Mind – Body – Soul of a Fly Fisher – What is it About Dogs?

| February 1, 2015

life flag #flyfishngWhat is it about dogs? They have the uncanny ability to evoke every emotion that we accredit to fellow humans. They come in all flavors, just like humans. And we celebrate the joy of their births as greatly as we morn their deaths, most often.

Today, our oldest dog, who surprisingly enough outlived our younger golden retriever by 11 months, lies on our back porch, inside on her bed, facing forward so she can look down the hallway. Her time is measured in hours now. She’s about to give up the ghost.

This event, at her age, is expected and much more of a natural outcome than the loss of our golden last year. Her name IS Ellie and she scarfed life in just as she scarfed her top-shelf dog food – aggressive, dominant, and as my wife reminded me saying, “She’s the brains of the operation.”

She’s winding down hour by hour now, and I know everyone has their own ideas on a cherished companion’s endings, but we are well aware of her pain levels, expression of pain, and there’s none of that. It’s just a fast spinning top finally winding down. There’s no winding that string back on, and we tend her as we would hope to be tended ourselves.

But it makes me think … about how much a part of our souls, the souls of many fly fishers, these dogs are. I can’t even keep count of all the passings I’ve seen from fly fisher’s perspectives – since the advent of easy sharing of hard things on Facebook, and through their websites. I feel their pain. Last ride on a drift boat, constant companions that never complain … a last ride in the car for my golden last year …

This is the only way I can figure out how to limit reading of the rest of this very personal section of this story to my subscribers who I know and who actually care ——-

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And I think about the incredible role these animals play in a younger generation’s psyche. Dogs are the millennial’s replacement for children. The millennial generation, which I am well familiar with, isn’t marrying and they aren’t having children. Once again, it’s easy to judge them from an elderly perspective; they have huge dogs in small apartments. They are in class or working all day while their dogs sit around and wait, and wait, and wait … How sad is that?

When a dog winds down, as our two have in eleven months, they also evoke all my memories of them and all the dogs I’ve had in the past. There really weren’t that many, and it’s easy to remember a pair of dogs I was joyful that I never had.

My previous wife had a pair of poorly bred obese dalmatians that were taken in by her mother, and I was forced to tolerate every time we had our holiday visits in Lawrence, Kansas. Her mom was a chain smoker, and we were pinned inside a smallish house (it was always winter) with these misbehaving dogs, maybe a mile from the KU campus. Not quite, but almost hell on earth. How many red flags is that? Thankfully, that was a short marriage … she was obviously preparing her financial exit as we exchanged vows.

In the last year since we buried Anna in the back yard, I have been convinced that Ellie has teetered in a world where she could see the ghosts wandering our shotgun hallway. Maybe a bit of that, and simply being lost in her own house in reality.

Both Anna and Ellie define almost the entire breadth of my wife’s and my blessed relationship and marriage. A piece of our timeline now changes color, and we have to rely on our memories to recall a dog’s life compressed into only thirteen years of our lives. Ellie came to us from the rescue folks with the name “highway” because that’s where they found her. And she came with all the wisdom of a highway dog – finding good trash to eat, great ways to escape and streetwise to the extreme. That didn’t stop her from taking in a little golden puppy as her own, and nurturing her and dominating her and protecting her as part of the pack.


I’m not one who seeks ghosts, and have never seen ghosts, and don’t think I want to either. However, if you’ve seen a ghost, then you know there’s more to this life than this life. Those of us who have not or cannot see ghosts are at a supreme disadvantage. We have to rely more heavily on faith of an afterlife than those who’ve seen actual evidence.

I do know I’ve said, and I will say again, “I don’t want to go to heaven if there’s no dogs there.” That may be overly simplistic, and maybe I misunderestimate that next life. I also always say, “those that have died have the ultimate answer to the ultimate question.” I must’ve read that somewhere.

When we fly fish, we may be lucky enough to have a human companion for every outing, or we may be lucky enough to have a canine companion for every outing. But is there any doubt that having a companion makes us lucky? The science is in on this topic and there’s no doubt we live longer with spouses, and we live longer with animal companions as well.

Thanks for reading. This is another hard day, but at the same time one near release for a dog’s life well lived, well run, rewarded and rewarding for all those who had the pleasure of her short existence on this planet.


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Category: Body-Mind-Soul, Writing

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I write. I photograph. I fish, and I live.

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