Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tuesday is Belated Monday, and I am the Mother of Collies

Tybalt, watching over my Dad and me. 
Today's post was supposed to be yesterday's post, and it was supposed to be about my love for collies. I have two collies right now. My whole life I’ve had collies. My father desperately wanted his own Lassie puppy, back in the fifties, but he didn't get him until graduate school.  I was watched over by a collie from the time I was born. And so, here I am, in 2016, the Mother of Collies. 

It’s not as exciting, I suppose, as being the Mother of Dragons, but don’t let the Lassie-faee fool you, collies are characters.

I wanted to write about the joy they give me, the sheer sense of fun they bring to every day. I wanted to tell you how smart and clever they are, how they communicate like people, and manipulate like psychological masters. I thought I might mention their loyalty, their psychic understanding of the needs of all around them. Or, I thought, I’d talk about how individual they are, how no two are the same, and how my sweet Summer, now eleven months old, is constantly cracking me up with her feminine ways, the first of all my dogs to be female and to show me this side of the collie equation.

But, ultimately, all I can say is, they are essential to my life. I can’t live without them. 

I'm grieving hard this week. It's one year since we said goodbye to Data, the first of the collies who was mine

There’s a hole in my life. It’s hard to explain, but it’s there. 

Data was with me, always. And by, "with me," I mean literally by my side. He was on my feet when I washed dishes. He stood between my knees and the cabinets while I cooked. He slept in bed with me until he couldn't get up there anymore. He lay under my desk while I worked. He wanted to be as close to my body as he could, for most of his life. 

Data helping me watch tv
But once we brought home Bailey, Data had a playmate. And they would play and play, so he wasn't always next to me, just all the time he wasn't playing with Bailey or patrolling the large yard that was the gift of his golden years.
Bailey pouncing on Data's head. Data was so gentle with him.

Bailey, our now four-year-old, collie,  loved Data like a father and a brother. I’ve never seen a dog grieve before, but Bailey was three when Data died at age twelve and a half. Bailey aged. In just a few weeks, he was no longer our baby dog. We brought home Summer as soon as we did, mostly for Bailey. I could have waited, but Bailey couldn’t.

Bailey, now the old dog, and Summer, the new baby

And from May tenth to August tenth of 2015, Bailey went from being the baby, the goofball puppy, to being the canine patriarch. 

These dogs belong to what I think of as the line of Robertson dogs. They come after Magus, and Shane before him, and Cyrano, and first, Tybalt. But, their spiritual existence, in the minds of humans, goes back much farther. It goes back to Lassie, and before him (all the dog actors who played Lassie were male) to Lad, the dog king of The Place, as described in the stories and books of Albert Payson Terhune.

Lad died a hundred years ago, and yet, when it was time to sprinkle my dad’s ashes, in all the places that meant so much to him, we all knew we had to go to Sunnybank. We stood at Lad’s grave, and sprinkled a pinch of my dad (he would have found our ashes-based shenanigans hilarious), around the edges—and I read the passage about the death of Lad, from Lad a Dog. 

It’s hard to write about joy when I’m feeling so sad. But that’s how it is. The collies bring me so much love and joy and laughter and comfort; the pain of losing them is sharp and deep. Even a year later, there’s an ache in my heart for the space Data occupied in my life. Summer and Bailey are both asleep in my bedroom, and I love them both, but they occupy their own special place. 
Yes, collies bring me joy. But, today, I’m experiencing the flip-side—grief. 

                                                  I miss you, my steadfast, beautiful, boy. 

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