Im laying in bed, staring at the ceiling in the dark, unable to sleep. Yesterday, I skipped work and drove the 170 miles north with the hope of one thing; finding Cora…
Cora is my 15&1/2 y.o. Australian Shepard who, while visiting family for the Thanksgiving holidays, was lost outside on a day that saw the temperature drop from a relatively balmy 40 degrees to a bone chilling -25.
Having not been there, I don’t know all the details, nor do I need to know. I am not looking for answers. I am now just wanting to recover a body, dead or alive, to put my anxious, sad, and tired mind to rest. My hopes of somebody haven taken her in and not calling the number on her tags, or the local shelter, have all but faded as day 5 of her being missing is a mere sunrise away.
I also had high hopes that I would see her marching down the highway, desperately trying to make her way back home. During my 4 hour drive here, plying every inch of horizon, I saw and noted thousands upon thousands of dark colored, bushes, rocks, shadows, and mail boxes….no Cora. At one point, I stopped to examine a fresh, road killed carcass, which, upon closer inspection, was clearly the remains of a local Jack rabbit.
Cora came into my life back in 1999, as a spritely 6 month old. This was before I had a cell phone.
Before I had a CD player.
Before the www.
Before my kids…
Cora has been there with me through countless heartbreaks, probably feeling as much or more of a loss during every failed attempt, but never forming an opinion as to the “why’s” that I could hardly begin to answer myself. Times I felt lonely, frustrated, sad, tired, hurt, etc… Cora was always there with a deep, genuine look of concern, that would say, “Come Dad. Curl up with me and everything will be just fine. Lick. Lick…”
One funny thing about Cora’s fabled past, is how/when she discovered her voice. For the first two plus years of her life, I never heard her make a sound. She didn’t bark. She didn’t growl. She didn’t howl…nothing. Then one day, while on the way to one of my job sites, with Cora wedged into the cramped confines of the X-tra cab of my small Toyota pick-up (as a nervous sort of Dog, this was her preferred space for drives), it all began… With the “high lonesome sound” of Del McCroury’s, “Get Down On Your Knees and Pray” playing on the radio, I heard Cora burst into song! As I watched her howl away, confused look on her face… She didn’t know what was happening, but she couldn’t help herself! It was as if she had finally found her calling, because amongst the many things Cora has become well known and loved for, her singing was something special.
The birthday song? No problem. Cora would be on cue without any pre-notification necessary, howling away instantly.
She even was the main singer at my wedding, voicing her approval in the form of her own self composed, complex K9 opera.
Aside from her long history as a sweet singer, Cora was also an amazing athlete. Although I refrained from taking her on TOO many bike rides, Cora has skied more runs in the Tetons than most, thanks in part to her long, healthy life, but also because she was so calm and collected. She knew when it was time to quietly rest, and when it was time to move. She was on OUR schedule. She was a part of our gang. I’ve skied with many other dogs that were just a nuisance to be with. Incessant barking or constantly running off chasing other dogs. When confronted on the trail by said dogs, Cora would vibe them with a look that said it all…”stop being such a DUMB DOG, pull it together, and become a skier, LIKE ME!!!”
Cora was well into her teens when I bought Cat2Fold and started sailing. Being a nervous, old dog, I thought it’d be best not to introduce her to living on board while sailing on the ocean in a foreign country. So Cora stayed behind and helped raise the kids, while tending to the acres upon acres of the rolling fields of Snowdrift Farm. Mousing, was also one of Cora’s specialties and favorite past times. I remember one year, while picking up two-string bales of hay out of the fields, our neighbor Greg was egging Cora on, who was devouring every single, unsuspecting mouse that was uncovered with each bale lifted. We stopped counting when she had eaten well over twenty mice.
This past summer, although she had never experienced sailing before, Cora happily joined us on many forays out on our local mountain lakes aboard our Minicat 420. I kind of figured she wouldn’t want anything to do with this crazy floating contraption, but after her first go, she was hooked!!! (Just like her Dad). Throughout the summer, with many different iterations of families and friends, Cora, the kids, and I camped and sailed at different venues every single weekend this summer. We excitedly turned so many of our land-lubbing friends onto the sheer joy of sailing. The ultimate sharing of life’s joys came whilst my Mom (Grammy) was visiting the Tetons for a week. I would tease my Mom about coming out on the minicat, knowing full well that her nearly 70 years of being terrified of the water would probably keep her from trying something as exciting (scary) as sailing a small (flippable) catamaran.
With a couple of reassuring licks on the hand, and a sincere look in her eye that said to Grammy, “Look, if I can do this, you can do it too.”, an old dog that was recently taught a new trick, helped an old lady overcome her fears and become a sailor!
As winter sets in hard here in the Tetons, I’m finding myself making the final preparations to head down to Mexico for my fourth winter sailing season. They say that a boat is just a hole in the water that you keep there by throwing money into it. With Cora’s recent disappearance, I now have a similar sized hole in my heart that I’m going to slowly fill, not with money, but with memories…
“Cora, I’m so thankful for the time we got to spend together here on this beautiful planet. I’ve learned SO much from you, and you’ve brought so much happiness into my life (and many others). I wish you luck on your new journey. I’ve still got a lot to learn and do here, so I won’t be joining you for a bit. I’m sure you understand. For now, enjoy your new freedom. Run. Play. Catch mice. Eat snow. Chase cows. and…SING!!!
I’m sure I’ll be hearing you and feeling your presence everywhere I go, with everything I do, and when I hear all your favorite songs.”