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Celebrating A Dog’s Spirit

Pumpkin is gone.

We searched the bushes where she whelped her first litter of pups and where she used to hide from thunder and lightning.

There was no sign of her along Plum Lick Creek, dry as dusty bones in the drought of 2005. There were no mirrored reflections to cast reminders of good old days when Pumpkin stretched belly-down in cool delight, a reprieve from summer’s heat.

In dog time, Pumpkin was 105 years old—we knew the inevitable would soon become our sorrow. Yet we tried to think of the darkest day as one more celebration of life.

We were spared the “little walk over the hill” to put an animal down, and we did not have to take her to the vet’s office to hold her while the needle was inserted into her leg—the one she’d so often extended as her offering of trust and companionship.

Pumpkin was a kindred spirit.

She lives as long as there’s a special bond between loyal dog and fortunate human being. She spared us the hurt of gathering her up in our arms, laying her to rest in the spot reserved for her outside our kitchen window.

Nonetheless, we’ll put a small headstone there with the single word “Pumpkin.” No dates, because our friendship is forever. No words of endearment, because deepest loves are better unspoken.

How many times Pumpkin brought the cattle in from the big field to the west. Whenever she heard the heavenly delicious command “Bring ’em on,” she was off the back of the pickup truck like a demon of doom for the brutes. Any cow with a difference of opinion about where to go—toward the sun rising over the holding pens—was a cow about to have her heels nipped or her nose chewed. Even the defiant bulls and the bewildered calves knew it made no sense or comfort to lapse into disagreement with Pumpkin, embodiment of powerful persuasion.

Pumpkin was an Australian shepherd with a long line of professional pride—Baby Red, Booger Red, and Tar Baby. Oh, they could “Bring ’em on!” in the worst of situations. They could grab a cow by the nose and make her wish she’d never been born, thank you kindly.

Pumpkin passed along her genius through the likes of Sara, Max, and Muddy River, and not once did Mama complain about the craziest cow, the most pathetically frightened and disoriented sheep, or the younger dogs who did not understand that Mama ate first while all others waited their turn—one of those fullness-of-time considerations.

Yes, Pumpkin was an outside dog. She left the inside for lap creatures. Pumpkin was emancipated while at the same time doing nothing to undermine the master’s authority. She was bred to get the job done, and at the end of the day she was content to dream about doing it all over again.

If there’s a herd of cattle in Heaven, Pumpkin is up there waiting for the Almighty to issue one more “Bring ’em on.”

After the search along the dry creek bed and one more look in the bushes, one more check of the outbuildings and the hosta lilies, we came to terms with reality.

Pumpkin is “gone” in one very limited, frail, human sense of the word. In the wider and deeper meaning of tomorrow, the spirit of a grand old lady is right here, right now.

And let us tell you something, Kink the orphan and the dog named Cat, just because there’s no Pumpkin first in line at the feeding bowl, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remember there once was a pair of flashing eyes and a little smile of forgiveness for all dog wrongdoing.

At high noon or the middle of the night, whenever there’s a problem to be solved, be ready to give it your doggone best.

Pumpkin’s up there cheering you on!

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