I had been looking forward to wearing my new Will Woods’ Sgian Dubh with my kilt tonight (at the Friends of the Smokies’ Evergreen Ball) ever since Will and I first discussed the blade several years ago. I was looking forward to watching the knife that Mike McCarter made and donated draw in bids at the auction (It sold for $250). As they say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”. My wife and I had to cancel at the last minute, our 14 year old Labrador – Billie Holiday passed away this evening.
I don’t know if she knew it was her “gettin’ up morning”, but see seemed normal enough at breakfast. I was at the venue for the Ball, helping set up, and later in the afternoon she was lying in my daughter’s room, intently watching us clean the guinea pig cage.
An hour later after I had showered and began to put my kilt on, my wife couldn’t get her to come to dinner. She was still lying in my daughters room. When we helped her up she could barely stand. We got her outside to pee, but she couldn’t walk back inside. I carried her to the living room, aware now the the gravity of the situation. My wife and kids gathered around and we all sat with her, petting, crying, and praying. Her breathing was very labored, but after about 20 minutes or so she suddenly seemed agitated. She struggled to get up, I helped her, and she stumbled the 10 feet or so to her kennel. She laid down on the dog-bed with a thud, and her breathing became shallow. She began to make some shallow gasps and in less than 10 minutes or so she was gone.
She was 14. Last weekend she went for a birthday hike with my son (and the rest of us) at a local Civil War fort. Only about a mile, but it was a nice day for a walk in the woods.
A week prior she got to play in the snow one last time. She grew up in Idaho, where she used to plow through a snowbank as a puppy, disappearing completely, and bursting through to the other side. I had actually said a prayer a couple of months ago that she would get one more snow.
Now she is gone and things feel a bit emptier tonight. But I can’t think of a better final chapter to a 14 year journey. She died surrounded by the ones who loved her, at home, and literally when she decided it was time to go to her kennel and go to sleep. We should all be so lucky.
George Carlin once said, “Life is a series of dogs…” Billie was my first dog. My mom adopted one when I was in high school. But Billie was mine.
My kids will get another dog this summer I am sure. When they are in middle school I will get another hunting dog, probably a German Shorthair, as they are better suited to Tennessee.
Next summer we will take the kids out to Yellowstone and a visit to my wife’s and my old stomping grounds. We will dump Billie’s ashes in the South Fork of the Snake River, where she used to swim and play. It will be a good thing for all of us.
But I am done writing for tonight. It might be Monday before I am back to it. I need a night off tomorrow I think.
So I raise a dram of Laphroaig to my sweet Billie Holiday. God Bless The Puppy.
Related, and also because it makes me smile: