A very good dog

July 6, 2017

Una

It’s summer, finally. The days are long, the nights are warm and the flowers are blooming.

I always spend a lot of time during this season watering the garden and Una, my 14-year-old border collie/blue heeler mix, likes to be there by my side. I’d like to say it’s purely because she loves me, but I know she has an ulterior motive. What Una’s really after is fresh food. She will stealthily nose among the sugar snap peas searching for plump pods to clip between her teeth and eat. She does the same thing with tomatoes, strawberries, apples, and blackberries. She only takes the ripe ones, and she only does it when she thinks I’m not looking. This isn’t the first summer I’ve gardened with Una by my side, however.  I know exactly what she’s up to, and used to chase her away with stern admonitions. But this summer, more and more, I find myself pretending not to notice.

She has, after all, spent the last ten years being an unfailingly good dog.

We got Una when she was already four years old. We were living in Roseburg at the time with four cats and a rambunctious puppy, and we hadn’t wanted or needed another pet. I don’t know what brought us to the animal shelter that day in late September, but for whatever reason we found ourselves walking down the long row of chain-link and cement-block cages and frantically barking Chihuahuas, pit bulls and lab mixes. She was sitting politely by the door of the very last cage, silent while the other dogs were loudly trying to get my attention. As soon as I laid eyes on her the hairs on my arms stood up and I heard a voice screaming in my head, “That is your dog! Get her out of that cage and bring her home!” I crouched down and stuck my fingers through the fence, and her tail thumped softly while she smelled me. She raised her bright, keen eyes to mine and gently licked me.

Without speaking, my husband and I both knew our family wouldn’t be complete without her. She knew sit, and stay, and heel – she was the most well-mannered and beautiful dog we’d ever seen. As we filled out the paperwork to take her home, we asked the attendants why no one had adopted her yet. They didn’t know. All they did know was that she’d been in the shelter a month already, picked up without a collar along a road dotted by farms and ranches, and was slated to be euthanized in the next day or two. We surmised she must have been waiting just for us, and all three smiled with relief at such a close call as we headed out the doors to home.

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Una’s first official act as our dog was to appoint herself the protector of the family. This has meant, through the years, mostly chasing neighbor cats out of the yard and barking ferociously at the UPS man. I know, however, that in her heart she is a bold, courageous and dutiful dog, and that she would not hesitate to protect us from an actual threat. Just a few months ago Avery, my oldest daughter, went to help a neighbor wash his car while I watched from my porch. Una didn’t know the man, and she was not comfortable with him and Avery being so close together without me there. She flew down the street and positioned herself between them – eyes flashing and snarling menacingly at our poor neighbor – and herded Avery home.

Despite being a good dog, Una isn’t always a perfect dog.  She is sometimes distant and proud.  We refer to her as our “schoolmarm” because she cannot abide it when people or other animals have too much noisy fun. She has garnered a reputation as a connoisseur of kitty litter and dirty diapers. More than once in our many years with her, she has come home from an adventure in the woods caked in mud and swamp sludge, and reeking of something long dead. She is most affectionate after killing and eating rodents and snakes – she’ll climb onto our laps, look deep into our eyes and attempt to French kiss us. And of course she has that sly propensity to pluck and eat the ripe vegetables in the garden before I’ve had a chance to.

I’ve been mad at her more times than I can count, but there have been many more times when I felt like she was the only real friend I had in the world.  When I was a new mother and suffering from post-partum depression, she would unfailingly lick the tears rolling down my cheeks while I cried into her fur in the early hours of the morning. She’s listened patiently as I’ve told her my dreams, my ideas, my fears.  Like all good dogs, she never judges. Sometimes, after rooting in the litterbox or barking excessively for no good reason, I remind her how lucky she is that I decided to go to the shelter that day so many years ago. I say it, even though I know for a fact that I’m the real lucky one.

