We Miss You Colby
Our Official Blueberry Greeter Dog
June 16, 1999 – March 5, 2014
I don’t remember much about my puppy years. I remember that I had a good home and they took the time to teach me about the things a young dog is supposed to know, but sometime when I think I was two or three years old I ran away from home and got lost. Maybe I was chasing a deer or some animal in the woods near my home, but I ran so far that I couldn’t find my way back.
The next few weeks were a blur, and the people who found me said I had been living with the horses at Scarborough Downs. I was very thin and my fur was dirty and matted, and I had all sorts of internal parasites. They took me to the animal shelter in Westbrook and didn’t think I was going to make it, I was so sick. The veterinarians there were very gentle and patient with me, and cured me and made me well again but it took several months. The people there combed and brushed me, and I was a fine looking dog and healthy, but I was very depressed.
I spent most of my days huddled in the back of my cage at the shelter, and no one ever came to see me. Would I ever have a home again, with people to care for me and love me? I had just about given up any hope when this man and women came to the shelter one day in early June 2003. They had been looking for a dog to replace their beloved Happy, who had died of old age the previous September. The man saw me huddled at the back of my cage and asked one of the attendants at the shelter if he could take me outside to the exercise yard. “He is so pathetic looking,” said the man. “Perhaps he’ll perk up a bit to get out of his cage.”
And did I! As soon as he led me to the yard I perked up and started to run around like a little pup! The man smiled “We’ll take him.” “I think he is just the kind of dog we’re looking for, someone to hike and ski with and help us around the farm. He will help fill the gap in our lives that only a dog to share it with can do.”
The man and women had to fill out a lot of paperwork and pay something to the shelter for my care and medicine, and then we all went in their car to my new home. I was excited, and they let me stick my head out the window and zoom as we went down the road. When we got to my new home I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was an old farm, with fields to run in and woods to explore. There was even a cat to chase in the house! I was very happy to have a new home, at long last. When you have been a “pound puppy” you never forget and I was always grateful to have been rescued and to have a new home.
My new master had asked the shelter people what my name was. “We don’t know – there was no tag or collar on him when he was found. We’ve been calling him ‘Tanner’ while he has been here, but you can call him anything you’d like once you get him home,” they said.
I have a new name and a new home!
My people grow blueberries on their farm and in the summer people come from all around to pick the fruit. To get the blueberry bushes ready for the picking season there is a lot of work to be done, pruning and clipping and weeding, and they took me with them to learn about the farm. On the first day there I smelled a deer and broke my lead running after it down into the woods. I ran and ran, but never caught it. When I stopped running I was deep in the woods and didn’t know where I was. I was lost, again, just like before!
My master found me, about a mile from home, and gently led me back to the farmhouse. He wasn’t mean or angry with me, but he did have a serious talk about running away. After that he took me on many long walks in the woods so I could learn about the farm and know where everything was. He had taken me to the Naples Veterinarian Hospital in mid June 2003 to make sure all my shots were up to date, and in September he took me back and had a “never lost” chip inserted into my neck with his name and address on it.
“Now, if you ever get lost again,” he said “people will be able to find out where your home is and bring you back home.” He also got me a new collar with my own name “Colby” on the tag with my people’s phone number – just in case.
But you know, other than wandering sometimes over to the neighbor’s farm, I never strayed far from home and always came home when they called me. Even though I always checked out the apple trees in our fields for deer smells, I never again took off after one. My master had been very clear about that. I did enjoy chasing the wild turkeys, but they would always fly off up in a tree and I could never catch them. Once, in June of 2005 I had a painful encounter with a porcupine and my people had to take me to the vet to have the quills pulled out. My master spoke with me about staying away from porcupines in the future, and I’d learned my lesson well.
My master often took me skiing and snowshoeing when winter came, and I loved to go off on trips with him. If the snow was very deep I’d follow along behind in the trail he make for me, but if the crust was hard I could run alongside him. Oh, how I loved our outings! Sometimes there were other people he’d ski with and they had a dog, Lara, that would run with me. I loved these outings, and I loved the cold weather. Sometimes I’d just go out and lay in the snow. My long hair kept me warm, and I loved to romp through the deep snow.
I always loved to take rides in the car, and my master always spoiled me. Whenever I put a paw up to the right window in the back seat he always put the window down a little so I could put my head out and zoom. There were always new smells, and every time we passed horses in the fields along the way I sniffed real hard to see if they were the same horses I had lived with when I was lost. The other special place he took me was to the town transfer station – what wonderful smells there!
Sometimes my people would take a long trip and had to leave me at a kennel while they were gone. They went to Germany, Austria, Ireland, Hungary, Russia, Sicily, and Egypt over the years and would be gone for a couple of weeks. I stayed with the Sisters at the Community of the Resurrection in Otisfield in an old barn that they had converted into a kennel for dogs. They were very good to me there, taking me for walks, and fussing over me. When my people came to get me on my first trip I even asked Sister Rosalie if it was ok to leave her and go home with my people.
