Savannah! Savannah! Savannah! Aww, look at you, you smile-faced girl. Uh-oh! onto the back already? Well, why wouldn’t I rub your belly? After all, you’re the Wonder Dog and you’ve been wondering where we’ve been. Haven’t you sweet girl?
And now, for the first time, I’m wondering where you are. It’s been two long and lonely days now since you crossed over, finally escaping the ravages of the cancer. And I’m still no closer to answering my big question: how do I approach the Land without you, without Savannah the Wonder Dog?
I mean, you came seven years ago, the first time we camped, just down the hill, across the road and up again from your house. And why not, we were on your land after all. That piece of paper that said we now own it didn’t mean much to you.
Last night, on that very campsite, Linda and I built our little cooking fire in front of your mounded grave, where you always curled in the tall grass at the lip of the hill overlooking the pond. We recalled how, as night floated up the valley, we could barely see your black body, more like imagining you’re there. But now it’s like that all the time and it’s more than my heart can bear.
Yet, if I learned one thing from you in your final days, it’s keep on living. Here you were, tumor pushing out your front teeth and still you’d do what really mattered. And maybe that was your secret. Only do what’s important and stop doing everything else. So you made it quite clear what we shouldn’t do and what we should do.
Savannah the Wonder Dog’s rules for a good life:
Love. Always and completely, with abandon and without condition. Whimper in ecstasy. Belly rubs are a pretty good way to express it.
Walk. Couple times a day at least. Don’t talk. Engage the Land. Get off the main path. Put your nose down and follow little trails. Flush turkeys, then prance proudly.
Eat. Lots of good food. Turn your nose away from crap (well, actually you might eat that, too). Clean your plate. Seek opportunities to get more good food.
Sleep. As close as you can to those you love. Who you sleep with is far more important than what you sleep on.
Protect. Those you love against grave threats. Especially at night. Look (and sound) ferocious. Even if outnumbered. Be willing to die for them.
Be loyal. Be there for family, always, always, always. Make sure they always know where you are and never doubt you. Persevere no matter what and don’t complain, not a hint, about how hard it is to remain loyal.
Be. When all else is done (love, walk, eat, sleep, protect, be loyal). Don’t add another thing to the list. Don’t fill the space with activity and chatter. Discover the joy of sitting in silence not far from those you love.
So my sweet girl, I guess I do know how to approach the Land without you. Your rules are simple to remember, if not challenging to perform like you did. And I know what you’d tell me about my broken heart, about enduring the pain without you at my side. Love. Walk. Eat. Sleep. Protect. Be Loyal. Be.
As my friend Randy said, you got me to the Land. Finally. Now it’s my job to live it.
So I guess this isn’t good-bye. It’s just getting to know you in a different way, my fingers no longer rubbing your warm, black belly. I’ll do my best to not let you down. Oh Savannah! Oh sweet girl! Oh Wonder Dog!