It was on a gray, dreary and cold day by North Florida standards when my wife, Charyl, drove in from a shopping trip. She pulled up to the barn and told me through the window that she brought a dog home and I sighed, knowing that what was coming was another addition to the feed bill. When she got out of the car and led him out, I realized exactly why she did it. He looked pitiful and hurt for he had a very severe case of mange and much of his hair was missing, replaced by a nasty looking and raw rash. My wife looked at me and said she was going to bring him back to his natural beauty, that he was a purebred Springer who had obviously been dumped off at the church next to the highway. She immediately went to work with bathing, a soothing salve that she knew would do the trick, but I wasn't convinced. I knew, however, that it was best for me to leave her alone and let her do what she wanted to do, so I did just that. And I did feel sorry for the poor fellow, wondering why someone would treat this poor animal like that with nary a bit of concern, dumping him cold and hungry by the side of a busy highway.
Fast forward a week and the mange was completely drying up, another few weeks and the scabs were peeling off to reveal fresh, healthy pink skin underneath. The resident dogs, who initially avoided him like the plague, started to pay attention as his coat began to grow back in and, before long, he was one handsome fellow with that smiling countenance. He was eating well, socialized well with the dogs and me as well, but he dearly loved Charyl and rightly so. I also realized that I was becoming attached to him as my wife knew I would. Just call me an old softy in the end, I guess.
Over the years Yeardley and Gretchen, the dog I wrote about yesterday, became close. They both liked to sleep in the barn or garage and never wanted to come inside. But the two would be at the kitchen door awaiting a morning cookie when they heard stirring inside. They would chase birds but also protected our chickens to the best of their ability. This was before we had the truly large dogs that will go head-to-head with a coyote pack. And while these two weren't as intimidating they could at least keep them at bay until I could get to them. They were a great alarm system.
After Gretchen died, Yeardley seemed a little lost, but we attributed it to his age which was showing as the picture above attests. But he still enjoyed his swim and walks although he was showing some signs of joint pain and he did continue to greet us at the door in the early morning.
One night at about three in the morning, Charyl suddenly sat up in bed, sighed, then got up, put on her robe and went outside. I was more asleep than awake and when she came back she whispered that Yeardley was dead and she had covered him with a blanket until morning. I was semi-conscious and just thought I was dreaming and slept on. In the morning, however, as I prepared coffee, I noticed that Yeardley was not at the back door asking for his morning cookie. Suddenly, I remembered what Charyl said in my supposed dream and I ran outside to the site shown in the picture and Yeardley was on a bench, wrapped in the blanket. He must have had a stroke or a heart attack and I don't think he suffered. I think he knew, then six months after Gretchen departed, that it was his time to cross over the rainbow bridge. As far as what gave Charyl the premonition in her state of sleep that something was wrong. Well, I just think it's a natural factor due to her love for animals. I just think she has a special sense for what is happening probably given her by God. He know how she loves them and cares for them and I can think of no reason to believe anything else.
We buried him that morning in December in our little pet cemetery, but his smile and countenance will never be forgotten. We were very fortunate to have been given the time we had with this wonderful friend and family member. He was truly a joy. Thank God for all of the wonderful dogs, past present and future in our lives. They truly are a wonderful addition to life. And thank you to Yeardley for giving us his all.