Though no trains have passed by here in many years, the old railroad bed remains, now an easy trail for a walk through nearby woods. Of all the places we walked together, this was perhaps his favorite. As I stayed on my easy trail, under a canopy of treetops, he went about his life’s work of keeping me safe. This he did with enthusiasm by thoroughly investigating the depths of the woods, every hollow tree, shadowy den, and tangled thicket of vines mixed with wild rosebushes. He sniffed out and chased every squirrel and other possible danger before joyfully crashing back through the woods at full speed, to check on me. Then he was off and running again. The woods were ours to explore in those happy days. With the passage of time his pace began to slow, his energy waned, but not his joy, or his purpose. Even when his steps became painful, he did not give up his mission. Now he stayed more often on the easy trail with me, still on guard, watching, sniffing, happy and intent to listen to the language of the woods.
Now his job has ended. He’s no longer on duty. His spirit is free to roam, no pain slows his pace. He’s in the breeze that whispers through the treetops. He’s in the shadows of the tangled vines in the deep woods, and the patches of dappled sunlight on my easy trail. As I listen to the language of the woods, I remember, and smile.
Harry the magnificent Giant Schnauzer died on April 15, 2016 at the age of 16 years. He is greatly missed.