REMEMBERING A GOOD DOG
For a few weeks now, I’ve been seeing Forget-Me-Not flowers mingling in the grasses at the head of Wallowa Lake. Tucked here and there, their little blue faces seem to say, “Don’t forget me!”
Yet it’s more than the flowers that are bringing that message to mind. This time last year, I had to have my Australian Shepherd “Brownie” put down. As I now sit before my laptop, I still find it difficult to talk about our time together.
I was running errands and on a whim, stopped at the local shelter, which was a large compound of concrete kennels. From the back of the last enclosure, I heard a clanging and walked around to investigate. A gray spaniel pup shared a cage with a small brown companion. The spaniel was scrambling about the floor, and I soon saw that it was running around snatching up dry kibble bits. The brown pup accidently spilled food from the metal bowl when she put her front paw in.
At least I thought it was accidental. I continued to watch and realized she repeatedly tipped the bowl on purpose. She wanted its contents to herself, and would scatter some to keep the spaniel occupied and away from the main dish.
I cracked up laughing, “You smart little thing!” An attendant handed her to me, and she fit just right on my arm and in my heart.
After setting her down I was asked, “What are you going to name her?”
Her coat was a deep chocolate brown, like a pan full of brownies. This reminded me of Brownie Girl Scouts I had enjoyed as a little girl.
“Brownie,” I said to myself out loud, and she came to me with her stub of a tail wagging.
Her cleverness was nothing but joy to me. She loved to learn, and actually taught me many things- mostly how to play. Her version of “Fetch” went like this: I would throw the Frisbee. She would run to where it landed, then sit by it, regardless of how many times I told her to bring it to me. I would finally relent, walk to her and throw the Frisbee again. She would run to it and wait, again. All over the yard we’d go, and I’m just now realizing who was really doing the fetching.
When we moved here, I would take her for walks and became known as “Brownie’s Mom.” She was strikingly beautiful and no matter where I went, passersby would stop and talk to her while totally ignoring me.
Last year, I could have let her declining mobility from old age drag on. But she would give an embarrassed look when she couldn’t walk anymore, or had an incontinent moment, or a bad coughing spell. I simply couldn’t let her end be any less than dignified.
After her passing, I wrote a poem titled “Psalm 23 for Brownie.”
She was some kind of dog.
PSALM 23 FOR BROWNIE
Brownie was my shepherd
I wanted no other dog
On our hikes along Imnaha River we rested in green meadows
At evening we sat by the still waters of Wallowa Lake
Her companionship restored my soul
When I didn’t know which trail to take home,
She led me on the right path, no matter what
Because I was hers, to watch over and protect
Yes, though I’ve walked through the valleys of loss
I couldn’t give up
For Brownie was with me
I looked into her deep amber eyes
And when she wiggle-tailed
She comforted me
She endeared herself to strangers for she greeted all as her friends
Her gentle licks anointed me with her love
My heart runs over with deep affection and gratitude for my good shepherd
Goodness and mercy followed me all the days we had together
For on the way home, she trailed behind me
She always had my back
Brownie will dwell in my heart
Originally published June 1, 2016 in the La Grande Observer newspaper. Reprinted with permission