I was throwing pizza dough and decided to take a tour around the property while I was doing so. I walked out behind the garden and spotted Stikine, the 13-year-old deaf, arthritic family dog lying in an unusual place under the trees. Suddenly I thought "he's dead." I don't know how I knew. I walked over and sure enough, he was lying peacefully at the edge of the forest, having laid down to draw his last few breaths there in the shadow of a 100-foot white pine. I don't know how long he'd been dead, but not long.
I called the kids. They had watched their grandfather die at home 18 months ago; they're comfortable with death. We had been talking about Stikine getting old, and the fact that he probably wouldn't be around for too much longer. They were sad, they came to see him, and pat him one last time. We buried him a dozen feet from where he died.
We'd already been looking for a new young dog, but our search will intensify now. A dog gives me a lot of peace of mind when the kids are outdoors without me; I know cougars generally avoid human beings, but there are rare exceptions. And I appreciate the effect of a barking dog in keeping bears at bay ... away from compost and the fruit trees and the garden and the garbage.
But we sure miss Stikine. He'd been a part of the fabric of our lives for so many years.