Aztext Press

Life Off-the-Grid

Missing Morgan

By Cam Mather

This is one of the hardest posts that I’ve ever written. Our dog died last week and I have to say I’m pretty devastated. Frankly I’m a bit surprised, because I didn’t realize just how important a member of our family he’d become. And if you’re not an animal fan, or don’t like maudlin writing, then stop reading this post now.

I didn’t have any pets when I was growing up but Michelle’s childhood home was never without a cat (or two or three.) Having furry animals running around my house has always seemed strange to me. Michelle acquired a cat while we were still living in suburbia, but when we got to the country having a dog seemed like a good idea. Friends in the city were looking for a country home for their energetic dog, so it worked out well.

Morgan was a Sheltie (a Shetland Sheepdog) and had lots of energy. Eventually we figured out that he was very territorial and stayed close to the house, so we didn’t have to tie him up. He had the run of 150 acres but rarely left the area around the house. This was nice. He seemed to enjoy the freedom. Shelties are known for being “talkative.” This means that they like to bark. This was a problem in the city but here he could bark to his heart’s content without any neighbours to complain.

He had thick fur so he slept outside from spring until the nights started getting really cold in the fall. In fact on many nights we’d have to convince him to come in. He’d look around as if he was thinking, “Yea, but if I come in I’m going to miss something out here, so I think I’d rather stay outside.” It was Morgan who alerted us early one morning that a moose was on the front lawn. Morgan was barking furiously at it. The moose was not the least bit bothered.

I never worried about him being outside on cold days because as the days warmed up in the spring inevitably we would find him laying on the one patch of snow that was left somewhere on the property.

I remember shortly after he arrived I told my friend John about how much Morgan loved people food. John explained that all dogs do. Really? Never having had a dog before, there was so much to learn.

Morgan was great because he forced Michelle and me to go on long walks. He preferred the woods where he could wander and chase things that made noise. When we walked on the road he walked through the bush on the side of the road on the way there, then walked between us as we headed home. I never figured out why he did this, but it was his thing.

We don’t get a lot of traffic on our road, but inevitably one or two vehicles would go past during one of our walks. As soon as Morgan heard an approaching vehicle he would go to the side of the road and sit down and wait for it to pass. Some friends of ours were house/pet sitting for us and took him for a walk and witnessed this behaviour. They asked us how we had trained him to do that and we assured them that this was something Morgan did on his own.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do this summer about the corn. Morgan was always ready and willing (as long as he was rewarded with a slice of bread) to sleep in the garden at night during corn season and keep the raccoons at bay. I guess I know where I’ll be spending some August nights this year.

I’m going to miss his barking. We always knew when a car or rider was in the driveway because of his barking. It can be disconcerting to zone out in the garden and suddenly have someone standing behind you. Morgan minimized this.

Like I talk about in the security chapter of my book “Thriving During Challenging Times,” Morgan was an essential part of our feeling of comfort at Sunflower Farm. He wasn’t a big dog, but some couriers were hesitant to leave their trucks when he was barking. After my recent dog incident, I’m starting to understand why.

It was always a comfort for me when I was away overnight doing workshops to know Morgan was sleeping inside the door back at home. I think someone outside hearing him bark inside would have second thoughts.

In reality Morgan was quite a pacifist. If visiting dogs tried to start a fight, Morgan would back off. We never worried about him around our cats or our chickens. In fact one day Michelle went out the front door and discovered one of the chickens had hopped up on to Morgan’s back. Morgan didn’t complain.

Morgan was about 12 and starting to slow down. Michelle and I, being in our 50’s, can empathize with this. In the last week he was sleeping a lot and not moving around too much. We had a brutal heat wave which effected much of the US and Eastern Canada. We had noticed that as every summer went past, Morgan was less able to deal with heat and humidity. Morgan had been experiencing seizures the whole time he lived with us, but at first they were infrequent, 3 or 4 a year. Lately he’d been having 3 or 4 a month. They didn’t last long but they always seemed to take a lot out of him. On the last day of his life, Morgan headed to the basement, the coolest part of our house, where he often slept on the hottest of summer days. As the day and night wore on, we realized that he was breathing more slowly and finally he just took his last breath and passed on.

I cried when my mother died and I cried when Michelle’s dad died. I didn’t think I’d cry when my dog died but I was wrong. Having a 12-year-old family member die really puts you in touch with your own mortality. This is a good thing. And a bad thing.

It was tough to dig the graves for our cats Thomas and Mittens. Digging a grave for Morgan was even tougher. Yes, it was a bigger hole to dig, but he had really ingrained himself into my heart.

People said we should have gotten another dog as he was getting older so he could show the new dog the ways of Sunflower Farm, hanging around and not wandering off, that sort of thing. They were right. We should have. Now when I go out the front door it’s pretty upsetting not to see him sitting in his spot. Keeping watch.