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This is Una’s fourteenth summer, and more than likely her last good one. Despite the warm temperatures, her arthritis has begun flaring up. She is stiff and her joints creak alarmingly when she gets up from the floor. Opaque clouds are blooming in her eyes and the black spots on her muzzle and ears have suddenly started turning grey. She doesn’t go on long expeditions in the forest anymore, preferring to nap in a sunny spot close by the house.

These days, while picking peas or any of the other fruit Una likes, I always make sure to drop a handful on the ground for her to find. She gobbles them up with gladness, and I am happy to give them. I know that summer and its fruit, like the life of a good dog, won’t last long.

Or at least not nearly long enough.

(Originally published in The Daily Astorian on 06/24/2016)

93 Comments

  • Sydney Shapro

    July 6, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    I remember when you got her. She is so,pretty. Such a wonderful life you all have shared

    1. sproutandsprig

      July 6, 2017 at 3:20 pm

      Aw, Sydney, I didn’t know you read my blog! Miss you!

  • The EcoFeminist

    July 6, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Lovely girl. I lost my Rottie (Daisy) at 14 and it was so hard, and now our Ruby is 13 and nearing the end of her journey as well. Beautiful life you have shared with her!

  • jennybakerbee

    July 6, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    I love this one, such a sweet thing to write about your friend ☺️ The first time I read this I decided to enjoy Joey more, not knowing how long our time would be. I’m so glad I did after reading this again and missing him so much 🐶

  • Hot Mess Homesteader

    July 6, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Oh i love this post! Our dog Dixie is a rescue off the side of the road, shes a mutt, and weve had her for 11 years. She has been the best dog!

  • arlingwoman

    July 7, 2017 at 12:23 am

    Beautiful post and beautiful, speckled dog.

    1. sproutandsprig

      July 7, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Thank you!

  • bluestempond

    July 7, 2017 at 11:35 am

    What a great tribute to a Good Dog.

    1. sproutandsprig

      July 7, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Thank you!

  • Julie@frogpondfarm

    July 11, 2017 at 6:27 am

    Beautiful post and so is your lovely pooch. How wonderful that you went to the shelter that day .. some things are meant to be 😄

  • Lavande & Timo

    July 14, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    It is beautiful !

    1. sproutandsprig

      July 14, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      Thank you!

  • Mahevash

    July 14, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Such a sweet post. She’s beautiful. God bless you all.

  • davidoldham

    July 14, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Reblogged this on maisysabredavid.

  • kritibrahma

    July 14, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Lovely

  • roberta m

    July 14, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Such a sweet girl. Loved the part about her waiting for you at the rescue since we had a similar experience! I am sure you are enjoying her every day–no matter how she smells!

  • kareninspirational.com

    July 14, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    This is so touching- only those that ‘ve or had pets would understand the bond you’d described between you and the beautiful dog. The time may not be long now. But at least, you all will cherish the memories.

  • samantha woodland

    July 14, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Gorgeous photos !

  • flowersandyousite

    July 14, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    cute post,,,,, such a lovely dog

  • Chiradeep

    July 14, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    What a beautiful story of this amazing dog. Enthralling really.

  • siennascoollife

    July 14, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    The dog is adorable

  • yashvibaldia

    July 14, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Beautiful photos with posts

  • charlesmia

    July 14, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    I’ve never had a dog but I’ve always loved dogs. This just made me smile, the kind which is a sad smile. I’m glad to have read this but at the same time I’m sad because all things end.

  • noonespecial

    July 14, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    You and Una, you can be very happy, that you found her. Dogs are incredible good. Altough they have sometimes bad behaviours, their love is invariable and big. We also had two dogs from the animal shelter. Both were real familymembers, and when they died, we buried them in the garden and my mother said, that they will wait in heaven for us to come.

    1. Forestwoodfolk

      August 7, 2017 at 10:55 pm

      @Anie It is amazing how dogs from shelters are the very best of companions. I recently buried my rescue dog of 16 years in the garden as I wanted her to be close to us. She never wanted to be away frim us and I was going to ensure she didn’t have to endure that loneliness, even in death. I love your words-‘ they are waiting in heaven, for us to come.’

