Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cabin Creek's Silver Saber - A Most Happy Fella'

        It's taken a long time to get to the point where I could write about our Saber...his leaving us was so sudden, so unexpected, and so heartbreaking that the words wouldn't come together.  But then I think that it's that way any time you lose one of your precious friends.  He was getting older...but he certainly didn't know it.  He lived every day with joyous unconcern, full of love, doting on the two of us and Belle, his soulmate.  He was the puppy we kept out of our beloved Shaena's last litter; his daddy our first Cabin Creek namesake:  Rebel Yell.

        (We live just on the edge of Cabin Creek, the site of two Civil War battles in Indian Territory.  Indian Territory was primarily Confederate in thinking...a lot of the Native Americans who were relocated on the Trail of Tears, especially the Cherokees, had been plantation and slave owners in the deep South. 
       There wasn't a lot of fighting in our area, but the second battle at Cabin Creek was a runaway victory for the Confederates who were desperate for clothing, shoes, medicines...any kind of supplies.  They even made off with a large amount of gold that was destined for Fort Gibson.  Today the stories still abound about where it was hidden.  There is still supposed to be a Yankee cannon in the creek just a few hundred feet from us, knocked off the bluff during the battle.  As far as we know it hasn't been "rescued"...but then....I'm not sure the "rescuer" would share that good news!)

          So...we decided that if our shepherds are already "dressed" in silver, it would be a natural name for them...dressed in the same colors as two of our great-grandparents!  
          Before Saber was full grown there came a time that we had to start making trips again and again to the University of Washington, some of them involving long stays.  My husband Les is a cancer survivor and the good doctors at UW were successful in killing the cancer in the base of his tongue, but afterwards we were faced trip after trip for reconstructive work.  Before we started this long saga, my husband built large pens for each of the dogs, with plenty of exercise room and shade.  Since we live in the country it wouldn't be a good idea to leave them loose.  With good neighbors who fed them each day and checked on our surroundings, we made our trips with peace of mind (and thankfulness for good friends!)

          The trips were necessary for a number of years and our boys seemed to be content with their situation...well, that is...unless there was a thunderstorm.  Rebel didn't like storms but would retire to his house; Saber on the other hand would do everything in his power to destroy the cyclone fence that stood between him and what he considered a safe haven...the side porch of our house.  The fence was repaired, re-enforced, and redone time after time; Saber would methodically reduce it to a tangled mess at the first sounds of thunder.  Once he got to the porch, he became his happy self...he just wanted to be with his humans!  Over the years of perfecting his escape method he developed a massive broad chest, probably the largest of any male we had ever had.  I think he probably could have pulled a one horse carriage by himself if his legs had been long enough!

          When Belle came into our lives, Saber was of course destined to be the father of puppies when Belle "came of age."  Belle was allowed to be the house dog and, being the diva she was, took her sweet time about deciding to become a mother.  But the wait was worth it!  It was a beautiful litter!

          A few years ago Rebel came to his path across the Rainbow Bridge; after that, Saber was decidedly lonely.  Les decided to remove the pens and let Saber stay in the yard (he was excellent at defining his boundries).  It wasn't very long though before Les decided that Saber should be able to join Belle as a house dog.  He acclimated as if he had known the rules all his life.  To say he was thrilled to be able to be with his "people" full time was an understatement.  We were sorry we hadn't made the decision sooner! 

         Even though he was older than Belle by a lot of years, he instinctively knew that Belle was the diva...and he chose to ignore the fact that she THOUGHT she was the dog in charge.  The only "rule" he accepted was that it was Belle's sofa (mainly because he really didn't care!)  His calling, as he saw it, was to take care of Les.  If Les was mowing the yard, Saber would patiently follow him back and forth (it's over 2 acres) until the mowing was done.  If Les was working on a fence (or anything else) Saber would choose a spot (in the shade if possible) where he could keep an eye on him.  Les was his hero in every way.  
         Saber was perpetually happy...he always had what amounted to a great big doggie smile on his face whenever you came into sight.  If he had been outside (even for five minutes) you would hear his thundering trot (we have hardwood floors) as he made a beeline to come greet you as if he had been gone for days.  Coming through a doorway with that big smile could happen dozens of times in one day!
         At night he considered himself guardian of the upstairs, never moving from his post until one of us was up in the morning.  Then there were the sounds of that massive tail making great thumping whacks hitting both sides of the walls in the hall....absolute joy that his people were about to embark another great day.  Each and every day was a new adventure that he enjoyed so much you couldn't help but enjoy it with him!
         Last winter northeast Oklahoma had an incredible blizzard; our corner of the state averaged 28-30" of snow.  We were totally immobile.  Les cleared the porch steps and a short path, but it was impossible to move either car.  At least we had electricity and water which was more than we had had in the two ice storms a couple of years before we could stay put until it had melted somewhat.  One afternoon I could hear Saber barking wildly...Les came inside and told me I needed to come out and see what was happening.  

        Saber, his head held high so he could see over the snow, was literally plowing a path down the driveway!  That massive chest was as good as a plow!  He would hold his head up in joyous abandon, give a few happy barks, lower his head and "plow" several feet through the show, raise his head and repeat the process!  He "plowed" a path from our porch to the road which is about 300'!!!

        His path coming back to the house wasn't quiet as straight but he was just as happy about it!  Since that was the route to the mail box, he may have thought he was simply fixing things so we could go after the mail!!!  It was immaterial that the mail couldn't get there for days...he was totally happy with himself!

        He had almost another whole year with us.  My husband's nightly "ritual" is to go outside one last time before bedtime.  Both dogs go with him; it's their last bathroom break plus a patrol for "critters".  When Les came running back in that night I knew something was wrong...Saber had simply fallen over and  didn't get up.  My precious husband had been trying to give him CPR hoping to save him.  We both tried...not wanting to believe that it had happened so quickly.  
        He told me then that Belle and Saber had taken their run around the orchard as usual, had come back up on the porch and lay down by Les' chair...but when Les got up to come inside, Saber stood up part way and...just...didn't.   It happened so quickly that we simply couldn't believe was one of the only two times in our lives I've seen my husband cry.
        Our only consolation is that he was doing the things he loved most.  We decided to put him in one of his favorite spots in the flower bed just off the patio...under a redbud tree.  It just seemed right.  I feel sure that when he crossed the Rainbow Bridge, God knew what Saber would want...Saber has picked a spot where he has a perfect view.  He will be waiting, quite contentedly watching, with that happy smile on his of these days...he knows he'll see us again....

         Until then, sweet fellow....