by Randall Beaird
I was sixteen and bringing our dog Duffy, a red chow, home from the vet. He was sitting beside me in the truck enjoying the view when I noticed a giant buzzard up ahead. As we got closer it took off. Actually graceful and almost majestic, the wings beat down like an albatross going home, but there was no flight plan. In an instant, the hustling bird smashed into our windshield.
Duffy jumped straight into the air and was quivering on the back seat floorboard; I was expecting a mangled bird in his place. The windshield was shattered a smoky white, and caved inward four inches, but held as the fractured carrion connoisseur cartwheeled over the cab to the highway below.
Duffy was rattled, but I was too busy trying to drive with my head out the window. To match the brutal wind, I was desperate for a pair of skydiving goggles.
Three years later, in that same truck, on that same highway, Duffy lay in a cardboard box beside me. We were returning from the vet again, only this time he had to be put to sleep. It was tough to hold and comfort Duffy for his last breath, a nearly blind skeleton of his former self. I could hardly see as I paid the bill at the counter.
On the road home I gave Duffy a recap of his wonderful 15 years; I chuckled as I reminded him of his record setting straight-up-in-the-air move when we passed the fractured buzzard spot.
Ten years later, after leaving the Dallas area, I needed a place to keep Sara, my Great Pyrenees, while looking for a place to buy. Sara was the guardian over my herd of chickens.
One evening a call came from my sister, “Randall, Sara is dead. I’m so sorry. We put the dogs up and went horseback riding. They got out; Sara was hit crossing the road and died instantly.” I could hardly talk choking back the tears.
Jennifer didn’t want me to see Sara. “Brian and I will bury her; she doesn’t look good. You need to remember the real Sara.” It took a few tries to be intelligible but I finally made clear, “I have to see her; I have to bury her.”
They wanted to come point her out and help. I said I needed to be alone and got directions. I drove down a pitch black road looking for Sara, not fully accepting she was dead. I came to the curve in the road, some dark red pavement and a glimpse of beautiful white fur on the shoulder. I parked and ran over to find Sara stretched on her side in a pool of blood. No one could hear as I yelled out her name and stroked her cold lifeless frame.
I put Sara in the truck bed and found a pretty oak tree to shadow her grave. With headlights pointing the way I talked to Sara and dug it deep. I did a recap of her life and kept telling her what a good dog she was, and she was.