A Lesson in Gratitude Taught by a Dog Named Herd
Came across this story this morning and it just touched me. There’s so much that I can empathize with and I laughed and cried and could understand so well the emotions of the writer.
So here’s a wonderful ‘dog story’ for you to enjoy. 🙂 A special ‘thank you’ to My West Texas and Ed Todd for bringing this touching story to us!
Herein is a lessen in gratitude taught by a dog named Herd
Herd was into her 16th year on Earth when she passed into the Great Beyond.
I cried. I wept over and over the week of her death, for we were as close heart-to-heart as a fellow and his dog can be.
It was in the first week of March 2007 when Herd died. I had just returned home at mid-morning and grieved that I was not with her at the instant of her death. I covered her with a white cloth. Afterward, I carried Herd into the house and prepared her for a wake in the living room near an antique wooden prayer bench. I bathed her. It was sweet joy.
That night, after sundown, I prepared Herd’s grave and lined it with rusty-red and snow-white rocks and cloaked her in fine cotton, both light and heavy, and laid her into the grave. And I knelt beside the grave and kissed her lovely angelic face and marveled at her beauty and the marvelous design and engineering of her whole being and especially of her streamlined and aerodynamic profile — perfection.
I so adored that girl and became a resolute believer in this hope: We shall meet again. Our temporary parting is not “Good-bye” but “Until Then …”
I shall ever be grateful to Rhonda Lewallen, an angel of mercy, whose mission in life is rescuing distressed dogs and finding them homes for their comfort and care. It was a rainy evening in 1991 when Rhonda’s “best friend,” her good-looking black Labrador retriever named Fletch, brought her attention to a distressed terrier puppy, who had been tied to an outdoor pipe so tightly that she had to stand up to avoid being choked to death. She was drenched with rain.
The first time I saw this darling blonde, brown-eyed puppy was when Rhonda carried her into the newspaper office and to my desk. I looked into her eyes and beheld her countenance, and our love affair was born. We embraced.
Dogs are “angels of God, even the ornery ones,” Rhonda said yesterday.
When Herd came into the Todd household she became a companion to Freckles Rosetta, my Spanish goat, and a year later, another companion, a kitten named Stringfoot, was born into the fold.
The terrier puppy took on the name “Herd.” She was so effective in herding a flock of helmeted guinea-fowl, who are effective territorial watch-birds, quite clever and independent, and talented STOL (short takeoff and landing) aviators. Herd was quite the ferreter and was especially adept at stalking wild chickens and confounding them and doing a bit of gnawing before setting them free to scratch and wander and yak.
Herd and I shared many adventures. Most notable early into her life was her week-long recovery from a concussion which she suffered after she quickly ran out of the house, into the front yard and across the street on a 1991 Labor Day weekend.
I was in great fear for her survival. Cars were passing by, not many but enough to be alarming. Herd headed back to the house and entered the street just as a lumbering sedan was passing by. In the next moment, Herd was prostrate on the street. I feared for her life. My prayer even today is “Thanks be to God” that she was alive, though unconscious, and became well. There was a cut on her forehead caused when she apparently collided with the sidewall of a car tire.
As I recall, she moved only once in her week of recovery. Somehow, she got up and slowly walked to the shade of her favorite tree, the old Western soapberry out back, and rested there for awhile. Thereafter, I carried her into the house and placed her on the bed, where her senses and spirit and health were renewed. It was then that we began to more fully understand the power of gratitude.
Like the goat, Herd was my comfortable traveling companion. She has ventured outside of West Texas to Dallas, to Iowa Park up near the Red River in Wichita Falls territory, to the Winnsboro area in East Texas and to the Austin area where she picked up the beginning of her torturous battle with dog hot spot, which immensely irritated her tail and left the tip of it somewhat bare.
Herd was an angel, an occasional spitfire if so moved. She was a fast-as-lightning sprinter who could leap onto a five-foot-tall tile fence and firmly touch the fence with the pads of her paws. Her speed and coordination were amazing.
Oftentimes we slept together, especially in her puppy-hood and youth, ate the best of foods and drank cool, clear water. She and I occasionally enjoyed a late supper treat — spiced and diced ham and pork (Spam) fried in an iron skillet with potatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil and spices. That was a rare but enjoyable supper.
When weather allowed, Herd enjoyed sleeping and milling around outdoors, which was her field of choice.
She was — still is in my heart and mind — my utter delight.
In her latter days, as she was (according to the veterinarian) into her upper 90s and heading for 100, Herd moved slowly, lost weight, drank lots of water, slept more and more, and could not get up with ease. It was my joy to take care of her in all respects even as the debilitating effects of age caused her some inconvenience. I was never bothered. I was grateful for her sweet life.
Herd never complained. Toward the end, she would have difficulty climbing a few brick-covered wooden steps onto the screened-in back porch. Sometimes, she would fall backward and begin anew. When she could no longer climb the steps, she would whimper tenderly, and I would pick her up, cradle her, and take her onto the porch and into the house.
On the weekend just prior to her death, Herd and I talked about life, dying, death and gratitude. She collapsed under the canopy of the grand old soapberry tree but got up — arose. Our conversation was enlightening. And then she died when I went away for awhile and, as always, eagerly returned to her awaiting company.
More and more, I long for Herd, talk to her day and night and especially around daybreak after the coffee is brewed. We visit well into the evening after sunset.
Everyday, I am thankful for Herd and for the blessings of her rich and abundant life.
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