In loving memory of Leroy.
January 6, 2000 // November 24, 2012.
She was a part of our family for as long as my childish memory can remember. I recall those long ago days when my brother and I would pack a picnic, don our rubber boots, and go exploring in the early spring, up creeks and down hidden trails. Jake was my dog, and Leroy was Aubrey's mischievous new puppy. What good times the four of us had.
Everyone thought Leroy was a boy, and no wonder. That all started when Aubrey was in the middle of an Encyclopedia Brown detective story streak, and his greatest dream was to have a puppy of his own. A puppy named Leroy, after his favorite super sleuth.
Not long after, we were visiting our Grampy when he mentioned that a cowboy friend of his had a little cowdog with a litter of new puppies. Aubrey went to see them, and was offered the pick of the litter. The finest, smartest, prettiest of the whole lot, the one he knew was meant to be his, was a female.
Grampy said Leroy was a fine name for a girl.
So she joined our family.
We called her the Black-and-Blue-Heeler for the first year of her life, as the instincts passed down from her Aussie Shepard, Blue Heeler, Border Collie, Kelpie, and McNab ancestors made ferociously gnawing on the ankles of any passerby the most natural thing in the world. She soon learned to channel that energy into fetching sticks, chasing sticks, carrying sticks. Till the last few months of her life, Leroy and her branches, twigs, and young logs were inseparable.
She loved chasing kids in a field, running and ducking and dodging so fast you could hardly see her. She lived to fetch sticks and protect her family. No coyote dared show his face when she was on the job. And she hated to have her picture taken. We always had to take surreptitious photographs of her for fear of offending her sensibilities. Oh, and baths. She definitely didn't take much of a shine to those.
If you ever came over to visit, she would have been at your feet in less than ten seconds with a log so big you would question her ability to carry it, much less your own to throw it. She really went in for big sticks.
She was lying at the top of the pasture one mellow afternoon in mid October, serenely soaking up the autumn sunshine. Her muzzle had turned gray. Her body, once so quick and strong, was stiff and weak with age.
She had become an old dog.
I am so thankful I was able to capture these last sweet moments of her life, before the sun was hidden behind winter clouds and the cold brought slowly deepening pain and sickness.
She was always so vital, so cheerful, so in the middle of things. Now, we cherished every moment with her more than ever, knowing that there was nothing we could do but wait for the end to come.
She slept by the fire on the floor of my tent, day in and day out. What was at first a peaceful doze gradually became restlessness over the weeks, then pain and misery. Watching her endure those agonies, helpless to bring relief, was terrible.
Then we knew it was time.
To say goodbye is one of the hardest lessons we have to learn on this earth.
But with it comes a tremendous gratitude for the memories we keep in our hearts, for the lives that have crossed ours and made them better.
The gift of love is the greatest of all, and that will never be taken away.