      1. Anie Abraxas

        August 9, 2017 at 11:46 pm

        I was 18 years, and these words did me give comfort, yes!

  • Wheniamagrownup

    July 14, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    A dog really makes a family. We re-homed our dog 3 years ago and she will be 13 this year. Its been a pleasure to look after her and love her in her final years. I hope you both enjoy your summer.

  • MyHomeIsWriting

    July 14, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    I just recently put my own dog of 14 years down. It was incredibly difficult. He was a Sheltie, and he was just as much a loving, family dog as Una.

  • Quinn

    July 14, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    I went back and forth on whether or not to read this, because I could tell just from the snippet that it would make me cry.

    And what do you know, THERE IS SOMEONE CHOPPING ONIONS IN HERE! Goddammit.

    Una, you’re a good dog. I hope your owner gives you an ear scratch from me and maybe even some sort of rawhide treat.

  • crittertalkblog

    July 14, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    Touching story. Sweet girl!

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  • YesterdayAfter

    July 14, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    She is beautiful! Our pets are fantastic companions they give unconditional love and happiness! Wonderful post thanks for sharing! <3

  • ameliacdowling

    July 14, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    This was so beautifully written. My dog is at her cuddliest after having a good roll in fox poo- don’t you love them?!

  • DeepThoughtDiving

    July 14, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    Awwww, this is such a heart warming post. I have a Great Dane named Meg who has been my best friend since I was 14; I am now 23, making her 9 years old. That is very old for a Great Dane, (life expectancy is 6-8 years), so she may not have much left in the tank, which is very upsetting to think about. This has inspired me to write a blog post about her. My best wishes go to yourself and Una. Thanks for sharing.

  • Brooklyn’s Corner

    July 14, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    Cute 🐕.😂

  • Remnants of Wit

    July 15, 2017 at 12:24 am

    This was so cute and beautiful that I cried. I am so glad you adopted her.

  • dawnkinster

    July 15, 2017 at 12:47 am

    Una is obviously a very good dog, and beautiful too. I’m a little teary eyed over here. My Katie is almost 11, and she likes to pick tomatoes out of the garden for herself as well. I’ve noticed the slowing down already. They grey moving into her face. But….back to Una…such a good girl, perfect for you and for your family. You were all perfect for her too. I imagine she’s quite pleased with herself for finding you all those years ago. And when she’s napping in that sunny spot I’m sure she’s dreaming of all of you.

  • unfoldingfromthefog

    July 15, 2017 at 1:46 am

    As a fellow dog lover. I love this. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful dog. I especially loved the final paragraph and you sharing the garden. Lovely.

  • Runaway Nuns and Leprechauns

    July 15, 2017 at 2:29 am

    This brings back so many sweet memories of my big guy Lucca. Thank you so much for sharing .

  • sevencatsandcounting

    July 15, 2017 at 3:09 am

    What a wonderful tribute to a good, smart, fierce, loving Dog. The best Dog, your Dog, your Una. Woofs and Wags, Cosmo and Stella

  • romanayak

    July 15, 2017 at 3:19 am

    Beautiful dog and lovely post. We lost our Dennis last year. A lab…10 years old, he was the most sensitive and intelligent being I have met in life.

  • Woof

    July 15, 2017 at 3:52 am

    Thanks for the beautiful post and reminding us to enjoy each and every day. Our Romeo has already way outlived his expected lifespan after being diagnosed with cancer 2 years ago. We have had many assumed “lasts” only for him to continue to prove us wrong. Instead of dwelling on it, we’re just trying to live in the moment. Each minute with these special creatures truly is a gift.

  • vidyarameshblog

    July 15, 2017 at 4:17 am

    I really love reading this and wish i too have friend like Una…

  • thelongview

    July 15, 2017 at 5:31 am

    Beautiful tribute to a lovely dog! Una sounds like my dog Topshe in many ways, maybe they are border collie traits? Topshe was a stray pup rescued from the roadside, but looks like a border collie. And she loves peas, chasing anything that moves, is proud and aloof much of the time, looks askance at boisterous behaviour, and yet is very affectionate in her own way.

