Rescued Dogs | Short Time, Long Love
That “time being” lasted forever, and both dogs fell hopelessly in love with the same woman I’d fallen in love with some years earlier, when she took me in. Ann not only fed them, she took them on walks and talked to them and played ball with them–and let them in the house. Until now, they’d been outdoor dogs, and even in the dead of winter had simply slept in the unheated barn. No more. There were now big dog pillows in the house, and two very happy dogs sleeping on them. Wolfie, the ferocious-looking male, was now permanently attached to my wife’s knee, and Cheyenne, his mate, spent her days largely trying to entertain Ann with balls, toy bears, and new tricks.
It was hard to know how long either of them would actually live, but it would be great just having them as long as we could. Our neighbor Donnie Hall, who knows about such things, said not to worry, that at some point Wolfie would just crawl off into the woods and die, because that’s what these types of dogs did.
And, shortly after that, came the day Wolfie didn’t come home. Nor did he the day after that. On the third day, Ann and I were about to have dinner, and Ann was saying grace. Her voice not quite cracking, Ann made the suggestion that Wolfie should be in heaven.
At that moment, there was a knock at the door. It was the young daughter of our neighbor from about a mile away. She’d come over on her ATV to tell us that their dog was in heat and that Wolfie had been there for two days now–and that they’d already had four Wolfie litters and didn’t need a fifth. And could we maybe just come and get him?
I did. With some difficulty, because Wolfie certainly was in heaven and wasn’t pleased to leave.
Still, it was too good to last. One Sunday afternoon, Wolfie began to gasp, and then lay on his side, breathing heavily. It was time, and we took him in, Sunday or not, to Dr. Menard.
We called Donnie, who knew Wolfie well; he fired up his backhoe and gave him a nice burial. Ann made a lovely cross with a portrait of Wolfie on it, and planted some forget-me-nots. It was, at that time, one of the single hardest things I’d ever done in my life. Ever.
We loved that dog. Short time, long love. Remarkable.
But we still had Cheyenne, and though her muzzle went gray within a month of Wolfie’s passing, she really began to come into her own. Suddenly, Ann and the dog weren’t just Mummy and Cheyenne anymore. They were friends. Close friends. Girlfriends. And they did everything together. Ann couldn’t go anywhere that Cheyenne didn’t want to be.
Ann liked to take one of the rowboats out on the lake to the float, where it was deep, so that she could swim. Now Cheyenne had to go, too. Into the rowboat, onto the float, into the water, back up on the float, back into the rowboat, back to the dock. Every day. The girls.
When Ann would sit in her studio and paint, Cheyenne would sit in her studio and watch. When Ann would go upstairs and watch Law & Order before going to sleep, Cheyenne would go upstairs and watch Law & Order before going to sleep. And if I put on a late football game, Cheyenne would groan loudly until I changed it back. Which I always did, because it became difficult to hear the game.
And they always had two, sometimes three, walks every day, down the long dirt driveway from our house, down to the final tree, and then back. And Ann, as always, would have her camera with her and would take pictures of Cheyenne. Every walk, every day. Ann has pictures of every walk she ever took with Cheyenne. Some of them became paintings.
Yet Cheyenne did begin to grow older, and how old we never knew. On one trip to the vet, Dr. Menard told us that she was probably two years younger than we thought. Two years?
This was as big a gift as I can ever recall, being given two more years of Cheyenne, just when we thought the end might be near.
But Todd’s kids, who still came by to see her from time to time, said it wasn’t so. The vet’s records were wrong, they claimed–that Cheyenne was really just a year younger than Wolfie. Who knew for sure? We didn’t, and Cheyenne never let on. But she looked and seemed, most of the time, awfully good for a girl who’d had 50 puppies and was 12 years old. Or 14. Or 13, our best and favorite guess.