By Christine Tailer
She stretched. It felt so very good to lie still in the sunshine. Her black fur soaked up its warmth and she felt neither a pain nor a care in the world. She rolled over slowly and lay on her back, her legs gently cycling through the air.
Perhaps she felt good enough to run and chase the cloud shadows, but perhaps not. She rarely ran these days. She had come to realize that running caused aches and pains, and it was really, simply, quite perfect just to lie still, her ears flopped out to either side of her head. She look up at the clear blue sky overhead. She wiggled her aging back into the cool green grass. Life really could not be any better for this old dog.
At one time, there had been three big black dogs in the creek valley, but time had marched on, and she was now the last of the big black dogs. That was OK. It was rather special having her people all to herself. They sat beside her in the sunshine, rubbing her belly. They walked up the hill by her side, marveling at her slow pace. They thought she was playing a game of how slow-can-an-old-dog-go. Her people had come to realize that there was no apparent bound to her slowness. They rocked beside her in their rocking chairs on the front porch as she lay at their feet. They all listened to the birds, the wind chimes, and the creek running farther down in the valley. It was really a very perfect time of year to be an old dog.
And oh, how beautiful the valley smelled this time of year. Her nose was equipped with 50 times more scent receptors than her peoples’ noses, though, as with all things, her ability to smell had decreased somewhat with her old age. Over her 13 years, she had noticed that more than a few things had decreased, but curiously her appetite had remained quite intact. She loved to lie beside the dining room table at dinner time, sorrowfully looking up at her people with a starving look in her eyes. Only once her people had finished eating, would they would reward her with a treat for her quietly starving stare.
One never really knows, but 13 really is a very old age for a big black dog. I can’t help but think that this spring may very well be her last, and it has been such a beautiful spring, in part because the dogwoods have been in such splendid bloom all across the hillsides. Their white flowers shine so bright against the new spring green. In short, this spring has brought a perfect dogwood winter to the creek valley.
Dogwood winters occur in the last half of April, and are marked by flowering dogwoods, cold nights and a heavy morning frost. The valley was covered in just such a frost the other morning. The white crystals covering the ground, perfectly matched the white dogwood flowers along the hillsides, but by the time I stepped outside to do the morning chores, the frost had melted away in the sunshine. Such is the way of a dogwood winter, fleeting.
She came outside with us to do the morning chores, but she did not go far. She stopped by the large pine tree and looked down the driveway to the creek beyond. Greg sat down on a rock beside her and out his arm around her. Greg was glad to be wearing his warm chore jacket. Her black coat soaked up the sunshine. She was warm.
Perhaps this would be the last day of dogwood winter, but perhaps not. It really doesn’t matter. Life is good.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.