Those of you who keep track of this blog know that I am a man of traditional values deeply committed to my family and to the preservation of nature. I live in a cabin in the South Texas Brushlands and the nearest settlement is about four miles away. I go for weeks here in the woods and seldom journey into town. I don’t get lonely for town life or for anything relating to the city; and the only loneliness is for my boys who are now grown and living far away. There is not an hour in any day that I do not think of them. Of course, I consider my dogs part of my family too and if you keep abreast of this rag you know how much I care for my Blue Heelers. But this year has been particularly hard for me. Last April I lost Chucha who was bitten by a rattlesnake and did not survive. About a month afterwards Chula, who was 15 years old at the time, died of natural causes. She had been deaf since birth (a common genetic quirk with Blue Heelers) and veterinarians were always amazed she’d lived so long. But she was loved and looked after and though she never heard our voices she was always attuned to our every need. Chula watched after my youngest son when he was little. She would herd (heel) him and keep him from venturing out too far.
Chula’s brother, Dingo, was the king. He was the greatest Blue Heeler I have ever known. He turned 16 years old this past summer. He was blind and deaf now from old age. His teeth were nearly all gone. But in his youth he was fierce and no one messed with us under any circumstance.
Even in his old age he always went walking with me keeping close by following my scent; and even though he’d developed arthritis and sometimes had a limp he kept going. Dingo never complained. He was given medicine to help his joints and he was fed special food to ease his chewing and he was always eager to go out woods roaming. If the wind changed or if I happened to amble off the path then Dingo would sometimes get lost and I had to walk back and find him and make sure he stayed close. I had thought about getting him a leash and I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded but somehow I just couldn’t do that to him. He was too regal and noble to be walked with any sort of cord around his neck. Besides, we live in the woods and only city dogs get paraded around that way. Dingo was free to take the path as he wanted.
Lately, Dingo’s eyesight was getting really bad. I think he was nearly completely blind suffering from cataracts and perhaps he could only make out vague shapes or colors. When I’d call him he wasn’t sure where I was and I’d have to walk around to let him know where I was standing. Besides his poor eye sight, his hearing was nearly nonexistent and yet amazingly he could hear certain types of sounds. The United States Navy has an airbase about 190 miles northeast of here and they sometimes train in dogfighting overhead. They figure that since no one lives out here but an old grizzled hermit named Longoria then it doesn’t matter if they chase each other at 20,000 feet. I don’t even pay them much attention since it kind of sounds like thunder high overhead. And besides, they only dogfight about twice a week and I figure I can put up with those rumbling jet engines for a few minutes as part of my contribution towards national defense. But the dogfights drove Dingo crazy. He’d start yelping and crying and moaning as if he were about to get attacked. Maybe he thought it was some sort of wolf howling in the distance. I don’t know but when the jet fighters chased each other overhead then Dingo would start pleading for mercy. It never failed. Bring the jets and Dingo starts to wail.
There’s a tiny little road about fifty yards beyond a thicket in front of my cabin. It’s the two ruts that I take to get to the first locked gate on the way out to the world beyond. Dingo liked to sit at the end of my driveway at the edge of the little road keeping guard. Granted he couldn’t see or hear anymore but nonetheless he would station himself out there just in case….well, just in case of what I’m not sure but anyway, just in case. I think in every dog is a yearning to chase cars and Dingo spent his time out there waiting for the car that never drove past since nothing comes by except an occasional wandering coyote, a trail of leafcutter ants, free-ranging dung beetles or manic roadrunners. But Dingo was a positive thinker and he was out there just in case.
I didn’t take Dingo walking yesterday because I was too tired. I was up before daybreak and at sundown I was still working and after a shower and supper I drifted off. At sunrise I got up and made coffee and my usual oatmeal and blueberries with my homemade date/cranberry bread with peanut butter. Gave the doggies their treats and noticed Dingo out at the edge of the driveway asleep. Sent Maggie out there to wake him up. It was a nippy morning and Dingo was awake in an instant and trotted back for his cookie. That’s my last impression of my beloved Dingo. You see he did finally get his chance to chase a vehicle. But he was blind and it ended badly.
I buried Dingo at the edge of the driveway looking out on the two rut road that leads to the first gate. I think Dingo will like that. Just as I was packing down the dirt around the grave a couple of US Navy fighter jets flew overhead at about 10,000 feet. I could’ve sworn one of the jets dipped its wing and damnit but I think I actually saw the pilot bring his hand up and offer a salute. Yep, I’m pretty sure of it. Dingo couldn’t cry back like before but I’m doing a little bit of that now for him…if you don’t mind.