I’ve never really talked about her on here before but one of those “On This Day” memories popped up on my Facebook feed and just like that I had to stop and catch my breath as tears formed in my eyes. I need to share her story with you. The “she” I am referring to is a dog and this is supposed to be a blog about horses but this dog, she was something else. She enriched my life with horses in so many ways. I miss her still. Allow me to explain.
In 2008 a small, rail thin stray dog appeared way out in the pasture. As a rule, we don’t encourage strays at our farm. They tend, among other issues, to cause problems with our calves so we didn’t immediately set out to make her feel welcome.
Usually dogs like this will just pass on through but not this one. A few days passed and she was still there. She didn’t come closer or move further away. She just stubbornly held her ground.
Our curiosity peaked we set out to investigate. We quickly learned that she was extremely fearful and timid of all except our then six year old daughter. Feeling a little sorry for her and deciding if she was going to stay we might as well do something about it we offered her food. Initially not only would she not come to the barn to eat, she would not eat in front of us. Instead we brought her food down into the pasture and walked away. Her behavior made us question whether or not we were doing the right thing by taking her in.
Weeks passed and the stray dog began to put on weight and acquired a name, Dixie. As Dixie bloomed she gained confidence and courage. She began making her way to the barn to eat and interacting with all members of the family. In many respects she became the perfect dog. No longer did we question our decision.
She became a fantastic guard dog, constantly patrolling the perimeter of our farm. She watched over the cows and horses. She kept strangers at bay. She was loving and protective yet fiercely independent and lived her life on her own terms.
She had a funny side too. She loved to play with the horses and in particular became close with my horse Sally. They shared a stall in the run in shed on rainy days. They hung out with one another in Sally’s dry lot.
I have many favorite memories of Dixie. She greeted us every time we came to the farm as if our last visit had been months ago. She did twisting jumps of joy accompanied by whimpers of delight if she checked out the back of my car and found a saddle inside. She lay inside my riding arena and pouted if Sally and I were working inside it but positively delighted in going along with us on trail rides. Her favorite food was any kind of meat. She could bring happiness to any day.
She had her peculiarities too. Among them was that she hated trips to the vet, any sort of medication, and wearing a collar. Perhaps these were unpleasant reminders from her previous life. Trips to our veterinarian’s office for vaccinations, etc. required sedation.
In January 2015 she did not come out of the sedation quite as quickly as in years past. We were concerned, even speaking about it with our vet, but as she came round soon enough it was quickly forgotten. However not long afterward, in March she developed a limp.
It was immediately clear that she was in a tremendous amount of pain yet she still tried to accompany us on trail rides and go about her job of protecting us and our farm. Over a period of a few weeks that included multiple veterinary appointments, x-rays, and different types of pain medications her condition worsened. We consulted an animal chiropractor who was out to the farm to see my horse. He discovered a fluid filled mass on her hind leg.
Feeling hopeful that we were finally about to resolve the mysterious limp, the next day we took her to the vet to have the mass drained along with other treatment measures. It was then that we learned the worst. Dixie had a rare form of bone cancer that carried with it an extremely poor prognosis. Our vet discussed our options but recommended euthanasia.
Just like that, the dog that had chosen her own home, had chosen her own family, had shown us what an amazing dog she was to love was gone. I am so thankful that we were able to be together with her as a family, holding her and petting her as she took her last breath. Her death broke everyone’s heart.
She is buried on a little hill at the farm that she loved so much. I have not taken a trail ride in the two years since that I have not thought of her wagging tail and smiling eyes. Dogs, as well as horses, touch our hearts, our souls, and our lives. Thank you Dixie.