Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dog Story Trilogy: Part I: Cedric

Sisters left for college, classmates moved away, grandparents died, but there was one constant throughout my childhood: my dog Cedric.

I don't remember ever not having a dog on the farm. My father loved dogs and inevitably strays would find us. Some stayed and some did not. The life of a farm dog is not easy and expensive vet visits were only for the income-producing cattle and pigs. Cedric was the only dog we ever actually set out to get. He was a puppy when we picked him up from a family from our church who was giving puppies away. I was only about five years old, but I remember that day vividly. I got to hold him in the back of the car as we drove away in our old rusty Ford. I nuzzled my face into his side and felt like the richest kid on earth.

Most of our dogs spent their days with my dad out in the fields and down at the barn, but Cedric loved to spend time with us in the house, just being with my mom, sisters and me. We doted on him and he liked just hanging out with us, being the house dog. He was always there to be petted, to be loved. I hung on him constantly, kissed his nose, scratched behind his ears, and on more than one occasion, cried into his fur. Best of all, he always there when I got off the school bus, wagging his tail, welcoming me home.

During my adolescence, I talked to him a lot. He helped me figure out problems, gave me unconditional love and was my constant companion. He went with me when it was time to get the cows for the evening milking. We walked the path back to the pasture, the wheat on one side, the hay field on the other, the blue sky above us. He and I strolled side by side until we got to the field. Once there, I gave him the signal, and he went to work, rounding up the cows, nipping at their legs, urging them up the path. When they were all headed in the right direction, he came to my side again and we headed home, watching the sun just starting to set, listening to the cicadas just tuning up for their nighttime session, just two friends walking, spending time together.

In the summers of my junior high years, I would awake with the knowledge that my mom was at work, my dad was already in the fields and my sisters were at their jobs. I'd roll over, knowing there was no other human in the house, but there at the side of my bed, was Cedric, waiting for me to get up so he could follow me down the stairs and be my companion throughout the day. The mornings would find us at the barn or at the creek and every afternoon would find us together, sprawled out on the couch or the floor. I held a fat library book in one hand and read, while I stroked Cedric's fur with the other. We passed hours and hours like this.

Cedric lived for about eleven or twelve years. I was sixteen the night I went out to find him on his side, panting heavily on the front porch. I leaned over him and put my face into the fur on his side. I somehow knew it was the end though I could not admit it. I wanted to take the scissors and cut off some fur to keep, but I didn't, thinking it might somehow signal to him that I was giving up on him and I would never give up on Cedric.

The next morning I was alone in the house, no dog by the side of my bed. I heard the distinctive sound of my father's tractor and I got out of bed and went over to look out my upstairs window. Below, I saw the tractor pulling the the narrow wagon, slowly away from the house. In the back of the wagon was Cedric's body. My father was taking him back to one of the fields to bury him. I stood at the window, crying, watching the wagon getting smaller and smaller amid the fields. I bid goodbye to the dog who had been a constant in my life. Watching the wagon until it nearly disappeared, then turning to face the empty house, I knew in my heart that something had shifted, something had ended, and life would be different from now on.


Susan said...

Beautiful memory of Cedric. It reminds me so much of my relationship with Molly, and the picture of Cedric looks like my Molly, too. Was he a border collie?
We love our pets, don't we? I am missing Moon every day. But I am grateful for the time we had together. Thanks for the story.

Bossy Betty said...

After quizzing both my oldest sister and my mom, I found that neither of them knew what kind of dog he was. I suspect there was some border collie in there somewhere because of how instinctive he was around the cows.

I know you miss Moon. You gave her a good life and I am sure she was grateful for all you did.

Arliss Coates said...

Great story. Reminds me of another great loss of a loyal dog to wolf hydrophobe.

Bossy Betty said...

Thanks for your diagnosis, Arliss.

Grace said...

I was at a funeral yesterday for a friend of my boyfriend. I cried more as I read about Cedric then I did at the funeral. I think its because nof the unconditional love that our pets give us. At this moment Jackson, my black lab, is laying next to me. I just love him!!!

Bossy Betty said...

The first line of your comment cracked me up!

I was totally in love with that dog!