On October 8, 2014, we sent our wonderful Raymond to run in the mountains with our good friend Don Bruns, who left us three weeks before Raymond. I'm sure Don will take Raymond on lots of runs in the mountains of heaven and also find Raymond some sheep and a place to swim while he waits for me.
I am having a hard time imagining life without Raymond. It is hard to even go out the front door without automatically telling him to GET BACK. He couldn't wait to get out the door so he could guard the gate to the deck. Then he would hide behind the deck gate and when you'd come out he'd RUN around the tree at the far end of the yard. Over the years he wore the dirt down to the roots of those trees.
Raymond was a high drive dog with a fabulous feel for sheep. He didn't mind biting any sheep that needed it (and some that probably didn't.) Ray made many, many people laugh at his antics in the obedience and rally rings, I don't know who had more fun, Raymond, me, or the people who watched him.
Ray overcame three orthopedic surgeries as a two year old, caused by an injury when he was a pup. He never let it slow him down. When he was five, he almost died of pneumonia. When we went up to visit him at Iowa State, they brought him out to see us, and he was trying to play tug with the tubes of his nasal oxygen. The vets at Iowa State told me that they had never seen a dog that sick recover that quickly.
I have always enjoyed tracking with my dogs, and all of my dogs have been exceptional trackers. Except Raymond ;-) Raymond had the BEST nose of any dog I have ever had. But he thought tracking was, well, kind of boring and stupid. He FINALLY got his Tracking Dog title at the age of 12. The last two years of his life Raymond and I discovered WCRL Rally. WCRL incorporates open and utility exercises and you and the dog have to really concentrate on what you're doing. Raymond LOVED it, he got to jump 8 inches, and retrieve, and do signals, and all of the other fun things he had always loved. He got his last WCRL rally championship in March of 2014 at the age of 13.
Ray also became quite the sweet dog in his later years. He would love on George and I whenever we went in to the bathroom; he certainly didn't want us to have to tackle going in there alone :-) Every morning I kissed the spot between Ray's eyes and told him "You're my favorite, but don't tell the others" And he would say back to me, of COURSE I'm the favorite 'cause I'm the best dog EVER. Raymond ADORED little Papillon Robert, and was always so kind and loving to him. And of course Riva was Ray's best friend. Ray also enjoyed torturing his son Rick :-)
Raymond had a fine old age, and as I contemplated the loss of my wonderful Riva, I would think, but at least I'll have Raymond for a while longer. In late August Ray started to miss a meal now and then, and then he had some diarrhea and vomiting. We still weren't THAT concerned, as trash surfing was also one of Ray's favorite sports, and who knows what he may have eaten. But I could tell by looking at his eyes and by how his hipbones were starting to jut out that there was a problem. I left for Colorado to help Pam prepare for Don's funeral, and got the devastating diagnosis of lymphoma while I was gone. Ray's special friends, along with Jim, made sure that Ray had some outings while I was out at Pam's, and he even got to go up and watch the agility trial that was held here at the house while I was gone. Ray always enjoyed watching dog sports just as much as DOING dog sports. I had a couple good days with Ray when I got back, and then he really deteriorated over the next week. Raymond told me, I'm ready any time, Mom, but I know you and Dad need a little bit more time. And a few days later, George and I sent him on to wait for us.
Ray lives on in his four terrific and accomplished kids, Rick, Wink, Collin, and Jo, and his sixteen grandchildren. I have some of Ray's frozen sperm, and perhaps there will be more Raymond pups in the future. If that is not meant to be, then I will cherish the memories of this incredible animal.
January 26, 2001 - October 8, 2014
At the Gate
When Sheepdogs Die they don't go to the Rainbow bridge
They wait, at the gate of the pasture in the sky
They sit and wait, patiently like they always did in their mortal days
The pasture is as big as the eye can see
There are rolling hills dotted with sheep
Waiting for their Shepherd, and his dog
It may be many years, but the sheepdog will wait
He is faithful, always was, and even more so now
See, he has his freedom, now that he has left the bounds of earth
But, more than ever, he feels he must wait
For this pasture is the one that will surpass the others
There are no real fences, just wonderful sheep, rolling hills
And all the time in the world
Why would there be a gate you ask?
So the shepherd could find his sheepdog
So, when your sheepdog loses his grip on this world
Do not spend so long shedding a tear
For this sheepdog awaits you no worries no fear
He waits to join you again
This time it will be forever
Forever with you and the sheep