New Year's Day, minus the Happy.

WM Howdy It was New Year’s Eve, and I was listening to a sad radio memorial about the musicians who passed this year. I do the same thing on my farm at year-end; I take a census and count my losses.

We lost a wonderful goat this year. Elvis loved flirting with women, sleeping with his twin, Sumo, and masterminding escapes. Sumo still mourns.  And some loud, sarcastic quacking reminds me we’re up a dozen ducks.

It could have been so much worse; we have an aging population here at Infinity Farm. Both of my elderly horses are frail. On cold days, the Grandfather horse doesn’t want to walk even a few steps. The old mare has coliced twice so far this fall. One of the llamas is 18 now, I watch her closely as well.

And then there’s my cattle dog, Hero, in end stage heart failure for the last two years. Sometimes he seems too tough to die, but it’s been a hard couple of weeks with him having more ‘fainting’ spells. I value each moment with this stinky old dog.

Hero was sleeping under my desk New Year’s Eve, as I was listening to the musician’s memorial and writing in my studio.

A few minutes later, I was speeding to the all-night emergency vet clinic with Howdy. Some of you knew him, Howdy usually rode shotgun in my truck. I could tell it was bloat, the canine equivalent of colic. Is there anything worse?

A few minutes after arriving at the ER,  I was holding him and signing papers. I think the best part of him was gone already. I told Howdy what a good boy he was, breathing with him as the vet administered the drugs to release him from our life.

It was like a sonic boom. Such a heart! Gone in a moment. I felt so disoriented that I called our best friend to talk me home, but I got lost anyway.

Have you ever had a dog who was so perfect and true that it seemed any words you could use about him would only diminish who he was?

Oh, hell, of course you have. All of our dogs are that way. Howdy and I didn’t share some unique, sacred trust. What we shared was just normal. And he’d hate me to tell maudlin stories about him.

WM He sleeps with catsHowdy was just a dog.

Like a horse is just a horse. Meaning he was a fully dimensional sentient being, with emotions and intellect and the ability to commit his whole being, in ways a mere human would struggle to do.

Howdy was just my dog.

“He will be yours…to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.” -Unknown.

Howdy’s love was ferocious; it could make you feel pretty special. I’ll pay that forward to the next dog.  Yes, I’ll get another dog soon; it is the best way to honor him.  Howdy’s irreplaceable, but the mentoring job that he took up from the long line of dogs that came before him will continue. I’ll always need the help of a few dogs to improve my nature.

What I notice is that no matter how much I offer to animals, I always get more back.  I always wind up ahead of where I started, once I can breathe again, once the first pain of loss begins to heal. It’s a blessing being owned by a dog, I’m the lucky one.

For now, I’m haunted. I see Howdy in passing shadows and feel his big head in the center of my back, pushing me out of the truck. I want to save his nose prints on the front window.

Maybe you are missing a dog who made you feel special, too.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” -Vicki Harrison.

But then the sun came up and it’s New Year’s Day.  I keep a special eye on my collapsing old cattle dog. And I take care to give the elder horses an extra bedtime snack during this frozen, dark season.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

This blog is free, and it always will be. Free to read, but also free of ads because I turn away sponsorships and pay to keep ads off my site. I like to read a clean page and think you do too. If you appreciate the work I do, or if your horse does, consider making a donation.

Anna Blake

20 thoughts on “New Year's Day, minus the Happy.”

  1. Oh, Anna… I am so sorry… your comment about the nose prints breaks my heart. I had a cat (that we nursed from hell and back) that used to leave all these slightly gross brown marks on all the door corners from rubbing against them. After she left us – it was MONTHS before I could bring myself to clean them – feeling like they were my only link to the life she left behind. My thoughts are with you, and all your critters.

  2. The nose prints, the tumbleweed tufts of hair, the dog bed(s) and bowls, horse halters and blankets that, rather than retire, keep getting recycled and reassigned to the next heart breaker. I understand. Time to hug my gang a little tighter. Our heartfelt condolences on your loss.

  3. Well, here I am a flurry of emotions. Yep, I’ve been there with a 13 year Newfoundland who set the bar so high around here. My deepest sympathy and condolences, and how incredibly fortunate you are to have had Howdy in your life. xoxo

  4. Your friend Linda shared this news on our Guerande Briards discussion list. I so feel your pain. When my Oskar bloated at 12-3/4 years old it was the same scenario. Everything was fine, then nothing was right. I hope you can take some peace from knowing that you were able to offer him the kindest route to the next world. My heartfelt sympathies to you.

  5. Hey Anna, Thinking of you. Even though i dont share your love for dogs i can still relate to the loss of so much that makes up that love you have for each one of your animals.

  6. Such an unforgettable face on that Howdy boy. No wonder you have such a big empty space left behind. May his nose prints and paw prints stay indelible in your heart and mind forever.

  7. Oh Anna,

    I am so very sorry! Our four footed friends leave such a big hole in our hearts when they leave us, altho, maybe that shadow you see is him telling you he is still with you………

  8. crying tears of rememberence and joy for Howdy…and this is a reminder that I should come right away and love on Hero again before it is too late…your words and your way are so remarkable to me Anna…I love you for it…

  9. I am deeply touched by what you write. We lost Maud about a month ago, and I still reach down each night to rub her back while I’m sitting on the couch. Thanks from the bottom of my aching heart.

  10. So very sorry for your loss, Anna. We lost our lover-cat, Bailey, this past July, run over by a car whose driver pulled him from the road, devastated. I loved reading your heartfelt tribute to Howdy. Thinking of you…

  11. Oh so sorry for your loss of your sweet boy Howdy. What a dear he was, you honored him and all your pet children with your writing. My heart goes out to you, love you.

  12. I’m so sorry to hear about Howdy and your heartrending experience at the ER. All your other animals will be trying their hardest to comfort you and the Dude Rancher. We send you our heartfelt sympathies….

  13. Thanks, Everyone, I am touched by your kind wishes, Howdy would wag his tail. This connection with animals does bring us humans closer as well. Thank you.

  14. I’m new here, well honestly I’ve lurked for a month or so. I am so sorry for your loss and am crying as I type this. I ushered “just my dog” Bronte the wonder boxer out of my life recently and know the grief and the loss. Please accept my humble heartfelt condolence. There really are no words adequate. May you and the rest of your farm be surrounded in comfort and love.


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