Gandy, Going, Gone

Gandy is gone as of an hour ago, after seven years and four months. That’s a lot of dog years, and they were good ones. She had an enchanted life on Goose Creek after being a rescue puppy that could have ended up anywhere, and in not such expansive wilderness with two creeks! Think trailer park tied to a tree.

Three days ago she was chasing squirrels on the ridge. Then she went into a rapid decline, and was having difficulty standing, breathing, moving. The end was near. We found a vet from FloydCo who makes house calls. She came right away. Gandy did not suffer.

She is buried out the kitchen window where we could never get a pear tree to grow. And that was one of the most difficult things we have done together in 47 years of marriage–in sickness and in health. We never buried a dog together before.

It will take some while before we stop expecting her to greet us in the morning and run ahead of us on the pasture loop. I just glanced up to see a copper colored flash go past the window and thought “there she is” but it was one of the red chickens.

It is a good exercise just now to think of our friends and family and those that knew us, and knew us with Gandy, through all the ups and downs; through the Feather years. Feather left the story a year ago January 23rd and Gandy never stopped missing her, I feel sure. Maybe there are dogs in heaven after all.

We never had a smarter companion, or more faithful or more helpful–bringing in wood, doing anything in the truck, she was involved in all family activities. And so her absence, all the more the loss.

And life goes on.

There are a lot of reasons why Gandy should be our LAST dog. But the “heart has reasons that reason does not know” Pascal said. And I expect he is on to something.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. The good memories will bring smiles to your faces and Gandy is in heaven right across Rainbow Bridge playing and waiting for you. I truly believe there’s a place in heaven for all our faithful loving companions. There are so many still waiting for homes and Gandy would want you to share your love with one of them. We have 7 now of those who needed forever homes, but have sent 4 to Rainbow Bridge in 11 years so please keep your mind open to getting another at some point. “Saving one dog will not change the world, but for that one dog, the world will forever be changed”.

  2. Oh Fred, so sorry for your loss. Setting a much loved canine friend on his or her last journey is heartbreaking. We had to help Spencer off on his trip across the bridge last June and still tear up when we think about it. Heart attack or stroke perhaps?

    We took in Beau a short time later, and it was the best thing we could have done, the very best and most loving thing for all of us.

  3. Find comfort in knowing she did not suffer.
    It was a wonderful time for all of you.
    We never know what is around the corner.

  4. I am so sorry, Fred. Non dog-lovers don’t get it. I am definitely no looking forward to Zeke’s turn. He is 8 now and still in good shape but I can tell he is not the spring chicken he was…

  5. Your sad news left me in tears. I recall so well your early months with Gandy, learning her unfamiliar ways of being a dog. To read your high praise, and feel how much you loved her, was so moving to me.

  6. Sad to read this news. I remember well when Gandy joined the family. Dogs do go to heaven, but I’m sure Gandy is thinking her new home is no better than than the heaven she just left.

  7. So sorry to hear the news of Gandy’s passing. Such a short life. It seems like only yesterday when she joined your family, with all the trials and tribulations of a new dog/puppy. We’ve had a couple of “last” dogs. Nothing melts your heart and fills the space like a bright-eyed, eager face and wagging tail…..

  8. Thank you, folks, for being there to offer encouragement and support. I guess to some it seems silly to mourn the passing of “an animal” but some of us from our earliest years have an empathetic resonance with other life forms. I wonder if out of that lot come more “tree huggers” and environmentally-aware foks than from the dog-indifferent group?

    Bear with me. I will move on from Gandy’s loss to so many other things, weighty matters which have been swirling around even as we knew every day her leaving us was getting closer and closer. I know this caused some puzzling vacant stares from me in otherwise important meetings. Perhaps I can be truly present now, though I cannot promise no staring into space when the Wayback Machine transports me unwilling to the Gandy days still so fresh in our minds and hearts here.

  9. Oh Fred… I also remember Gandy as your “new” dog– seems impossible she’s gone so soon! I wish your hearts speedy healing and long memories of your good times with her.

  10. Rest in peace, Gandy. Peace be with you, Fred. As to your question about tree-huggers vs. dog-indifferent people, I think you’re on to something. Proud tree-hugger/dog-lover here.

  11. Dear Fred
    I was almost knocked out of my desk chair, here at this computer. Then, a heavy sadness overwhelmed me.
    How sad! Why did she die? I’m sure all your regular readers have that question. Knowing the answer may make the whole experience even more difficult to bear. I’m sorry if that is the case. I have been with you and Ann from the beginning. I had a new puppy myself when Gandy first joined your life experiences and adventures. Jenny was going to be our last dog too; until we were informed about Sarge; his circumstances and need for a new home.
    I feel your pain at this moment and also am praying for your next companion to hasten home.

  12. Sorry, Clarence I thought I had said somewhere that her death was a consequence of lymphosarcoma. This, I understand, is the most common cancer of dogs. We first noticed enlarged cervical glands in the summer, and I pretty well knew what we were facing. The official diagnosis came only about two months ago, and so we have been saying goodbye to her for quite a while. That did not soften the blow at the end as much as I had hoped it would.

  13. Fred and Ann

    Sorry to hear of your loss of Gandy.

    What a beautiful dog!!

    I understand your feelings of loss.

    For 32 years my wife and I have always had a dog, and, at one time, 5 dogs, for several years.

    Our last dog, Pruddie, a beagle, died Dec. 17, 2017………………. and yes, I still look for her, to expect her to show up, at certain times, when it was a certain time to do something.

    Each of our dogs, and our one cat, was cremated, and we have their ashes, each, in a urn, in a curio cabinet.

    And yes, I sometimes think that Pruddie will be our last dog……………. BUT…my heart still ponders the idea of rescuing one more dog from the shelter…………one more dog to have as my best friend………one more dog to have, on my bed, beside me, curled up, at night………….

    To Gandy !!!

    Take care.

    Greensboro NC

  14. Oh, Fred! So, so, sorry to read this! I have been MIA from “normal life” for the past two weeks because we brought home an eight week old puppy (on February 13, coincidentally). We lost our last BIG dog, Brahms, late last May to hemangiosarcoma, leaving us bereft, and with a blind, diabetic, 11 year old labradoodle as our only dog. It took us some months before we could even begin to process the loss and consider the possibility of another dog. A dog becomes so entwined in the fabric of our lives that things unravel a bit when we lose one. I might mention that a puppy kind of unravels things a bit too at first, both literally and figuratively! Now though, even Oscar, the grouchy labradoodle, seems to have settled into some sort of routine that feels like a new pack is forming, and it is good. By the way, our squirrels have gotten cocky too with no ruckus at their very presence for so long.
    Hugs to you and Ann. Ralph and I send our condolences on your loss of Gandy.