Best Doggone Dog In The West*

 

    That’s Sauger looking over Great Sand Dune National Park during a road trip with his soul mate a few summers ago.  He’d already turned twelve by then which is old for a big dog – just check out his grey muzzle.  He loved his home, but wouldn’t be separated from her if it was within his power not to be and he thus enthusiastically accompanied her on this artist-in-residency.

  Although we have many photos of him with friends and all family members, I am quite drawn to the one above.  It makes me think hard about what the world must have looked like through his eyes.  It makes me remember the subtle new verve in his demeanor I noticed when the two of them picked me up at the dusty windblown airport about an hour from that remote park.

  He’d seen things.  Smelled them first probably.   Ya, imagine the rich sensual experience it was for him, an Iowa boy, to take it all in from high up the side of a mountain.  Then near the end of their stay, it must have been an immensely satisfying, if uncomplicated, recapitulation of an incredible existential adventure.

  He’d had to worry about blowing sand, coyotes at night, weird birds and bugs, a thundering herd of elk, steep mountain trails, and the cold snow rimmed (in summer!) mountain lake far above tree line – all the while keeping close tabs on his companion.  He and she had survived it all – together – and their bond deepened to unplumbed depths by the end of the experience. 

  In his book Dogs Never Lie About Love, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson goes to a very great length to describe canine capacity for emotion and our capacity to be drawn into it.  “Perhaps it harks back to a time when humans were more like dogs, more spontaneous, more capable of expressing joy, able to experience intense emotions and enjoy the world outside our skins more immediately, in the same way we see our dogs doing.”

  “If any species on earth shares this miraculous ability with us [to love intensely and completely] it is the dog, for the dog truly loves us, sometimes beyond expectation, beyond measure, beyond what we deserve, more, indeed, than we love ourselves.”

  Holy Dogs.  Our friend Sauger moved on earlier this week just a few months shy of his fifteenth birthday.  He was strong and vigorous till nearly the very end and the marvel of vet, friend, and foe.

  Here’s how it is for his favorite artist: “It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them.  And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart.  If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”

  Jeesh.  Best doggone dog in the west.       

*From the lyrics to the song you just heard.  See the movie if you haven’t.

**cf post of 6/9/10 for Sauger’s near drowning

***cf post of 10/17/09 for more about the Sand Dunes

****cf post of 5/8/09 for a photo and emotional prelude

*****cf post of 11/21/08 for a photo and a brief look into his mind

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2 Responses to “Best Doggone Dog In The West*”

  1. agierkendrew Says:

    This was as great as Sauger was.

    When did mom say this? “It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”

  2. Ralph W. Heninger Says:

    Great writing and a greater tribute to a fine dog that I knew from afar. This makes be happy that Gail and I are getting a lab puppy in May! Thanks for sharing.

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