Sometimes numbers bring transition with them. Yesterday was my birthday. I hit the big, scary number of sixty. But something else happened that made it just another number. I didn't even think of it until today, although more than a hundred of my friends on Facebook and my family and some of my friends sent greetings via all kinds of tech mail and regular mail.
My best four legged friend died in my arms. Her name was Gypsy. She was sixteen and nearly seventeen, so her life had been long and lovely. And she died on the front seat of my truck too. It was one of her favorite places in all the world to be, well except maybe for the top of the compost pile of horse poop.
She was my "truck driving dog". Everyone downtown knew her because we had a store. She went with me every day, hanging out the window of my red truck smiling, tongue hanging out and smelling the wind. When we walked in to open up people would stop to say " Hi Gypsy! How's it going girl? You going to sell a lot for Miss Nancy today?" I used to tell people that she sold as many pieces of Art and handmade furniture as I did.
She'd meet people at the door with one of her toys in her mouth and wag her tail, smiling around whatever gooey stuffed animal she was carrying, and then she'd escort them to whatever newest piece we had set up front.
I never had to use a leash with her either. She was one of those dogs who, when I met her as a puppy, ran up to me and sat on my foot, claiming me as her own. I carried a leash with us since there's a leash law here, but every cop in town knew her too. No one ever said a thing about her being without her leash. She was mine and she knew it.
I always kept my gallery door open so people knew we were in but she never once left me, not even during the horse parade...our personal favorite for downtown events. All of those lovely smells and awesome creatures but she'd stand there with me watching.
She was one of my "quiet heroes". She saved my life twice. It wasn't in the newspaper. But it happened just the same. The first time was when I'd sent my help home on a Saturday evening. It'd been a good day for us sales wise, the weather was nice and I just couldn't see making them stay for the whole time.
I was there by myself. The door was still open and I was getting ready to close up. As I walked towards the front of the store, three men came in. They split up walking down both sides and the middle of the store. They were not the kind of people who usually showed interest in my gallery and design store and they were, all three, dirty and high on something.
I was in the center of the store, away from the phone and had...very foolishly!...left my cell phone lying on the counter. They were there to do no good and I was alone...except for Gypsy. She came roaring from behind my desk at the checkout counter, right over the top of the counter! And she meant business too. I'd never seen my dog looking like that. She looked like a hound from hell with her eyes red and her teeth bared.
She leaped at the closest man and knocked him clean off his feet! She didn't go for his arm either. She went for his neck. She was going for the kill! He let out a scream and hit her, throwing her against a sofa (thank heavens!). The other two turned tail and ran out the door. He took off on his hands and knees with her biting him in his, umm, nether regions HARD. He left bits of his blue jeans and skin behind!
I called the police. They came and took a report but never found out who it was. As they left, each one of them stopped to salute Gypsy and to give her a pat. Later one of them came back and gave her an "official" police collar to wear. She loved it too. She wore it for years until the buckle broke and it was lost in the woods when we were hiking.
She also saved me when I thought I'd ruined us because my business had failed and I'd lost our house, my income and retirement. I was scared to death of loosing my family too because of the stress of failing financially like that. John is my best friend though. He never had any intention of ever leaving. It was in my head. I wasn't used to failure like that. And it took me down the road that has led me here, to horses and Parelli and being an artist again instead of being a gallery/designer person.
Gypsy followed me around for months while I tried to find my way back to myself. She laid in my lap, brought me her best toys, curled up against my back when I laid down to sob my eyes out. She never gave up on me. She waited patiently for me to come back to myself and gave me what she had...love. It was total, unconditional love. That was when she gave me my heart back.
And she came to get me when Spirit, my first horse, stroked out and fell into a pond. I jumped into the pond with Spirit, trying to hold her head above the water...hoping someone would find us and help. Spirit died in my arms that day too. It was old age that took her but I thought it was me again, my ineptitude. Gypsy stood with me in the water, watching and waiting. And she stood with me when the neighbor came down the road with his backhoe and helped me get her out of the pond and buried her on her favorite hill. I planted an oak tree over Spirit. I'm planting an apple tree over Gypsy. She's buried where she used to lay in the pasture, watching the pond and the sky...watching whatever it is dogs who love farms watch. I can see it from my arena, my study/studio here in my funny, little crooked house that used to be a barn and from my bedroom window too.
How do you say goodbye to an old friend who's lifted you up so many times?
All of these images are here because John had the camera with him. I didn't know. I was having a hard enough time staying on task yesterday morning. I was focused on Gypsy. I knew we were going to the Vet's, taking one more truck ride together. All I could think of was trying to find some way to save her the same way she'd saved me so many times. But the clock doesn't turn back on age. It only goes forward. It was time for her to pay the same price of admission we all come to sooner or later.
She was very frail. She'd stopped eating for five days and nothing we'd fixed could cox her to try, not even her beloved dog cookie jar in the kitchen on the counter. And she'd spent all night Thursday throwing up and having terrible bouts of diarrhea. She was in a full system failure and I couldn't stop it. All I could do was hold her during the night and help her leave the next day.
Our Vet was wonderful. He knew she was afraid of being there, so he came out to the truck and honored our wishes to send her off in her beloved truck seat. I held her. I'm afraid I couldn't talk to him, not even to say thank you. All I could do was cry.
She insisted on walked with me to the barn on her last morning. Nothing was going to keep her down. I was her's...she was mine. It was a slow and uneven walk, but there she was...my shadow.
I've been told there's a rainbow bridge for our animal friends to cross when it's time to leave this Earth. I have no doubt that Gypsy marched over it, tail wagging and carrying a ghost of her favorite stuffed animal, all gooey and chewed on. And I know she'll be waiting when it's my turn too, front and center, right in the middle of all the other animals I've loved.
When I said "Let's go for a ride!", the tail came up and she turned and faced the door, ready to go for our last ride together. We drove in with the window down so she could smell the air. I held her up so she could see out too. And when she left, I was the last thing she saw. I watched her beautiful light go out of her eyes. I was there, all the way, for her like she always was for me.
Good bye glossy girl. There will never be any "thank you"s big enough or grand enough for all the love you gave me. I'll miss you Gypsy.
I am, ever yours, Nancy, owned by Gypsy, Newman, Joe, Lucky, Apache, Willow, Indie, Annie, Buddy and Phoebe...smiling because I am one lucky woman!