I have to put my dog to sleep today, and that is exactly as rotten as it sounds.
Tack is 14. There is cancer and there’s a chance he won’t even make it until the vet arrives at noon. Yes, Sam and I are the people who pay the farm call to have the vet come here. Tack is wrapped in a blanket in front of the fire and Sam has gone out to hire some guys. He needs his barn cleaned, new sand in the stalls and a hole dug behind the shop, right where we always watch the moon rise.
This is terrible.
In a recent post about Christmas, I said that openly inhabiting joy and sorrow at the same time is a courageous gift you can give the people around you. So this morning, I didn’t go to work and Sam and I went out to feed the cows together. Every morning for the last 14 years, Tack has ridden shotgun with Sam to go feed the cows. He’s a cattle dog. It’s his job. Today, I went instead. Sam has hands like anvils, but a heart like goose down – especially when it comes to his animals.
Even though it is raining and cold, or perhaps for that reason, when we got to the far side of the ranch, the calves were running around playing. Watching them, it’s hard not to laugh. When calves run, they stick their tails in the air and they look like monkeys. Ever heard the expression high tailing it? Well, I think this is where it comes from. Sam knew this would make me laugh.
Then he reminded me of the time in Colorado the dogs chased a marmot into a twenty foot culvert. Tack stood at one end and barked into the hole, and was delighted to discover he’d invented a dog megaphone. I swear you could hear him barking for miles. Sam had to take a knee he was laughing so hard. If we’d filmed it, we could have won money on the funny home video show.
Our high country neighbors have equally funny stories because if Sam was ever around for drinks or dinner, Tack, Kota and Gracie were there too. One morning, just after sunrise, neighbor Deann came hauling down our driveway. She had Tack, smiling, ears flapping, in the back of her truck. Evidently he’d stayed over at her house, under her bedroom window, courting her girl dog all night. Of course, Deann thought this was awesome and stopped just long enough to boot his ass out of her truck.
We laughed about that later, after she got some sleep.
Flannery O’Connor said, “I write, because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say,” and that’s probably the reason for this post. Also, if you see me a little low tomorrow you’ll already know why. I know some of you are praying for us. We feel it, and we’re grateful.