DaisyDuke by Christine Rucker

For the original story and more photos, visit Christine Rucker.

This was Daisy. Calm in the presence of chaos. Always a perfect combination of grace and goof. Of curiosity and fear. We were lucky to have shared 14 years of adventures and mis-adventures. 

Yes, she was 14.

I do it myself, when someone tells me they lost a pet, first I offer my condolences, then I ask..so how old was he/she? somehow the longer the life of the animal.. the easier it should be to let go, right?

They’ve had a full life, and probably enough love for five lifetimes. They have also been entwined longer in your life and they become the glue that keeps the rest of your family together.

Yes, fourteen IS a ripe old age for a dog, and especially her breed of German Shorthair Pointer.

 But 14 years is not long enough when they have planted roots into your life.

She grew up in the shadow of a great dog name “Duke’, who stayed with us until he was 19. She was named DaisyDuke in honor of him. We shared her lineage with one of my best friends who adopted her brother “Luke”. They made up the Dukes of Hazard dog dynasty.

There are a million “little” things that made Daisy “Daisy”.

The way she would bark when the tires hit our gravel drive and she would stick her head out the window inhaling the air, biting at the trees we passed by. Like she was trying to ingest all that was home to her.

The way she would know the second I got out of the shower, no matter how hard it was for her to climb the stairs as she got older, she would be waiting to lick the water off my legs and if there was lotion involved. it was like icing.

The way she would press her body against mine at night.. not just sleeping “next” to me.. but sleeping with me. How you could easily get her to break into a song by one howl in the morning and the way her ears would perk and her head would cock when you told her there were rabbits waiting for her outside.

The way she barked at you if you were a little late in feeding her, just in case you might have forgotten.

These are just the physical things she would do. She could easily read my emotions and at times knew me better than I knew myself, and while she couldn’t talk, she had developed a different kind of language. One that spoke directly to my emotions.

She’s been my confidant, my therapist, and my marriage counselor when needed. She came into my life when I wanted kids but could not have them... and she became my surrogate child.

It might sound cliche to say she was the sweetest dog I’ve ever known. I’ve known a lot of dogs and been privileged to spend my time on this planet surrounded by dogs. But, Daisy truly was the sweetest I’ve ever met.
She had a combination of gentleness and kindness that really is rare in an animal. She never killed anything. She was kind of a Buddah dog that way..

There was the time she found baby bunnies in the back yard and brought them in one by one to her dog bed,then took a nap on top of them. If anything has ever died from too much love, it was those bunnies.

Being a bird dog, she would find birds and bring them to me inside. As soon as they dried off from her slobber , they would take flight and we would chase them through the house and release them back outside.

She once met her match when she cornered a chip monk who took offense and hissed at her, then took pleasure in chasing Daisy back to the house.

And she was the only dog in our pack that I would allow off leash when a baby fawn showed up at our house needing some care. It immediately imprinted on Daisy and Daisy reluctantly became a surrogate animal mom for the fawn.

Daisy was not the independent type unless we were on a trail, then she would satellite me or just plain wander off.

I tried the E-Collar a few times, but she figured out how far she needed to be away from me for it not to work. This only enabled the satellite effect.

I had a signature “Whoop Whoop” when I wanted to find her, and so many times that would be answered by a “Bark Bark” coming from the parking area of the trail. She would be waiting by the car for me, ready to go home and my bike ride was usually cut short when it was hot.

But other than that, she didn’t mind asking for help.. she would bark at doorsteps the couple times she got lost until someone came to the door. Once she wandered off on a hike along the Blue Ridge parkway, she went to the road and barked at passing cars until someone stopped.

Even though most pointers are good swimmers, she preferred if you’d find her a big raft or boat to float on. The few times she was inured, she was the best dog patient ever, because she didn’t fight your help, she loved it.

She eventually became a better trail dog and would come when called quickly. So when I blindly got another pointer. This one rescued and wired with an anxiety I couldn’t put my finger on, I recruited Daisy to help with the training.

Since Daisy came back to me when I called her and she was 20 lbs. bigger than our new dog Bailey.. I figured I could leash them together and Daisy could bring her back by overpowering Bailey.
I momentarily forgot how easy going Daisy was. Bailey took off, dragging Daisy along for the ride. They ended up 4 miles down the road at a dairy farm, probably with Daisy barking at the farmhouse until someone came out.
The call I got from the farmer was hilarious: “So, I know pointers are prone to run off and all.. but I never seen two of ‘em tied together before”

And that was Daisy. Ready to go along for the ride without a worry. She traveled across country with us when she was recovering from a knee surgery. She stayed in weird places and strange motels without a single bark of opposition. She traveled more miles with me than most people have. She adventured hard and made me laugh often.

And she was always there waiting for me when I returned from adventures of my own. She taught me to be kinder, and made me a more patient person.

We always think in terms of how to train our dogs, but don’t realize the way they train us. She taught me how to relax more and appreciate a 2 mile walk in the woods instead of a 20 mile ride in the woods.

14 years of adventures are suddenly ending in a sterile emergency vet office at 11:00 at night on the 4th of July.

Leaving us wondering what happened and how we are going to walk out of here without you.

Daisy was too sweet of a dog to linger with an illness and too sweet of a dog to make us wonder when the time was “right” to let her go. She got sick suddenly and the decision was made for us. Everything happened so quickly.

