I have been rehearsing this day for many months as my main mate yellow Labrador and I creaked our bones along river trails. Lakota was bred at my tree farm in October 1999 and I kept the largest, whitest, best feeder of the litter. Now his son, Snow Bear, has huge paws to fill.
It was May 26 at 4:30 p.m. when my buddy left the bed of my pickup truck to start his next phase.
I awkwardly pulled his body from the Christmas tree field to the truck and situated his head on the dog bed he coveted for a decade.
I drove down toward the house, parked under the shade trees, re-situated his head, felt his breathing rhythm, wiped my face, and allowed some of the other Labs to jump in the truck bed.
It took several hours for Lakota to finally forge the last breath, and death signs were quickly prevalent in the heat.
I’ve had the grave dug for months and the tombstone mostly painted.
The Lab family watched me cover him over with layers of soil and wood chips, that I truly hope they don’t dig into.
Most of us have pets and we usually outlive them, but gosh are they permanently etched in family antics.
I’m glad Lakota left naturally, without needle or bullet, and has left a furry legacy.
I’m staring at his collar on the desk, realizing no other critter can fill his niche – appetite until the last day, house-trained, best shotgun navigator, huge bull head, farm protector, river ruler.
We gave each other the best 11 years and 8 months and now his progeny will protect the turtles and trees.
Lakota was simply the best, I say, Lakota was simply the best and I will meet him on the shoreline once again.