We buried three dogs today. Living on a ranch we get use to outliving our farm animals, such as chickens and goatsl, so why is it so hard to lose that faithful friend? We have outdoor dogs, not the ones that sleep at the foot of the bed and curl up in front of the fire. Their job is to guard the ranch and keep the coyotes away from the livestock, to give a warning bark when an unfamiliar car drives up, and to heard the cows and horses if they get out of line.
All of the dogs were well within their middle teens. A quick, intellegent queensland healer cross that actually came with the ranch when we purchased it, named Katy Green (after my nanny who raised me). She knew every corner and without training took hearding the cows and horses as serious business. In her younger years we would actually need to lock her in the dog pen when working the horses because she would circle the arena beyond exhaustion and collapse. She was born to do one job and she did it well. Her other great attribute was that she trained other dogs very well. She took a lab puppy, that was nearly as big as she, became the designated mother and taught it to be obedient. Now that is saying something, as you know that labs can be hard of hearing when called. She also protected this pup from the other dogs at the ranch and would give a swift nip and bark for excessive and rough play. Friends would say "you bought the dog and they threw in the ranch". About two months ago she started to get a little thin so we added wet food to her meals, thinking that old teeth were the cause. About four days ago she started to blot. The vet said that either her kidneys or liver were failing and the path of her health would only worsen. We hoped we would have a little longer with her.
A furry, funny Australian Shepard mix named Jake. People would ask his breeding and we would always replay "Gunshow Dog", which when not spelled out sounded like some exotic breed. My nephew, who worked Gun Shows, brought him home as a little puppy. My nephew moved on, but Jake stayed with us. His time was spent chasing the tires of our John Deer tractor. Whenever he heard it start up, he was on patrol, making sure that the stalls got cleaned and the horses fed property. Probably the last year his sight went from bad to worse, and we think he could only see shadows. When the neighbors started shooting their guns, he would run off in fright. Once going to dog jail (we were amazed that he could hobble the 1/4 mile driveway to get to the road, the other times we found him and brought him home, all in a span of about 6 weeks. We think he had dogheimer's as sometimes he would wonder aimlessly.
Then there is "Black", owned by our caretaker. Black and her owner have lived on the ranch for three years, and although a pit bull/lab mix - she was a pleasure to be around, did not bother the chickens or other livestock and got along with all the cats and other dogs. She had spent her entire life as the best friend of her owner. She went to work with him, sat in the car with him, shared his place, and did not think of herself as a dog.
Two nights ago everything fell apart for these three. Yesterday they took their last drive to the vet and this morning there were buried next to the original show horse that started our breeding program and lived until 28. Tears and heartache. You know you will out live them when you get them. We feel that we are in trusted to give them the best life possible and keep them from pain. A boulder marks their grave and they will eternally stay on the knoll, overlooking the pastures and lake, and we will never forget the contribution they made to our lives and happiness.