  • eternalwanderer112

    July 15, 2017 at 5:55 am

    This is such a beautiful post!! Una seems to be a wonderful dog! I always find rescue dogs have the most love to give!!! Loved reading this post!!

  • storieshence

    July 15, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Beautiful and poignant…loved it!

  • theemadnessmaker

    July 15, 2017 at 11:59 am

    She sounds like a really good pet. I already feel so in love with her. Make her remaining days sweet.

  • Future CPA’s

    July 15, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Beautiful 😍

  • todayitsmaisie

    July 15, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Beautiful post for a beautiful dog! Xxx

  • Nusrath Sariffo’deen 😊

    July 15, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    I love the opening picture of this article! Very cute dog you got! 😍

  • theuncensoredcut

    July 15, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Such a great read ! Do visit my page, https://theuncensoredcut.wordpress.com and support me with your likes and comments 🙂

  • questioneverything39

    July 15, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    The story was so great, I’m thinking about going to a shelter, to see if I can find a pet. lol

  • Marshall Ledford

    July 15, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    To quote W.R. Purche – “Everyone thinks they have the best dog. And none of them are wrong” 🙂

  • Bhaskar S Kumar

    July 15, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    14 years! Hope she lives her life to the max. After all she has got a wonderful master.

  • richa pandey

    July 15, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Dogs, one of the best animal to be pet and really become like our family members.Nice one to read.

  • Drishti Nagdeo

    July 15, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    Beautifully expressed the feelings of a dog lover 🙂
    God bless Una and much love to her <3

  • dontabbreviateme@gmail.com

    July 16, 2017 at 7:53 am

    Beautiful story about a beautiful dog. Like you, my dogs are family. My best friends! Here’s my blog post about my best friends. https://dontabbreviateme.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/my-best-friends/

  • @liquorice_leoness#

    July 16, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Awesome .such a good dog 🐕 such cute pics.😊

  • Brooke

    July 16, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    I just stumbled across this post. We lost our husky last month. She was 13 and we had her since she was 3 months old. I miss her so much! This was beautiful!

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  • Sarah

    July 16, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Very beautiful post!

  • dannygainzz

    July 16, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    The love you have for your dog is beautiful. We had someone steal our dog and a year later we found him in someone else’s yard.

    1. sproutandsprig

      July 16, 2017 at 8:37 pm

      That’s awful! What did you do?

      1. dannygainzz

        July 17, 2017 at 1:02 am

        My kids saw him called his name and he came running to them. Next thing I knew they were walking in the house with him. So I took him the vet and got proof that the dog was indeed ours

  • horsemom96

    July 17, 2017 at 4:39 am

    What a beautiful story. I’m so thankful for my own rescue, a former puppy mill stud. He’s the sweetest old man I know!

  • pratibhapanghal

    July 17, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Loved this piece ! Hugs to you both

  • Debra Nancy Photography

    July 17, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    Sweet and sad all at the same time. I have a 12 year old Westie and she too is starting to slow down, and even though I’m not a fan of her barking, I miss her younger side.

  • ladytappe

    July 18, 2017 at 1:39 am

    I cried, that’s my measure of a beautifully written piece. Our love for our pets is truly an extension of ourselves. I have one rescue dog who picked us or visa versa 8 years ago and though he has many issues, we love him nonetheless. We just recently adopted another, and again there are some issues but we know there is a good dog before us that with enough time and love will be a great dog. So nice to know there are others that take the good with the bad and don’t give up on love. Una will always have a piece of your heart and sounds like your time together was meant to be♡

  • readitrecommendit

    July 18, 2017 at 1:52 am

    This is beautiful! Really captures what it is to own and love your dog. I will be sure to give my own sweet puppy extra snuggles after reading your piece.

  • alexwhiteman

    July 18, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    Very beautiful post and a very good dog! My dog was a cocker, he died a few months ago at the age of 16…it was a car accident…I miss him so much

  • Jha Jha Calvez

    July 18, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    What a nice story. Hopefully that she will be a strong and healthy dog to extend her life. Don’t waste time to spend the rest of her life with a memorable days. Life is shorter we don’t know when God will take us, go cherish and enjoy the every single day of your life with the ones you love .

