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You were just a dog. But a good dog.
Right from the start. Your loyalty was never in question. And what you didn't know, you didn't know because I never took the time to teach you.
When you were young, I was harder on you. I expected you to understand the basics, and you learned them. A "bad dog" was like a whip on your back.
But when uncontrollable instinct got you in trouble, I didn't hold it against you. I doctored you up, changed your bed and remembered that reason gets left behind in the heat of passion, be it skunks, gyps or cloven hooves.
You were patient with the young, pups or kids. They pulled your hair, barked around you in circles and rode on your back. I never had to worry. They were safe with you.
You suffered the indignities of veterinary examinations, injections, probings and overnight incarcerations, refusing always to lift your leg under anyone's roof.
You posed for pictures, rode on loads like an acrobat and endured spring clippings, yet never lost your sense of dignity.
A fierce guardian of your territory, you did your best to protect us. I knew better than to shout you down at two in the morning. I always figgered you were barking for a purpose.
Old age was not unkind to you. Despite the hearing loss, cataracts and stiff joints, you carried on. Sure, I had to help you get in the pickup, but you were part of the crew. I noticed you ate less, slept late and turned gray but you never lost your enthusiasm for bein' part of our outfit.
People debate if dogs have a Heaven. I'm not sure that matters. What is Heaven to a dog? Enough to eat, something to chase, shade in the summer, someone to scratch your ears and pay you a little attention now and then.
All I know is you added to our life. Companion, listener, guardian and connection to a part of nature we tend to overlook because we're too busy worrying about the minutia of life.
You reminded us to appreciate a sunny day, a bone to chew and a kind word. You'll be missed around here.
You were just a dog. But you'll be in my Heaven. Rest in peace, old friend.
Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, former large-animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses. Learn more at www.baxterblack.com.