Memoir chronicles life, sorrow and new beginnings

You seem to know that the time is drawing near to say goodbye to your long time friend and companion of eleven years however, it is heart wrenching when that day finally arrives. Max had been struggling with canine degenerative myelopathy for quite some time. I lovingly helped him up when it was time to go out or get a drink or eat a meal. He still had a kindred spirit and keen presence of mind but his tired and weary body was nearing the end. The neurologist said he was not in any pain and I did draw some comfort in that news. Nevertheless, it pained me greatly to see him immobile and unable to enjoy climbing the trails of the Rocky Mountains with me. We were both still out there together in our minds and in our dreams.

Max passed away peacefully late one Saturday afternoon at home with me lying in the floor at his side. He knew it was time to go well before I did. He licked my tearing face gently a few times then slipped away from me forever. It crushed me. I couldn’t eat or even function for several days. I was devastated. This had happened to me once before with Winston, my first Old English Sheepdog. It’s too painful. It’s so lonely. I can’t do this again. No more adoptions for me. My heart was hurting so bad that I jumped on a plane to the east coast to be with my family. Mom and dad had spent a lot of time with Max and Winston and loved them both dearly. I sought comfort and solace in their presence.

Several months had passed and I reluctantly started looking online at OES adoption websites, as our own Colorado rescue did not have any dogs available. I emailed Bette and Joe and told them that I may be open to another adoption at some point and to keep me in mind if a male dog came along. However, I was feeling guilty at the same time thinking that I had not yet properly mourned the loss of Max. I pressed on still carrying a heavy heart.

Some time had passed and Bette emailed me and ask if I would be open to considering a female. She said that she was expecting to possibly have a couple of new girls coming into the rescue within a few weeks.

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Pumpkin and Kurt

A female? I have always had male sheepies. In fact, for over eighteen years, it had just been the boys club. You know, a couple of bachelors hanging out together, marking their territory in the neighborhood. A female? How would this work? What type of guy jokes would we share? Could I still sit around in my boxers? I’m not too sure about this gender change thing but, I tried to remain open minded.

Bette emailed me in July after I returned to Colorado and said that she had two females available for adoption. Ellie, who was three and Pumpkin who was five. Ellie had come from a questionable breeder from eastern Colorado and Pumpkin was a littermate to Bette’s OES Layla. The lady that owned Pumpkin had lost her husband last year and was moving into a retirement condo in Florida. Bette said that Pumpkin was a really sweet girl, but quite large at 95 pounds. A full figured gal. She also needed some training, but she did have her therapy dog certification, as well as an excellent pedigree. I arranged to meet both dogs at Mountain Shadows Pet Hospital in Colorado Springs, about an hour and a half from Denver.

I arrived early and sat anxiously in the parking lot in my Land Rover, which still had remnants of Max’s presence all over the vehicle. His dog hair was still on the seats and nose smudges were still all over the windows. He was there in spirit and I felt his presence. Soon Bette and Pumpkin would arrive and my heart was beating rapidly. I was eating Altoids like they were my last supper.

A SUV pulled up and the long wait was over. Bette opened the tailgate of her SUV and out jumped a beautiful, very longhaired and well-groomed Pumpkin. Yes indeed, she was a big gorgeous girl. She looked like a show dog from the AKC show in New York. I walked her around the grounds and tried to connect with her in some small way that would tell me that she was the one. She was so friendly; and well behaved but clearly confused as to what was going on. She was nervous, but then again, so was I.

Soon, it was time to meet Ellie. She was being kenneled at Mountain Shadows and Bette brought her outside for the meet and greet. She was about half the size of Pumpkin, short hair with a stub of a tail that wagged vigorously and quite full of excessive energy. Again, I walked and played with her and looked into her eyes for that certain something that would tell me that she was the one. A connection.

After both dogs were put back in their respective kennels, I talked at length with Bette about both girls and ultimately decided that Pumpkin would be going back to Denver with me to her new forever home. No, let me rephrase that, Pumpkin had decided on me. Whether it be fate or destiny, the universe had put her in my life, and she was moving from the sprawling country side in Colorado Springs to a urban loft in downtown Denver. The country girl would soon become a city diva. Both of us had found that unique and unquestionable connection that we were looking for.

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Pumpkin

Bette arranged for us to go to Pumpkin’s old home to collect her belongings. It was a bittersweet visit. Her owner was obviously sad and distraught, and Pumpkin sensed that her life was about to change forever. I had to fight back the tears as we said goodbye.

On the trip back to Denver, Pumpkin laid quietly in the back of my SUV occasionally peeping over the seat to see what was happening and where we were going. She was obviously a very curious girl and was very anxious and confused. Where was her mom? Where was the peace and tranquility of the country? Where were those bunnies that she loved chasing? I mean, playing with. None of that was to be found on noisy I-25 as we entered the urban metropolis of Denver.

Before we got home, we stopped at Riverfront Park, which borders my loft for a nature break. Pumpkin eagerly leaped out of my SUV and headed for the open acres of green grass and pine trees to check out her new downtown neighborhood. She must have been thinking, “Hey, this isn’t so bad”. There are lots of new scents to follow, a country setting in the middle of the city, and yes, oh yes, lots of squirrels to chase (I mean play with). Plus, there were so many other four-legged playmates walking their owners around the winding path at the park.

The door opened and Pumpkin walked into her new surroundings. She must have thought this is very different from my old home of five years in the country. There were lots of new sights and sounds to take in. Indeed, this is a bachelor pad. How is this going to work out must have been in her mind. The very same thought that I had when considering adopting a female OES.

We settled in for the evening, had our first dinner together and then snuggled up on the sofa. Pumpkin was a big gentle girl who loved to cuddle, gladly receive unlimited amounts of affection and attention with what seemed to be a countless number of kisses for me. At bedtime, she jumped up on my bed and fell fast asleep. Tomorrow would be a new day for both of us, a new life together. A big new and exciting adventure.

I must admit that Pumpkin’s presence made me think of Max, and I still miss both him and Winston very much and think of them often however; Pumpkin has filled that empty void in my life that Max’s passing left.

Skip forward to present day…

Pumpkin and I are best friends. No more boys club. But, I must admit she is somewhat of a tomboy and that’s just fine with me. She’s not a girly girl and doesn’t mind getting on a muddy trail in the mountains. No pink bows in this girl’s hair.

Pumpkin and I go everywhere together. I only have to pick up the keys or put on some hiking boots or walking shoes and Pumpkin knows it is time to go — somewhere, anywhere, everywhere, as long as she’s with me.

Now, we are inseparable. We walk in the park daily and Pumpkin has made countless new friends in the neighborhood. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t come up and ask for a photo or to pet her or inquire as to whether she is a show dog? Pumpkin soaks up all of the attention and loves being in the limelight.

The country girl has landed on all four paws and now has a new life in the city. She must be thinking, “This is not too bad after all”. I know those are precisely my thoughts. We’re a very happy couple.

And just like the words on her leash and collar, “Life is Good”.

Kurt Whitt is the owner of Planet Media, a Denver web design firm that donates the OES Rescue of Colorado website. He resides in lower downtown Denver with Pumpkin. They enjoy all types outdoor activities including hiking, camping, chasing smelly tennis balls and admiring all types of wildlife, especially squirrels.

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