping pair, when she grants me access.

In the early months of Gandy’s tenure here I wrote often about our doubts about her long-term residence with us. We discussed giving her back to the Humane Society more than once. Needless to say, we are glad we didn’t.

She is high-maintenance, although she can endure hours of snoring from a sunny patch on the sofa. But at some point, she says ENOUGH! and begins bumping my elbows, sending my hands flying into the computer keyboard.

When the persistent barking begins, I know I might as well relent and go. And she’s right to remind me that two of my age-peer friends have suffered pulmonary emboli. (She’s a very bright and articulate animal. I told you!)

Too much sitting is bad for Gandy’s health. Too much Gandy is not great for mine, mentally –until I relent and get up and get gone with the dog.

She turned 3 the middle of October. She joined us December 18, 2012.

Gandy’s Studio

IMG_1848dogArt

Yes, I’m aware it is Saturday and nobody is home in Bloggerville on the weekends. But rather than wait until Monday when a few readers trickle in from work,  I thought it best to follow up in a more timely manner on a recent Fragments disclosure.

You may recall that I bragged the other day how industrious our pup Gandy was in the household task of wood gathering. Her sense of duty and her commitment to the task at hand are admirable.

But be aware that there is more to her than mere brawn and work ethic. She is also a patron of the arts.

In fact, I was pleased to note just yesterday that Gandy’s Workshop is now Gandy’s Studio. She has selected her first sculpture, an elegant and classic plaster nose and mustache (“Der Snozz mit Wheesqers” as it is known in its native Bavaria) from the late AlterNative period, I believe.

I did not witness this selection process from the place in the yard where this sculpture fell off its nail on the poplar tree, but given the heft of this objet d’art, I have to think that her prior work in wood has given her talents she can now adapt to new media.

So far, only one piece has been added to what will ultimately become a renowned collection of outdoor art. Charlie Brouwer, beware.

I predict this oeuvre will soon rival Troika’s trove of treasures. As a matter of fact…

Soon to be announced, a name change for a familiar Floyd County arts event:

“Sixteen Hands. And Four Paws.”