The end of an era

In the end, she departed us the same way she moved about us—quickly and quietly. Yesterday she was not herself, and so today, if not all better, she was going to go to the vet. Instead there she was this morning, lying on her bed, peaceful, still, a stone’s throw from where she was born 9 ½ years ago.

Since this place became A Place on Earth, it has been Tierra’s place on earth. She lived here before we did, by a couple weeks. When she was five-weeks old, she moved one hill away from her mother and eleven fellow litter-mates into our house. She knew, from birth, what her purpose on this planet was: chase down and retrieve. She preferred sticks but anything that could be thrown would do. If you didn’t seem to understand what you were supposed to do, she would make it perfectly clear by repeatedly dropping the object of choice on your hand or foot. She’d wait patiently and unwaveringly. Don’t pet her, don’t talk to her—just throw it. You had to follow her rules, but if you did she would go until she wore you out. Lifeless sticks lying around will poignantly point to her absence.

Tierra embodied the fairer qualities of this farm: free, friendly, fun-loving, focused, often fixated. She was also the face of this place. If you ever visited us here, chances are she was the first to greet you. Her energy hardly mellowed with age; it brimmed over and zoomed around. She was never a threat to hurt a soul on purpose, but she certainly could bowl you over with her exuberance. A void will be felt now upon arriving home.

Tierra was terrified of storms and fireworks and gun shots. She never wanted to come inside the house except when the great sounds were pounding. Our neighbor was shooting off fireworks Monday night, and I let her in for the last time. When at first she was missing Wednesday morning, I assumed it was because she was hunkering down from the thunder rumbling about. It was as if she could endure the commotion no longer.

Tierra was a steadfast companion. Countless are the times she led the pickup truck out back to the deer fence and then again back home. As she loped ahead of the truck effortlessly—an athlete ever in peak form—the boys would holler, “Faster, Tierra! Go faster!” In the last 6 months, I took up jogging around the farm, and without fail she would glide along beside me, at times darting off towards movement or splashing into a pond. I will feel with full force now the loneliness of the long distance runner on my trail runs, a boy without his dog.

We named our baby German Shephard “Tierra” because it means earth in Spanish. She was one with this place on earth. She belongs here, and today she transitioned from gracing the face of this earth to melding with the very soil that sustains us. We give deepest thanks for the blessing of her existence. We won’t be the same without her.

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