Life will always exceed our expectations. If we expect our situation will only get worse, we’ll experience constant failure. If we expect our lives to improve, we’ll work toward that instead and reap the rewards of unending success. The key to our future isn’t just what we believe, it’s what we set our minds and our hands to accomplish, because what we sow will always be what we reap.
Our dog, Hooli – short for Hooligan – died late last summer. She was fifteen. We brought her home from just half a mile up creek in the middle of May, 1995. The only time she left Muddy Creek was when we took her to be spayed by the local veterinarian. That was so traumatic for her that she would never willingly again get into the car.
Hooli was a barn dog. When we brought her here we put her in the barn with two calves we were bottle-feeding and she bonded with them so well that she spent all her time with them when we weren’t outside. If the calves – or later the cows – slept out in the pasture, Hooli slept out with them. She loved the cows and was never comfortable inside unless other dogs came over. We were never sure why, because she willingly went into other peoples’ houses when we went walking to the neighbors or if there was a thunderstorm.
The rumbling of the heavens terrified her. We often tried to bring her inside to comfort her during a storm, but she would pace around, find a spot to hide, then come back out when she heard another rumble and dart outside, if we happened to open the door.
Her favorite place to hide and (after we had to sell our little cow herd because of the drought) to sleep was beneath the kiln room – an addition to the studio we built on stilts without a closed-in foundation. Her spot had a tight opening and to get through it she had to drop to her belly to push and then pull herself in or out.
Hooli loved snow. She loved winter and cold weather. She loathed the summer heat. Her mother was a black border collie/Australian shepherd cross; she had her mother’s long hair and her overall body shape and size. Her father was a German shepherd/ chow cross; she had her father’s thick undercoat and red hair. I’ll admit I may be a bit prejudiced, but Hooli was one of the prettiest dogs I’ve seen anywhere in the world. She was, most of the time, very thin because she made her rounds up and down the creek every morning before we headed out for early chores, but her thick undercoat gave her a bulkier appearance.
Hooli wouldn’t permit much pampering, but she was a little spoiled. She didn’t have a strong appetite and often left her food for the magpies if we weren’t watching. We figured out early on that if we stood or sat with her while she ate, she would eat considerably more and since we were worried because she was so thin, we stayed with her every morning and evening until she finished eating and headed out to be with the cows.
I suppose we took Hooli for granted. We saw her aging, but never calculated the consequences. It wasn’t as though we didn’t know she wouldn’t live as long as we will, but her presence seemed as stable as the wind, the grass, and the mountains.
As she weakened those last couple of weeks before she died, we spent as much time with her as we could when we didn’t have to work. She had never been like most dogs, didn’t let us hold her, brush her or fawn over her, but the night she died she let each of us sit beside her and stroke her wooly coat. Her legs were giving out and she had earlier tried to walk down to the barn, but collapsed. She allowed us, for the first time without a fuss, to carry her and put her inside the doghouse Ben had built with a window so she could look out. She used that doghouse during the coldest parts of her last two winters because we had put a heating pad in it to keep her warm. She died that night lying peacefully just as we had left her.
We buried her in the shade of the chokecherry tree just beyond the studio door. She would often nap there when the weather was hot.
We haven’t taken in another dog for many reasons, but one of the strongest is that her death is too fresh, so we can’t deny, nor can we yet bear what the future will inevitably bring. We have a lot of fond memories of Hooli that we don’t want to put to rest just yet.
Hooli shortly after we brought her home. Check out her muddy paws, she loved to play in the creek.
Ben with Hooli when she was just a few months old
Spring of 2005
Ashes, one of our barn cats. So named because we rescued him from the ashes of a fire on the farm where Ben grew up.
Ashes was Hooli’s favorite playmate when we didn’t have any cows around. She loved Ashes because he put up with her and was never intimidated by her like the rest of the barn cats.