When I would return in late afternoon, there was Yeardley curled up by the gate, quickly arising with a wagging tail and a pant when he saw who it me. I would always spend a moment kneeling at his side, petting him when I got out of the car. This special boy wanted me to know that I didn't have to worry about things while I was gone. He was in charge.
His favorite sport was swimming. We have a donut shaped pond at the other end of the property, and when the weather wasn't too chilly I would walk with him across the pasture to the pond. He would quickly run down the steep bank and jump in, dog paddling to beat the band. Yeardley loved to swim laps around the small island in the center and I believe he would swim all day if I would let him. The pond also was full of brim and Yeardley would try his best to catch one, always resulting in the popping of teeth coming together with a mouthful of water, never making his catch. But Yeardley didn't care, he was just happy to be doing his thing whenever he could.
One most memorable day was when my wife decided to take our new goslings to the pond for the first time. She went in the water with them, after all it is spring fed, and it was kind of like a water version of the pied piper. But, of course, Yeardley had to join them, so the little birds headed for the bank, not knowing what to think of Yeardley. They came up on the bank with their mistress while Yeardley enjoyed his laps.
Occasionally at night coyotes would try and find a way into the chicken coops. That's when Yeardley was at his best. Teaming up with Gretchen, our small rottweiler-lab mix, the two would work from one end of the coop area to the other ferociously defending the farm. The coyotes would come up to the fence but back away when they saw these two. I do believe they would have given their lives to protect the farm if necessary, but on those occasions when it seemed too loud, I would come out and show the shotgun. That ended things and all quickly returned to quiet.
Yeardley slept in the garage on cold nights. He had a dog bed with a small heater which was all the comfort he wanted and on warmer nights he liked to sleep on the deck by the kitchen door. He was alerted before light each morning when I started the morning coffee and he would bark for his obligatory early morning biscuit.
Yeardley developed arthritis in his hips in his last two years and it seemed to be progressing, yet he labored on, refusing to give in to old age and pain. We got some medication to ease his pain and decided we would let him just live out his life as he enjoyed unless he seemed to be suffering. But his wagging tail and continued night watchman status was something he wasn't going to easily surrender. We knew better than to put one of the other dogs on his duty station.
One night my wife had difficulty sleeping and walked outside in the late night air. I was awakened as she returned. She leaned over close to me with a tear in her eye and said, "I found Yeardley dead on the ground by the picnic table under his favorite tree". I don't think her comment fully registered in my mind in my groggy state and I quickly fell asleep again.
Bright and early in the morning I was fixing the coffee when I realized there was no bark from Yeardley. That's when my wife's comments returned to me mind and I hurried outside. There was Yeardley's lifeless body wrapped in a blanket lying on the bench. I'm not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears, then wiped them aside and buried him in a place of honor, right next to his guardian spot by the gate.
We've created quite a cemetery after losing a number of wonderful animals, dogs and cats alike. Each one is special and each was loved, but Yeardley's unique spirit will always be remembered as unmistakably Yeardley.
Farewell, faithful friend. And I trust that you've found a place to rest where there is a nice pond for you to enjoy. Don't worry, Yeardley, I think we'll see you again when our time is done. But in the meantime, thanks for the memories. You will always be missed.
Yeardley is just one of the subjects of my animal story book, Honey, We Shoulda' Bought the Ark, available on line at www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark or www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick.
"Animals: A Wonderful Gift from God"