I wanted to let you know that the subject of my editorial last month, Joey, our rescued Arabian, passed away in the pasture the middle of January. When we found him down on his side, alive but unable to get up, we immediately called our vet. He thinks Joey’s heart may have given out possibly from the neglect he suffered over the years prior to our rescue. Maybe it was his kidneys shutting down from a disease he came to us with, or maybe it was one of a multitude of other reasons. No matter, Joey’s passing hurts just the same, especially after starting to develop a bond with him once he began trusting us. Although Joey left all too soon on a winter’s day, it was one of the warmer ones we’ve seen for a while and the sun was shining brightly while he was in the pasture with his buddies. Our sweet little Joey died with a full belly, his herd gathered round, and the people who loved him by his side.
Having multiple animals always brings the possibility that death can visit all too quickly after the most recent loss. For us, it happened last month when our beloved Great Pyrenees, Sugar Bear passed only six days after Joey. We chose Sugar in 2002 out of a litter of 12 pups at 3 weeks of age and brought her home at 6 weeks. During the time in between, Joe and I bought a stuffed purple elephant and slept with it so our scent was attached when she started her kennel training; we called it the Wubbie and she slept with it for her first year. Yes, this gentle giant was a house dog; more like a house plant. Many others of this breed are used to guard and tend sheep, goats, alpacas, and even miniature horses. But when kept as a family dog, they transfer their natural instincts to their people and the other animals in the house. And in the Coalter house, we were all part of Sugar’s flock. She was a natural guard dog without being a liability. Intimidating when barking and standing up on hind legs looking eye level at whoever was on the other side of the door, but never a threat for an attack, (as long as you were friendly because she did keep an eye on you). Knowing her potential to be so large and strong, Sugar went through puppy socialization and professional obedience training. We always had small to medium dogs so I felt a huge responsibility to learn how to control this big bear of a dog.
Sugar had a couple behaviors that were difficult for us. One was going bonkers during thunderstorms or when she heard loud noises. Believe me, it was never much fun for us around here on the 4th of July after sunset or when Joe would train a new Cowboy Mounted Shooting horse. The other was getting nervous in the car. After a while we just didn’t take her anymore. I missed her riding with us, but not the hair or drool she always left behind on the seats.
Sugar’s loyalty, sweetness, gentleness, and protectiveness far outweighed any behavior issues. Protect against intruders she did, but protect against any danger or disturbance was her unspoken mission. Like the time my white cat Mikey jumped in the clothes dryer and I didn’t know it; he ended up going around with some blue jeans for a few minutes. He probably wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for Sugar drawing my attention back to the laundry room. When I opened the door Mikey was a little fluffier than usual and in shock, but still alive. I rushed him to the vet and after some IV fluids and a tranquilizer he recovered; all thanks to Sugar.
And then there was the time my parents were home alone while we were gone for the weekend. My dad lit the outdoor grill to warm it up but they both had to go into the house for a few minutes. Unknown to them, there was a problem with the grill and it didn’t take long for flames to develop and start licking at our siding. Sugar, ever on guard for anything out of the norm, once again brought attention to the dire problem at hand and the fire was extinguished. Another catastrophe avoided.
In Sugar’s 12 years with us, she only took her eyes off the family in sleep. And then, for most of those years I’m not sure that she didn’t do it one eye at a time watching for something that she needed to warn us about. But it wasn’t just the people who loved this big girl, it was all the other animals too. All I’ll say about the number of dogs and cats in our house is that we have more than just a couple due to some rescues and unplanned adoptions that took place over the years. If the animals came in as youngsters or were sick and neglected, Sugar was their nurse maid. If an adult animal came to us looking for love and acceptance, Sugar was the first to welcome them. Even our goat, who was bottle fed and joined our farm family at 2 weeks old, sick with an illness specific to goats along with pneumonia, became a member of Sugar’s fan club after staying in the house for four weeks due to the constant attention he required.
I think of all of us in the house, the two that will miss Sugar the most is my mom and our little Papillion, Pappy. Sugar was my mom and dad’s constant companion since Joe and I both worked outside our home. She always seemed to be in the way with her 125 pounds laying where ever they wanted to go, but it was because she was always with them, watching, listening, guarding and loving. My mom in particular spent the most time with her as Sugar slept alongside her bed every night. The day after she died, Mom, in tears, told me she just couldn’t stop crying because she had lost her best friend. I know how you feel Mom.
And then there is Pappy, who became Sugar’s protector shortly after we adopted him. As you can see by their picture, Sugar was just a little bit bigger than Pappy. It was cute and funny to see the Doberman personality come out of this adorable seven pound male whenever one of the other dogs came near his girl. After Sugar died, poor Pap was very quiet. Sometimes a yappy pain in the “you know what”, he didn’t bark for two days and just stayed in my mom’s bedroom, close to where Sugar spent her evenings.
The other dogs have been ‘off’ also along with the cats; they used to like to cuddle up between her long legs when she was sleeping, snuggled in her beautiful long white coat. And for the people in the house; the rooms seem empty and nothing is the same now that she’s not laying in one of her spots…just watching…making sure everything is in its place and her flock is safe.
Candy Lawrence, one of our writers and a member of our Corral family said in a message to us something like, the worst thing our animals ever do is leave us. How right she is. Goodbye Joey and Sugar Bear, I’ll see you once again where the grass grows lush, green and stirrup high and the water runs cool, clear and deep. Heaven, that’s where all my four-legged friends will be waiting for me.
Until next month, stay warm and may God bless all the trails that you ride.