Sunday, May 6, 2012



At some point last night, Mother Nature sent her messenger to Old Sigh informing her that it was time she came home.

She appeared agitated last night when I went to bed.  I got up and visited with her for a moment and I found her awake, laying on her pillow staring out through the space I left under the garage door for her to come and go with ease.  I said her name and she didn't respond.  I repeated the call and she only stared ahead.  Finally she snapped her head to face me and allowed me to look into those old eyes and that beautiful face of hers one last time.  I sat down beside her and gently scratched behind each of her ears. 

"Why are you still awake old girl?", I asked.

"You're tired aren't you girl?  I know you're worn out and bored with living here in this room.  It has to be lonely down here.  I'm trying to get my courage up to send you to visit Douglas but, I just haven't been able to find the strength to let you go.  Douglas is far away from us and it makes me sad to think that I would intentionally send you away from us here to stay with him."

She turned her head away and again stared out under the garage door as if I weren't there.  I got up and walked to the steps that lead upstairs.  She still did not look my way.  I turned the light to dim for her and went on up to bed.  That was the last time I saw dear, sweet Sigh alive.

I went down to feed her this morning and found her laying on the floor, off her pillow asleep.  I put the food in her bowl and said her name.  Only then was I aware that she was gone.   It appears that she was returning to her pillow from outside and collapsed.  I never heard a thing.  I wish I had as I wanted to be with her in her time of need.
Sigh was given that name do to her quiet, gently ways.  She never barked or howled.  Sigh was never a bold dog even when a treat was offered.  She had a very hard life, it was very plain, until she came to us, a friend and me, who lived in Greenback over 8 years ago.  

My friend, while driving along Route 411 noticed a hound in a little pull off/picnic area alongside the road.  She turned the car around and went back.   There in front of her was a badly emaciated hound barely able to keep going.  The dog was old and so undernourished it was doubtful it would live through another night.  The car door opened and the hound entered without a hesitation.  The old hound was fed and taken to the vet a couple days later to be spayed and receive shots and medications.  It was found that she was pregnant and that her body was absorbing the puppies back into her bloodstream to let her survive.  She was x rayed for some reason I can't remember and the x rays showed that her pelvis was broken at some point in time and that her hips held pellets of bird shot from a shotgun.  The pelvis mended and the pellets would remain.

Sigh was everybody's friend.  There wasn't a dog that she couldn't get along with.  She moved quietly along with a slinking fashion with her head held low to the ground.  Those soft eyes she had would stare straight at me while she was en route to where I was.

As time went by the girl who found Sigh acquired as many as 8 rescue dogs and they all ran loose on her 40 acre property.  One day they turned on Sigh and almost killed her.  I was asked if I could take Sigh to my habitat to live.  I did so.  I had Douglas, Happy and usually one more rescue dog.  There was room for old sigh.  She liked to sleep in the dog cage.  I always left the door open for her.  I put a sheet over the cage and let it hang down over the sides.  Sigh thought it was a cave.
In those days I lived near the mountains and the lakes with access to the most fantastic piece of land imaginable to take dogs to.  I took Douglas and Happy almost every evening to the place called the ruins.  One afternoon I decided to take Sigh.  She loved it.  She would follow at my heels with no problems.  Sigh would be ready for a rest after an hour though.  We all were ready for a rest after an hour.  The one thing she would look forward to was swimming in the lake.  It was in the water that she could feel the sensation of weightiness and her tired old legs were spared bearing her weight if only for a few moments.  She became more alive and vital when swimming.  Worn out legs would not hold her back and she swam with Douglas as if born to it.

The ruins sat on top of a hill in the forest and required a little effort to get up to it.  Sigh was always ready to stop there and rest.

I am very happy I spent those times with her and not leave her behind the fence at the habitat.  Eventually her age and bad legs would not allow her to go with us.  She would lay contented in the shade all day.

The three shots above are from a day in the woods and meadows.. As time went on Sigh's rear legs became worse and worse until it was almost impossible for her to arise from her pillow.  She always got up to go outside when she needed both day and night.  Her rear legs became so bad that she couldn't feel her rear feet.  Many times she would walk on the tops of them as they would flop down when she would raise her leg to take a step.  Eventually sores became evident on the top of her left right foot from walking on it.
She has enjoyed the comfort of air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter here at this house.  She had none of it where we came from.  I guess I noticed a big difference in her health this spring.  It is so sad to see them decline.  The hard part is knowing they are innocent of everything and are not understanding of why they can't do what they once did.  

I loved this old girl.  She has been no trouble at all.  Never once has she given me cause to raise my voice.  She was always -  just there.

I had my uniform on and was ready to take the state boat to the lake.  One more task was left to do and that was change the water out for the dogs.  When I went down to get Sigh's water bucket - I saw that she had left us.  I leaned against the wall and just looked at her.

"So - after all I've done for you and all we've been through together you wouldn't even stay around this morning to say goodbye to me.  Its OK old girl and I understand".

I knelt down and drew the palm of my hand across her pretty face to the back of her head.
"Just one more time for the road".
I returned upstairs and got a bath towel from the closet and laid it over her.  With shovel and digging iron in hand, I walked to a predetermined spot and commenced to dig Sigh's resting place.  Its a pretty spot under some oak trees.  She used to lay here in the shade on hot days.  The ground was hard clay but I kept up the digging.  When the hole was suitable I returned to fetch Sigh.  I couldn't pick her up.  I laid her on the bath towel and carefully and respectfully dragged her to her final bed and covered her with the towel.
The final thing left was to cover her with the blanket that Ma Nature provided.  A tear fell from my eyes with each shovel full of dirt.  Old Sigh was more than just a dog.  She was an icon from my past here in Tennessee.  There were three icons.  One was of course my boy Douglas.  The second is Happy and the third was Sigh.  They all were the very first dogs that came into my life and changed me forever.

I patted the soil down on Sigh's grave and looked down the lane.  No, she wasn't there but I saw her in my mind's eye one last time watching me as if to say - thank you.
"Douglas will find you Sigh.  He surely will.  He's the best of the best.  Just follow him and stay near him.  He will take you home.   We'll all be together again.  We will.  And, thank you for loving us.  You've been a blessing to me.  I'll miss you.  Now, go."

I looked toward Sigh's grave as I climbed the steps to the porch.  A bright ray of sun shown down onto Sigh through the tree branches and white light touched Sigh's new bed.  Mother Nature has called her home.