Yesterday morning, I let the dog out as usual. She ate a hearty breakfast. An hour later, her hips collapsed.
We’d been expecting that. But not that day. That quickly.
We acquired Shiloh eleven years ago. A puppy. A collie, Labrador,German shepherd mix. A black-and-tan bundle of energy that nobody else wanted. Born outside, nursed outside with the snow still on the ground, she became ours to raise after she was weaned.
Born wild, but not to be wild. She had no affinity for the bush. Olga and I live in the bush, so Shiloh had no option. She tolerated the bush, for our sake. This great lummox was a house dog. Sure, she went outside to do her business – she’d face the fiercest weather – but she clung to her comforts like glue.
If either of us went outside, she wanted to follow. If we went walkabout, she followed. But to cross the lot line on her own to visit a neighbour? Forget it. That was way too much adventure.
She was a good traveler. Took to riding in the back seat like a fish to water. Provided one of us was driving. And if either of us abandoned her at home for a few hours, she mounted a vigil, and welcomed us back with unbounded enthusiasm.
Shiloh would have been a great mother. The mother of all mothers. But we took away that option. We had her spayed. But we did not stifle her maternal instincts. She mothered all creatures. Our cats. Other dogs. Chipmunks. Babies. Birds. There was also the odd skunk, but that didn’t work out well.
One of my vivid memories concerns a red poll that struck our patio door and bounced to the ground, where it set about recovering itself. It just sat there. Shiloh found it. Advanced towards it. Stretched out her massive head towards it. And there they are, frozen in memory: Beak and snout, nuzzling each other.
The bird recovered, and flew off.
Shiloh was sensitive to sounds. Thunder terrified her. She’d whimper and hide. She detected sounds from amazing distances. And if she barked at the patio door, barked at nothing, we knew there was something, and sometimes we’d see it. A fox, perhaps. A weasel. A wolf. A bear.
We noticed, some years back, that she had difficulty rising from a lying position. Her hips bothered her. We took her to vets. Got prescribed medication for the pain. Gave her glucosamine. And she got worse. And in the last year, she wanted to accompany me on the kilometre-plus-jaunt to pick up the newspaper, but she lagged, and let me complete the task while she waited for me to rejoin her.
So yesterday, when her hips collapsed, she wanted to go out. She dragged her hips along the carpet and dragged herself out on the septic field where she does her business, and she did her business, and we took our eyes off her for a few minutes, and she disappeared.
There was only one place for her to go.
Into the bush.
And Shiloh hates the bush.
(Continued in Chapter 2)