Monday, September 12, 2011


FIFTEEN SPRINGS AGO TWO NEW FAMILY MEMBERS JOINED US IN BIRDLAND. My youngest, Ellis, and a small, golden puppy. Isis, a Shepherd mix, looks more like a collie with some Golden Retriever stirred in, but her mother was a Shepherd. Ellis and Isis grew together, playing and learning. Ellis learned to hear and speak and walk; Isis learned to sit and stay. She never did see the point in playing fetch. (“You want that ball? It's right over there. Don't you see it?”) Ellis developed a sense of humor and Isis perfected her fine motor skills: she could open the kitchen door by jumping up and using both paws to turn the handle. She was also an expert thief. She once pulled a whole pie off the counter where I had left it to cool. She had snapped up a quarter of it before I realized it was gone. Once after a family dinner, I went in to clean up the kitchen and saw that someone had already put the ham away. “How nice,” I thought. Next day I wanted some to make sandwiches, but couldn't seem to find it in the fridge. “Where did you put that ham?” I asked everyone, but got only puzzled looks. Nobody remembered putting it away, and it was not in the fridge. A mystery. A few days later I found what was left of it carefully buried under some hay in the machine shed. She had somehow spirited it away outside without being seen. Later that night she had tummy troubles, and we got confirmation of her guilt. Apparently she ate the string netting that surrounded the ham.

 Ellis learned to ride a bike and Isis learned that bikes coming out of the machine shed meant a good, long run. We all learned that we had to trick Isis into coming inside before getting bikes out if we wanted to go far. She loves a good run, but in later years her range grew shorter and shorter. She was getting pretty deaf, too, and slept pretty deeply, so sneaking away for her own good was getting easier and easier.

When we got the chickens, she had to learn not to chase them, and soon became a fearless protector of the birds, doing her part to keep predictors at bay. She has killed many a possum, at times even bringing down large raccoons. We could always count on Isis to keep coyotes and deer out of the yard as long as she could hear them. As she got more and more deaf, we began to find more and more sign of sneaky visitors to our yard. Isis began to get a little grumpy, and when we brought home a small, black puppy, like a little bear cub, Isis did not welcome her. The idea was for Ursula to help with the chicken protecting duties, but it took a while for Isis to warm up to the idea, and Ursula still can't always remember if the chickens are to be protected or chased. Eventually, though, the dogs became fast friends, and Ursula would encourage Isis to awaken from her deep slumber, and go outside to meet the morning. By afternoon Isis would lose some of her stiffness and my favorite time of day was coming home to see two dogs running down the lane to greet me, both tails whirling as they frolicked and cavorted. I could almost believe Isis had found the fountain of youth as she gamboled and frisked to meet my car.

 On Wednesday, only one black dog ran to greet me. I worried a little about where Isis had got to. I looked around the yard, checked my aunts' garage—during last week's afternoon thunderstorm she had wandered in there and got locked in—but the garage was empty. At supper-time I called my high-pitched, squeaky yip—the only call she can hear—but she didn't come trotting around the corner for her dinner as I'd hoped. Poor Isie has been failing for a long time, and I knew what I signed up for fifteen years ago. But I thought one morning I'd find her curled on the living room floor in a deeper sleep. It's not like her to wander by herself. I looked for days, but our house is surrounded by acres and acres of corn and beans. On Monday we found her in the grass waterway, farther than she's walked in awhile. We sat in silence considering how she is already returning to the earth. She chose a peaceful place to lie down for her last nap. I'm grateful for all of her years of friendship and faithfulness. Rest well, Sweet Isie.

Ursula still looks for her in the mornings, and doesn't like to be left at home alone. Soon we will have to think about company for her, but not quite yet.

Walk with Beauty; Rest in Peace; Blessed Be.


  1. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to such a good friend. I'm glad your were able to share each others' lives for so many years and that when it came time for her to pass, it was peaceful. Hugs to you and I wish you joy as you delight in memories of Isis. Lisa

    PS. I smiled as you described your way of calling her...I, too, have a near-deaf dog and I have to give really loud woot woots to get her attention :)

  2. We know what it is we are signing up for, but that doesn't make it hurt any the less at the end of the chapter. Your writing about Isis brought tears to my eyes and I hope it was helpful for you, too. Beautifully done.

  3. Thank you, Lisa. Yes, doggie dinner time was my favorite time of day. Isie would be sunning in her spot, surveying the beanfield. I'd step out on the porch and offer a squeaky "yip-yip-yip!" After a few rounds of calls, she would suddenly start, first looking the wrong way (toward her good ear) then lumbering up and over to her bowl, tail slowly wagging. Ursula always knew to keep away from Isie's dish.

    Thanks, Sue. Yes, writing this was therapeutic, but even more so were all the comments and letters, and thoughts and wishes from friends. These keep my boat afloat.

    p.s. I've been wondering what you're spinning lately.