To Honor Freddie

by Diana Rankin

This morning I drove to the Vernon’s, the funeral home and crematorium where I take my animalsFreddie on lane crop to have their bodies turned into ashes to be spread on this land where we have lived together that is filled with so much love and laughter . . . and a few tears.

It was Freddie who rode with me this time. His body, now wrapped in a blanket drawn together with a bouquet of wildflowers, rests in the back of GC, my Golden Chariot, a Toyota Rave 4. Too many times have GC and I traveled this road on the same mission. Freddie was the last of my pack of five—Paco, Lady, and the Sheltie Girls, Lacey and Sienna. Except for Freddie, all my 4-legged kids found me when they were older, coming from a foster home or the shelter. When Freddie showed up, he was so small he fit into the palm of my hand, only his legs hung over.

I was at a book signing when he appear at my country sanctuary. It was dark when I came home and I almost didn’t see this tiny little puppy huddled in a corner near one of the big dog houses. The Sheltie Girls had not yet come to us, so only Paco and Lady were here to know how Freddie found his way down the 900 foot lane and into the other side of the fence where the dogs were.

I surmised that someone must have dropped him off. It seemed impossible that he could have diana 3 pupsfound his way on his own. A miracle certainly. But the real miracle was that he was unharmed. Paco, who had taken down a barn owl, not to mention squirrels, a mole, and other critters who invaded his territory, seemed to know this little one was one of his species. Either that or Lady, the more submissive dog, reared up her assertiveness and told Paco to leave this baby alone.

The truth is there’s no way of knowing how Freddie got here or why Paco didn’t hurt him . . . or how one so young survived. He was barely weaned. But here he was, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with him. I already had two dogs and didn’t feel ready for a third. Like I mentioned earlier, this was before the Sheltie Girls . . . and before I went totally over the edge and ended up with five dogs.

Freddie liked belly rubs and and he liked to ride on my chest in a cloth carrier. He was in the Belly rubcarrier when we went to the animal shelter’s open house. I had the notion that maybe someone would fall in love with him and want to give him a forever home. At the time, I was still trying to deny his forever home was with me. Everyone fell in love with him, but there were dozens of other puppies at the shelter looking for homes, so I couldn’t leave Freddie there. I knew then he had found his forever home with Paco and Lady and the three cats, and oh yes, me.

Lady was his best buddy as he grew into a sweet, laid back 85-pound mix of hound dog and who knows what else. Lady, who was all white, and Freddie, who was a mix of tan, brown and black, got into all kinds of trouble together. They loved to explore. The problem was they loved to explore beyond their fenced in acres. Lady would dig under the fence; Freddie with his long legs just jumped over. Once, when I was piling up brush along one side of the fence line thinking that would keep them inside the fenced area, they climbed atop the brush and bounced off to the other side. They were down the lane and across the field and totally ignoring my commands to them to get back here.

They always came home though, usually before the sun set. A couple of times, Lady came home before Freddie, which caused me a few added wrinkles and a lot of extra steps while out looking for him. They also liked to sit together in an area directly across from the window where I sit and write. I’d watch them, sitting there under the trees beside a great stone. Watching them made my world better.

Freddie by stoneFreddie still spent time by that stone after Lady died, but he wasn’t quite the same. Paco was already gone by then. The Sheltie Girls and Freddie got along fine, but the Shelties had each other, and they weren’t Lady, his best bud. He started showing his age, and he wasn’t a young pup anymore. Years had gone by.

Once the Sheltie Girls were gone, I brought home Daisy, a border collie and lab mix. She wasn’t Lady, but I hoped she and Freddie would be company for each other. Freddie showed her how to use the doggy door, but she seemed to have more interest in staying inside – and at home – than he did. He still liked to roam whenever he DianaSheltiescould get away with it, but even that seemed to have less appeal for him as he grew older.

The days and months and years passed. Freddie’s hips started to weaken. He was no longer capable of going for our long walks and getting in and out of GC was becoming increasingly difficult. He was content to sit in the shade of the tall trees while Daisy and I walked down the lane and along country roads. Sometimes he would meet us on our way back. He’d make it about half way down the lane before he’d sit down under a tree or just stand there in the lane waiting for us. When we’d meet up with him, he’d look wistfully down the lane before he’d turn around and follow us back to the house.

I never worried about his running away anymore. Still, when I wasn’t close by, I’d put him into the dog space where if he went outside, it would be into the fenced in area. A few months ago, I came home and the gate was open. How it got open is a mystery, but there is was. Open. And Freddie was gone.