  • Liveforgod2016

    July 19, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Happy for you, you have a sweet dog…Hoping you get to spend more quality time with your dog and that she has more time with you.

  • Lisa

    July 19, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Anyone who’s ever owned a soul-mate in dog form won’t be able to read this lovely testament without tearing up. I hope for your sake there’s a few more summers in Una’s future. Thank you for sharing her with us. And now I’m not going to say another admonitory word to the dog currently stealing all my ripe strawberries.

  • trashonthemonocacy

    July 19, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I, too, have a 14-year-old dog who has seen me through some hard times. I try to enjoy her much as I can now, realizing that she is quickly slowing down. I hope that your sweet dog stays happy and healthy for you a little longer!

  • Eunice

    July 20, 2017 at 12:36 am

    What a lovely sweet but sad story. Our dogs give us such loyalty, love and devotion that it’s a shame they can only be with us for such a relatively short time. It sounds like you and Una were meant to be, and I hope she’s with you for a long while yet. That last photo is beautiful by the way 🙂

    1. sproutandsprig

      July 20, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      Thank you!

  • hellofriends9

    July 20, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Hi please follow my blog. Beautiful blogs sharing 🌈

  • MY MAGNIFICENT PLANET !!

    July 21, 2017 at 5:18 am

    WOW SHEZ REALLY PRETTY…..
    I JUST LOVE DOGS….. <3

  • shewritesblogsss

    July 21, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Beautiful! Loved it 🙂

  • little wolf

    July 21, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    This was so beautiful. Dogs are such unique creatures and so in tune with our emotions that I’m sure she’s thinking the same things you are. We’re so lucky to have dogs in our lives.

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  • Lani

    July 22, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    This was a very touching read. Thank you for sharing Una with us. All dogs are good dogs but she is especially so.

  • The Thrifty Campers

    July 23, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    Such an adorable sweet dog!

  • travelfeverstories2017

    July 24, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    I know how you feel, as my senior doggie is now 13+ , and I fear this may have been his last summer. It’s a sad thought, because you’d like to have them around forever. It’s always a relief if your doggie stays in good health until that age, because worrying about his pains and tremors is always on your mind

  • Thought Spark

    July 24, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Beautifully well written and such a stunning pup. 😊

  • Monika

    July 26, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    This warmed my heart, although it is sad too.. I don’t how to say goodbye to our best friends and secretely I’m hoping that day will never come, but meanwhile I’m trying to spoil my cats with as much love (despite making me angry too!) as I can so when that day comes I know I made their lives the best they could be <3 (btw you might enjoy my blog on that topic 😉 https://themomotalk.com/2017/05/23/a-true-love-story-and-how-it-all-began/)

  • Logan Y

    July 26, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    Great story. It’s things like this that convince me that rescuing is just about the only option. There are so many potential friends out there who would never know happiness if not for being rescued!

  • peachydanny

    July 27, 2017 at 3:57 am

    Totally love this

  • Megan Sloan

    July 27, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Reminds me of my blue heeler/border collie mix Oreo. He had leukemia and was euthanized but we had him 15 years, puppy to adult. He was an amazing one of a kind dog just like yours. Thank you.

  • Leila Grandemange

    August 4, 2017 at 12:56 am

    Such a touching post! God bless you

  • Forestwoodfolk

    August 7, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    Lovely words and one’s that touched me as I recently lost my almost 16 year old schnauzer. She to came from a shelter and abandoned by previous owners. She too was such a comfort to us when I felt the world was against us and in our darkest hours. Treasure each day and each cuddle with her as I treasure each memory of cuddles with my dog. They are so very special!

  • junkiemonkey

    August 21, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    Such a wonderful story! I have had several dogs in my life as I worked doing animal rescue for many years. I have loved them all but occasionally one comes along that creates a special bond with you and takes over your heart.

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