Grow old along with me,The best is yet to be. The last of life for which the first has saved. Robert Browning
watercolor paintings by kayti sweetland Rasmussen
Paintings like the words in our stories have a strong basis in fact. A picture, a word, a gesture prompts our creative spirit to get busy. For eleven years our Old English Sheepdog Panda accompanied Dr. Advice on his morning walk, meandering ahead and then coming back to see why he was so slow. Panda knew every bush and squirrel hole on the trail as well as the regular everyday walkers and their dogs. She was the queen of the trail and kept herself aloof from the other dogs after a quick nod of her head.
Panda came to us as a rescue dog having been caught in a flood which nearly took the life of her master, a horse trainer of some repute in Northern California. Disaster had struck in the middle of the night, and about 100 horses had to be quickly removed from the premises and onto higher ground. Our grandson, a horseman living in the area, was among those who came to help in the rescue of the horses. The rancher unfortunately had a heart attack after the disaster and was unable to keep his animals.
Panda, along with several other farm dogs were given to willing people after the action. Our grandson thought Panda would be a grand roommate for Penny our dachshund, and when we came to meet her, she jumped into our pickup truck and made herself comfortable and at home. Once in the truck, there was no coaxing her out again. In her eyes she had found her forever home. I always thought she looked like the Nana dog in Peter Pan whose job it was to look after the children, like Nana, Panda had decided to take care of us.
Old English Sheepdogs are pretty laid back and not prone to sudden activity. On one morning walk late in her life, while walking the same old trail she knew by heart, she became separated from Dr. Advice, and he began driving home before he missed her. Luckily when he realized his mistake and went back, he found her waiting patiently where he had mislaid her.
Unlike the Border Collie, whom we see herding sheep by crouching and staring them down, the Old English is a drover who will push from behind for miles and miles if necessary. Our morning walks always went from about two miles to sometimes 14 miles, and Panda was always trotting along beside us looking for a stray rabbit or two, unaware of who they were dealing with.
Our dear pet friends always know when it’s time to say goodbye, even if it seems too soon for us, and eleven years after Panda came to live with us, that day arrived. Now her quiet, gentle ghost smiles on Charlie, the exuberant Jack Russell Terrier who now demands two walks a day, and Dr. Advice has learned that it is to his advantage to oblige.
Life is a journey, and the companions we take along with us, and the people we meet along our way keep it all new, exciting and worthwhile.