The neighboDog kidsrs and I were all out well past dark looking for him. Even Daisy helped. But we’re in the country surrounded by fields and woods, a haven for a dog who doesn’t want to be found. And a worry for his mom what with coyotes and nighttime raccoon hunters too close by, let alone he was an old dog by now, 15, going to be 16 before long. I knew it was his last walkabout; I just hoped it wasn’t his last walk.

 It was right before dawn the next morning before I found him.  I was walking down the road toward where he had last been seen when my inner voice told me to turn around. There he was, strolling down the middle of the road looking at me as if to wonder what all the fuss was about. He was thirsty and tired, but there was also an aura about him, like a smile after a good accomplishment.

The winter was mild, but still cold enough that he had little time outside. The wildflowers were just starting to bloom and the breezes warming when his hips finally gave out. It was harder to get him outside, but we managed. On the warm days, he watched the wrens build nests as he sniffed the spring air.

But spring turned colder so he was confined to inside. It didn’t seem to matter much by then. He still drank plenty of water, but food was no longer of any interest. He liked being brushed, liked it when Daisy or one of the kitty-kids groomed him. We called in his angels and Lady, asked others to be with him, told him it was okay to let go.

Freddie passed early this morning, Saturday, May 7, 2016, in the hours when the veils between the worlds are the thinnest. I stayed up late, lying beside him until the wee hours of the night, until I realized that he was ready to go and I was holding him here, so I went into my bedroom, leaving him on the doggy beds in the great room where he has slept for the last few weeks once he could no longer make it into the bedroom to his bed beside the human bed.Freddie aged

 

In the morning, Daisy and the cats stayed near while I cleaned and brushed him, and then laid him on one of his beds and wrapped him in a blanket. Daisy and I went into the dogs’ area and picked wildflowers – yellow, white, lavender – to tie with a ribbon onto his covering.

We called the funeral home; set a time to come; the cost was $100. A look in my checking account gave me a needed smile. The balance was $100.84. Daisy wanted to go with us, but I knew it would be too difficult for me to handle her at the funeral home. The sun was out and I promised her a long walk when I came home, maybe even a ride in GC to go walk by the lake.

Freddie & Daisy (3)On the drive over, the sun went away, rain drops fell. Two sparrows flew close to the windshield, and then soared into the heavens and out of sight. I talked to Freddie, played my favorite Native American music and chanted him along on his new journey. I felt the ancestors with us, prayed for the strength to hold it together for just a little while longer.

I wasn’t even out of the parking lot when the tears I’d been holding back for so long came. They were hard to let go of, like Freddie, and yet a blessing, that both of us could finally could.

On the drive home, I asked Freddie for a sign to let me know he had made it to the other side and was running free. I watched the sky looking for cloud formations that would remind me of Freddie and Lady. I looked for dogs running free along the way. I waited for a sign from a red tail hawk or turkey vulture, but the only winged one I saw was beside the road feasting on the carcass of a raccoon. For a moment, the sun shone bright, and then clouds brought rain drops again. It was like that the whole way home, sun and then rain. The day didn’t know what it wanted to be. Nor did I.

I thought about the years we have lived here, about the years ahead, about what had been and what will be. I wondered how much longer I’d stay here in our country sanctuary, where I’d go if I left. I felt the ending of a big part of my own life as I felt the ending of Freddie’s life.

This was the end of an era, the five-dog pack. Although I still had Daisy, she was never part of the pack. More like the Shelties than the big dogs, Daisy always wanted to be by me. She tolerated going outside without me, but preferred being inside with me. She slept beside my bed at night and always waited on the other side of any closed door I happened to be behind.

Daisy greeted me when I arrived home. She was excited to see me, even if Freddie wasn’t with me. It wasn’t quite the weather for the long walk I had promised her, so we just walked around on our land. I felt drawn into the dogs’ area, so I headed over to the other side where I used to watch Freddie and Lady, and then just Freddie sitting under the tall trees by the great stone. Daisy held back, unusual for her, but this had not been a normal day.Freddie's Heart Stone

The sun came out as I rounded the corner and approached the stone. It caught my breath. I had always seen the stone as rounded, oval in shape, but that is not what waited for me. The stone was heart shaped, that which was once round had a dent at the top. There was no heavenly music or angels singing, just a quiet knowing in my heart.

Thank you Freddie.

©2016 Diana Rankin

 

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