Ode to Tut

September 2018

For over 14 years, my dog, Tut, has tagged along with me on every trail ride. I always appreciated her company, running ahead, announcing our presence to the wildlife, chasing the bears away before they chased us. She also had this calming effect on my somewhat nervous Arabian mare, Salti. If Tut could run through a large mud puddle then Salti knew it was safe for her to go through too, and if that scary old bridge was passable by a dog, then Salti figured it had to be okay.

We had great rides together and I’m sure we put in hundreds and hundreds of miles over the years, enjoying the trees, the wildflowers, the blue sky and warming sun, every spring, summer and fall. We’d stop to pick the berries along the way and share handfuls of raspberries, strawberries, saskatoons, and blueberries while Salti grazed on the tall timothy and clover. Then, on the way back, Tut and Salti would always pause for a drink from the pond along side the road. And every time we returned home I’d say, “Yep, Tut. That was a good ride, hey?” and although Tut never said anything, I knew she agreed.

So it was a sad time when Tut, growing gray, and the arthritis kicking in and wreaking havoc with her bones, decided her trail rides were over. I remember that day. We were heading up a steep hill and when we reached the top, Tut turned around and started home. She knew she couldn’t make the full trip and I understood. I turned Salti around and walked alongside Tut, keeping Salti to a slow pace, realizing that this was probably going to be Tut’s last outing and storing every last moment in my memory banks to draw upon in later years.

For two years after that last ride Tut would lay on her rug on the house steps and watch me head off on Salti and wait patiently for our return. She never had any inkling of following. Until last week.

Salti and I headed off early that morning to avoid the heat and the flies, and after galloping and trotting and walking for three miles or so we turned around and headed home. We had only taken a few steps when Salti stopped and I looked down. There was Tut. She looked up at me, gave a brief wag of her tail, and plopped down on the ground. She had followed us the whole way, and at quite a pace too in order to keep up with us. She was exhausted.

I hopped off and rushed to her. My poor girl. “Thought you were a spring chicken, hey?” I asked. “You forgot you’re 16 years old, silly girl.”

There was no way she could walk home so I bent down on my knees, put my head between her front and back legs, slid her over my shoulders, and carried her while leading Salti by her reins.

Although she’d lost weight over the last year, as most old dogs will, Tut started to feel heavier after the first mile. We stopped, I gently put her on the ground and we paused to enjoy the raspberries alongside the trail. One handful for Tut, one for me, another handful for Tut, another for me, while Salti grazed on the raspberry canes. When we had our fill, I put Tut back over my shoulders and we walked for another mile until we came to the pond. After Tut waded in and had a few laps of water I put her back over my shoulders and we headed home. Then, not too far from our house, I put her back on the ground and let her walk the rest of the way. Tut, after all, has her dignity too.

When we got home I unsaddled Salti and patted Tut. I knew from then on, I would have to put her inside the house before I headed out on any future trails, but I had to admit it was a great last ride together. Tut reminded me of her loyalty, and I hope she saw mine. I swallowed the lump that formed in my throat and gave her a hug. “That was a good ride, hey?” Tut wagged her tail and I knew that meant yes.

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at www.DonnaWhiteBooks.com

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