Considering the fact that we have always been posting at least once every week since the start of this blog last year, all of you faithful readers are probably wondering where we have been over the past couple of weeks.
Last month we mentioned in a post, that our dog Sierra had suffered a heart attack, but that she seemed to be recovering and doing well. In the early hours of last Sunday morning, May 2, around midnight, Sierra’s amazing will and courageous heart finally gave out, and she died surrounded by love.
There is a special connection with every pet, bringing with it new experiences, joy, and leaving a definite hole in the fabric of daily life when they are gone. But then, there are those special souls who slowly inch their way in, day by day, month by month, over years, their enthusiastic energy and bright life force becoming an almost unrecognized, but integral part, weaving itself completely into the fabric of every day life. Taken for granted until it’s gone. Sierra was such a force. A husky-chow cross mutt, who greeted everyday with a smile and the true joy of discovery; in every sense of the word, the eternal optimist.
Eleven years ago, Sierra, along with our other dog, her life long buddy Simba, found us, wandering up to our house one Spring day, tired, dirty, hungry, and lost. They were both overgrown puppies who had clearly been abandoned and left to roam alone for a very long time. Their skin was like shoe leather, old chain collars around their necks, and no idea even how to scavenge for food, instead trying to eat the blossoms off the wild flowers that grew in our back pasture.
For months, we put fliers around the area for two lost dogs. No one came forward. By this point, our other much older dog had adopted both Sierra and Simba, immediately liking and embracing them as though they were her puppies. We were all shocked, she did not like most other dogs, and hated to be left alone. Now that she had friends, though, she was finally happy.
Slowly over time, Sierra and Simba blended into the rest of the family as though they had always been there. We gave Sierra her name because she was always the rugged dog, the outdoorsy one, charging after a soccer ball or a Frisbee, loving to go for walks, always another game, another adventure. Watching the huge ravens that would land on the back field, and making it her personal mission to chase off these unknown invaders from the sky. Sitting happily, face to the wind, tongue lolling, breathing in the sights and smells of the world around her. She would tease Simba and run circles around him, grabbing a toy which she knew he wanted, and charging into the field with it, only to distract him, and then quickly running back to walk at my heels, grinning ear to ear, pleased with herself.
It was not always easy. Neither Simba, nor Sierra, knew how to behave around cats at first, and had to be confined when they would come into the house. But over time, with a lot of patience and training, they learned.
As Sierra grew older, her spirit never changed. She walked slower, slept more, but would still happily go for a walk, and hold a solitary game of soccer, chewing and pawing at the ball with glee. Slowly, our cat Shabda started to seek her out, walking next to her wherever she went in the house, like a miniature seal-point Siamese shadow, crying and wrapping his tail around her legs, sometimes nearly tripping her up. Sierra would graciously tolerate it all with seemingly infinite patience, even when he would groom her ears, somehow maybe understanding that the cat only adored her and meant no harm. Simba went almost blind, and Sierra would walk out with him into the back field, whining and guiding him where to go, almost like a seeing-eye dog for the dog.
After her heart attack, none of us were sure whether Sierra would even survive the night. But survive she did, stumbling slowly out into the field the next morning, most surprised of all to again feel the warm sun touching her face. She sat there, eyes closed, and would have smiled from the bottom of her heart if she could have.
She relished every day to the last, living out her last few weeks with joy, except for the buddy she would leave behind, who steadily grew sadder and more worried, as Sierra became more tired and could not play as she used to.
The last day, she surprised us all by eating well, happily walking outside, and even trying to pick up and run around with her favorite soccer ball; there was no warning for what would come.
Late that night, I found her, collapsed in the hallway, breathing hard. Only two hours later, she died. For the last three weeks, Sierra had lived on her tremendous will to keep going, but her body could no longer keep up with her unflagging spirit, and finally her physical heart gave out.
Now our dog Simba, mostly blind, walks out alone, missing his buddy, who no longer walks with him for the first time in his life, and whom no one will ever forget. Forever more, I will see her in my mind, happily running ahead, sniffing the wind, excited by life. Nothing ever held her back.
November 1998 – May 2, 2010