Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It Only Took 48 Years To Learn The True Story

It is probably just as well that I didn’t learn the truth for 48 years. I was doing the dishes with my Mom after a mid-90’s Thanksgiving Dinner at her house, surrounded by my daughter, niece, nephews, sisters and brothers-in-law and repeating a story I’d told a zillion times.

That story is even more poignant today because the events took place back when I was between the ages my grandsons are now and they so love dogs.

The version of the story I believed for 48 years goes like this.

My grandparents gave me my first dog, probably a Border Collie/English Sheep Dog mix, picked from a litter belonging to some old Basque sheepherders who grazed a flock near the ranch each year.Reyn, Raem & Mickey

I named him Mickey. Soon after coming to me, he began to shake more and more and soon he went deaf, then blind. It didn’t dawn on me at that age that this wasn’t just part of his nature or that he was suffering.

In those days, we only used large animal vets on the ranch and never for pets.

Mickey was a very loyal and enthusiastic companion and in retrospect taught me a lot about resilience.

I learned to clap as I came out the door and he would come running from wherever he was. He learned other commands which always involved varied claps of the hands. Then one day I found him laying dead on the path leading from the horse barn to a stream we crossed to go up over a hill and down into the meadows.

My Dad, who didn’t seem at all sentimental to me then, explained while hugging away my tears that Mickey had been hit by a car going down the road past the gate and had crawled to the barn to die. We took Mickey’s body up the hill to an old cellar dug into the earth and buried him in the soft dirt and sand that was the roof.00033_p_10aeuyf6sw0498_b

My Dad and I sat together next to the grave for what seemed like a long time. He told me that when he was my age his family had a wonderful German Shepherd that they trained to herd cattle.

One day the dog came across a carcass that had fallen from a tree where it had been hung to poison magpies, ate it and died.

That day, over the kitchen sink, my Mom, who was no longer married to my Dad, listened intently to the story she had heard many times and then said in the way she often sheds startling new information, “You know, your Dad shot that dog.”

Through the shock, it all suddenly made more sense. You see, Mickey had probably come down with distemper shortly after he came to me which would cause the shaking and the blindness. He probably got it from coming into contact with wolf or coyote feces. We were always wandering the ranch and often came home after having encountered a skunk or porcupine.

My Dad loved animals but couldn’t stand to see them suffer. So you can imagine how much he loved me, knowing how much I loved that dog and the dog loved me for him to postpone the inevitable. He was also probably still carrying the torment his family had over what happened to their beloved Shepherd when he was a boy.

At that time we were preparing to move to another place, half way through my 8th year, which is another story. But Dad obviously knew we couldn’t take Mickey and did what he did to put him out of his misery.

I probably happened to come along before the job was done or the story might have been that Mickey had run off and met another fate.

Either way, 48 years later, I was better able to realize my Dad was courageous to do what he did. He was also much softer hearted than I ever realized growing up. And it’s probably best we don’t know the full story about some things, even if it takes 48 years.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found out 2 yrs ago that one of our tiny pet turtles did not run away (as we were told) but got crushed by someone visit our house. It was 38 yrs ago. Lenore