Now, I don't mean to turn the blog into a downer event, but as I sit here this morning, I'm struck by an oddity that I didn't see coming.

Bear with me while I share a story.

In 2002, my yellow lab literally brought home another dog. For weeks, every time we let him out, he'd run off into the field, disappear for a few hours and come home with a cute little collie-mix friend... who we couldn't touch.

It was like Charley was saying, "Hey, feed her too, she's my friend" to us. And to her, "They're cool people. Hang out, you'll see."

Eventually, she didn't leave. She'd hang out under our trucks, lounge in the shade beneath the trees, and followed Charley everywhere. It took four months before she would eat the food set out if she could see us within five feet of the bowl.

At the time, Charley -- who had also been a walk-on addition -- was undergoing heartworm treatments and the vet didn't want to neuter him until we had the all clear there. So you can guess what happened. The collie, who I named Hunny, started to look pregnant. Which meant she was absolutely not having puppies outdoors. So I put more effort into getting her on the back porch, and then one afternoon she followed Charley inside. A few weeks later she had puppies on my guest bed.

We gave two away, but their personalities weren't really wonderful given their mothers, so the other four stayed here. Two of which are now curled up at my feet ten years later.

About three or four years ago, I was out of town and left the dogs outside. The next morning, I went to the farm to feed the horses in the morning and Charley didn't come to breakfast. Odd for him. The dog was food driven completely. So I went about my chores and then watched Hunny, who led me straight to Charley who'd been shot but was still alive. For the two days of recuperation at the hospital, Hunny would come up to the car when we pulled in, the look on her face: "Well? Where is he?" When he came home, she was at his side constantly.

Funny thing -- Charley loved to go in the car. Hunny would never get in. She'd run behind the truck as far as she could... following her Charley.

Well a year later, Charley passed and I thought for certain Hunny would leave us too -- be that death or she'd wander off. Nope. She stayed around. We were approaching 7 or 8 years with this dog, and still could only touch her if we cornered her -- flea and tick med application, deworming, vaccinations, etc. She refused to let herself be a "loved on" dog, although she faithfully slept beneath my bed when I was in it, and on it when I wasn't.

Another dog walked-on and stayed around, and she became best buds with Rogue. Routinely, she kicked her remaining daughters in line if they misbehaved, and they outweighed her by a good 20 lbs. She treed cats (why I have so many), lugged home dead... things. And when my eldest was born, every time he cried, she was the first one in the room. Though when he mobilized, she stayed far, far away.

This year, Hunny mellowed. I figured it was old age setting in. She was at least eleven. But she would allow me to pet her whenever, she'd spend hours sitting still to have burrs and mats cut out of her fur (where previously she tensed and bolted at the snip-snip of scissors). And shock of all shocks, she began to let my eldest touch her as well.

I have to say here... Hunny was part of the family for the way she was. I accepted she didn't want a lot of human interaction, and I never put great amounts of time into coercing her. She had her place, ideosyncracies and all, and that's just the way things were.

This morning, on our first snow of the year, I let Hunny outside. I let her inside. I fed the horses and came inside to find her on the floor... no longer with us.

And I am stunned about the way her death affected me. I never envisioned that the dog who I couldn't shower with love would have such an impact when her time came. I mean, I know when my 18yr old cat's time comes, I'm going to be torn to pieces. But Hunny? I figured it would be a sad day, but at the bottom of everything... I've buried a lot of animals in my life. I've always been the one who had to take pets to the vet for the final visit, or had to make the call, or sat with them during their last moments when the vet came to our house. I'm pretty immune to all that now. A couple tears, and then it's over, and we move on.

I don't sit hours later and look at a collar and get all teary-eyed and I certainly don't blog in length about things. My critters are oddly quiet today. No little dogs chasing cats. Big dog who was having "Where do I fit into the pack" issues with Hunny is quiet. Rogue, who spent so much time with her is asleep, but pointed at the back door.

I guess it just surprises me that loss can come with so many reactions that aren't expected. While I am sad, I look up at the window she tried to chew her way out of when I didn't realize I'd left her inside, and it makes me laugh now. For years I've cursed that torn up wood and wished I could replace it. Now, maybe I'll let it stick around for eternity.

I think I'm going to get her a personazlied tag for her collar. She had one but it fell off years ago. Then maybe we'll hang her collar on my office wall. Seems like a fitting way to remember her. I'm debating saving her ashes, but I've never done that for a pet before. Seems a bit... extravagant. Maybe I'll do something with the flower bed I've been saying I'd like to build for as many years as I had the dog.

What about all of you? Do you have special ways you've remembered your lost pets? Any ideas I can mull around while I am snowed in and have to wait for that final step?



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