Michelle says no more pets. It’s too upsetting when they die. I want to get another dog right away, because I miss Morgan.

I’m hoping there is a dog heaven and that Morgan is there now. Chasing squirrels and eating all of the people food he could possibly want. I’ve got to hunt around and find a good headstone for his grave. I’d like to engrave it with “Here lies Morgan. He was a very, very good dog.”

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9 Comments

  1. Denice

    Dearest Cam and Michelle,

    Morgan left this world on his own and spared you both the added agony of having to make that decision. In my mind, that was the last blessing he bestowed, after a lifetime of being a dear companion. I am so very sorry for your loss. I have known a sorrow such as yours and understand.

    A million other dogs will never replace Morgan. But remember, it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.

    With deepest sympathy,
    Denice

  2. Lilypad

    I’m so sorry to hear about Morgan—it really is the loss of a family member, and the grief process is the same. My beloved cat passed away last year at almost 15 years old, and I still think of her every day and miss her so much. We have another cat now (we only lasted 3-1/2 weeks before we missed having the companionship and had to get another immediately!) but they do all have such different personalities. This kitty adores my son (11) and husband so much, whereas the previous one was definitely my baby and followed me from room to room like a puppy.

    We had two big size collies growing up (one after the other), and they were also very territorial and protective of us. We had 5 acres and our dogs never left the part closest to the house either. I’m so glad you included a picture of Morgan—what a sweet face! It brought me happy memories of my own doggies. Please do consider getting another dog. I know it feels too hard to know that someday, you will lose that dog too, but the love you get in the meantime is just so worthwhile.

    sending best wishes all the way from the Seattle area,
    Lilypad

  3. More sympathies here. We’re on our third Samoyed. As a large breed dog, their lifespan is not typically long, especially in the south with our long periods of heat. The one we have now has made it to the ripe old age of 9, something her predecessors did not. Our first one died from heat stroke, the second one we finally put down after battling leukemia for several months, and watching her condition deteriorate. When I took her to the vet for the last time, she seemed to know what was going on – she put her head in my lap while we waited. She was so tired. I sat on the floor while the drugs began their work and stroked her head and held her gaze until her eyes shut for the last time. It took me a long time to be ready for another dog after that, but we did – our kids were still at home and a pet is a good thing for children. Will we get another one when this one shuffles off this mortal coil? Only time will tell. We both love dogs, but we are also realistic – our children are all nearly grown (last one starts her senior year this fall.) When we are empty-nesters we may not want to be tied down with the routine of caring for a puppy or dog, and it’s unfair to leave a pet alone for extended periods of time. But they do bring great joy into our lives. I wish you peace and comfort and good memories.
    Best,
    Terry

  4. Doone

    While I know Morgan was “one of a kind”, I urge you guys to get another dog. No, he or she won’t replace Morgan, nothing can, but a new dog will find a hole in your heart that you didn’t know was there.

    There are so many rescue dogs out there just wanting their own forever family. After our Fyfer died, I swore i would never go through the pain again, but then Sam arrived and my heart melted all over. From a scrawny scared 4 month old puppy who started life living in the wilds of northern British Columbia, Sam has become a sociable, people loving wonderful companion who loves life on our country property.

    You and Michelle have so much love to offer-go for it and find another corn watching, life loving friend!!!

  5. Oh no, not Morgan the Wonder Dog!! I am SO sorry – please accept my sympathies.
    I know the pain all too well (3 dogs in my life lived to 12 years, 16 years, and present pup is 13 years). We had them all from puppies, but there are dogs out there ‘rescued’ and needing a new home – check with the SPCA locally or even a vet when you’re up to feeling the need for another best friend. Take care…..

  6. So sorry to read that Cam. We lost our 14 yr old beagle Kahlua last summer, who had grown up with our eldest (now 20 yr old) daughter. Even today nearly a year later, we laugh about how spring and summer she would be out dawn to dusk chasing squirrels and rabbits.

  7. Janet Webb

    Sorry to hear about Morgan. He was a lovely dog and will be missed by many. Janet

  8. Joan Massey

    I was checking through my email backlog when I found your sad post about Morgan.
    It is so very hard to lose any member of your family, including the four-footed ones. I have been in your place a few times myself, most recently a few months ago when my cat died…. So I sympathize with your loss very much. I feel very badly for both of you. My own collie-sheltie dog Doran is 11 years old with hip dysplasia, so every year is a blessing. Losing them is so difficult. I know he will be sorely missed.
    I am glad you had the wonderful gift of his friendship, his happy wags and doggie grins for the time you had together. What a wonderful, happy face he has in that picture you shared!
    I do hope another dog will eventually find a home on Sunflower Farm one day when the time is right. He or she won’t be another Morgan, but will soon carve their own sweet place in your lives once again.
    My deepest sympathies to you both, Cam and Michelle.
    Joan Massey

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