All we could do was send you out of this world with our love and our tears.

Your last day was spent in the woods and by the river, with a pack that loved you. And that’s how it should have been for a dog as sweet as you.

 I’m sure you’ve carved out a little piece of dog heaven and named it Hazard County.

There are thousands of pictures I could share of Daisy's life. But these embody her like no others I have taken of her. We loaded her up in an overpacked element and drove west. She was the peacekeeper, the comedian, and the best therapist a married couple could have on a 4,000 mile journey. This is the spirit of Daisy:

For the original story published July 12, 2017 and more photos, visit Christine Rucker.

Wild Love by Christine Rucker

Detached attachment is a sticky line.

Love tends to hook onto my heart easily and when I love back, it’s for the long haul.

So when a four month old starving fawn walked up to me in the yard this past September, I felt those hooks sink in and I knew I was in for a life changing experience . I named her Farrah Fawncett. And Farrah was going to challenge how I could love something with a sense of detachment.

I felt like new mom. Second guessing my every decision, googling what to feed, how much to feed this new baby. When her belly would swell from the fruit and goat milk I gave her.. I worried I might kill her.. but a quick google search tipped me off to adding baby gas drops to her milk.

Of course I wanted to bring her inside, let her sleep with us and our three dogs. But I also knew that might ruin her chance of staying wild. And I more than anyone, know that being wild is being free. So instead, I made little huts all around the woods near our house. I spread straw under our deck and kept all our dogs.-except our gentle dog daisy- on leashes until I knew she would grow bigger and faster than the pups.

And I fell in love. hard. I’ve had many animals in my life.. I’ve raised all our dogs from pups to old age. But Farrah was different . I felt a crushing weight of responsibility to keep her alive and also keep her free. With the dogs I had a level of control.. but when Farrah left our front porch after eating and went into the woods, control was out of my reach.

I didn’t sleep much on the nights it got into the single digits. But Farrah would be at the door at day break , her fur all fluffed up and looking much bigger than she actually was. When I would her the coyotes howl and yip at night.. I’d get up and turn all the outside lights on. And in the morning, she would be waiting for me by the door.

We live in the middle of a triangle of hunters, so every time I would hear a gunshot, I would hold my breath. But then she would pop her head out of the woods, reminding me that she felt safe here and was not going to wander off too far.

People told me to put an orange collar on her, or an orange handkerchief, that she was now a family pet. I didn’t follow their advice. For one, she was not mine to keep or lay claim to, and secondly, I worried she’d get it hung up on something in the woods. Mostly, I didn’t want other deer to avoid her because of something “human” hanging around her neck. I wanted to keep her wild more than my need tokeep her mine.  I’ve been connected to this landscape we live in since we moved ten years ago and through that landscape, I felt connected to Farrah. We are all part of nature, and nature is more about connections to the wild world than it is about taming it.

I started to prepare myself for the morning she would not show up. And those occasional times she wouldn’t be waiting at the door, I would lose hours of my day just worrying about her, until she rambled up to the house mid-day. So it was a tightrope I balanced on. I learned to love without expectation. I learned to love something as much as I could and then let hope take over.

When I wondered if she was lonely being out in the woods solo, I would look outside and watch her doing hot laps chasing the dogs around the fenced-in enclosure. She found a way to play with them on my terms.

She brought a kind of balance into my life that is hard to explain. It’s a little like being able inhale deeper and breath easier. There was a new calmness around the house that her presence

There are a handful of moments in my life that I feel are perfect, pure experiences.
One evening I was walking the dogs down by the river. We had just had a big rain and this heavy fog had settled over the river but you could see the clouds turning a deep pink from the sunset. It was as if we were surrounded in a soft cotton candy colored fog. I turned to walk back up the trail and Farrah was standing behind us.As she joined us at the river , she was silhouetted in this amazing colored fog. I wished only for a second that I had a camera but then realized it would have taken me out of this moment and taken away the rawness of this experience. Farrah walked the trail with us, all of us still enveloped in this surreal fog. As long as I live, the memory of that evening will be etched into my mind.

She began to take walks with us, then she started to follow me on my mountain bike though the trails. I finally let Bailey, my English pointer, off leash and she and Farrah would rip through the woods playing a hilarious game of tag and hide and seek. Farrah always won.

Eventually she stopped coming every day. Spring was here and the forest was full of new green treats. Maybe she was getting introduced to other yearlings that had separated from their mom. She was becoming more wild. This was my goal all along. She had gotten through the winter. She was still small, but she had filled out.

She was returning where she belonged. But it hurt. And we missed her. When she would pop back out of the woods, I was almost as surprised as when I first saw her. A kind of excitement you might get when you see family member you haven’t seen in a while. A kind of fluttering inyour stomach.

But the weeks we didn’t see her, that fluttering was replaced by a quiet sadness.

I’ve tried to write this many times but could not find the words. Or I thought in writing this, it might jinx her from ever coming back.

It’s been over two weeks since she last visited. Part of me is saying she’s moved on. Part of me is worried she ran into trouble. But all of my heart knows where ever she is, she had the loveof a human family, a free love that didn’t try to make her less wild. She was simply loved and given a little more advantage to survive.

This story has been abbreviated for this blog. To read the full version published on May 10, 2017 with more photos and videos, visit Christine Rucker