Colby, the Official Blueberry Greeter Dog!
I took my duties as the blueberry dog very seriously. When my mistress was down in the blueberry patch pruning the bushes in the spring, I would stay right with her, lying down under the bushes if it was sunny, or on the grass next to her. Sometimes I’d dig around in the mulch at the base of the bushes if I could smell or hear a mouse or vole, but I never had much luck in catching them.
I liked to keep lookout on the hill overlooking the blueberries when my master was mowing or working on the irrigation system. I’d roam around the bushes and came back often to check on my people, and then when they would go back up to the house I’d run ahead of them. If it was real hot out I’d take a nap on the cool cement floor in the shade in the barn until they came up from the fields. Those were wonderful days, and my people always took time to talk to me and pet me and tell me that they loved me. I was so happy! Could any dog be luckier?
The best time of the year, though, was when the people started to come in the summer time to pick blueberries. I stood in the driveway whenever I heard a car drive up, and checked out every car. After I carefully marked the tires on the cars I would greet the people as they got out. I especially liked the little girls, and they really liked me. I wasn’t so keen on little boys and liked to run after them when they ran – this made my master cross, so I didn’t do this very often.
Sometimes there would be a bus full of summer camp kids and I was really happy if they were little girl campers. They would fuss over me “Oh, can I pet your dog? Can I rub his ears? Oh, he is so soft and fuzzy!” I loved little girls, and they loved me. If they were little boy campers I usually hid in the blueberry stand from them – they were too boisterous.
The pick-your-own blueberry season started about the middle of July every year and ran until after Labor Day, sometimes until the first hard frost hit the blueberries still on the bushes. My people kept track of all the berries picked, and every time a ton of berries had been picked they awarded a certificate and prizes to the person who had helped bring the total to one, two, three, or more tons that season. My job, as the official blueberry greeter dog, was to herd the winners to the front of the stand so that my master could take their picture with me for the Bridgton News. People saw my picture in the paper so often that when they came to the blueberry farm to pick they would ask for me by name: “Where is Colby?” they would say. “Is he here today?”
My master and I had a little game we would play with the blueberry pickers. In his most serious voice he told them that they had to sample enough berries while they were picking so that their tongues would be blue, and he would check them when they came up from the fields. He showed them my blue tongue and told them their tongues had to be a blue as mine, or he would send them back down to sample more berries. That joke between us never got old.
One year a television reporter and cameraman from Channel 13 came and did a story on blueberry picking. They interviewed many people picking blueberries, and while one of them was talking to the camera he left the bucket of berries he had picked on the ground. I love blueberries and sometimes will pick them off the bushes, but this was too good to pass up. I started in eating from this nice full bucket of berries, but my master gently stopped me before I really got going. Neither the TV lady nor the picker noticed anything, and my master led me away and said that I wasn’t supposed to be doing that. I had to pick my own berries off the bushes if I wanted any. I didn’t think that was much fun, it was a lot easier from the bucket.
Another time L.L. Bean came with a big crew of photographers and kids to model children’s clothes for one of their catalogs. They took over the whole farm all day for their photo shoot. My mistress made me a special blueberry neckerchief to wear, and my master told me that I could watch but should not get in the way of everything that was going on. He made up special buckets of berries for the little girls who were modelling clothes to hold. I watched all the activity for a while, but it was boring and I just laid down in the shade and took a nap.
The end of the blueberry picking season was always a sad time for me. I loved the smell of the fall colors and the way that the leaves rustled under my feet, but the people stopped coming to pick berries and I would wait on the driveway for their cars that didn’t come any more. I couldn’t understand what had happened, and my master would come and sit on the front steps to the blueberry stand and explain to me that it was time for us to put the blueberry bushes to bed for the winter and that people would come again next year. I was still sad, but he helped me understand a little. I always liked it when my master talked to me, just like I was a real person and not just a dog. He always said “Colby, I love you and you are my big brave boy. You’re a big help around here. We couldn’t do without you!”
I grow old
When I was about 13 years old I started to show my age. My master said that I was growing old in dog years but that he and the mistress would take care of me. I noticed that I moved a lot slower and couldn’t jump up into the car’s back seat like I used to. The steps to the kitchen and down to the book room were harder to climb. I still loved my special bed under the mistress’ shipping counter in the book room, but sometimes I needed help to get up and down the three steps from the mud room to the shipping room.
My master took me to the Naples vet at the end of September 2012 and Dr. Harker said that I was getting arthritis in my hind legs. She gave me some medicine to help ease my pain whenever it hurt, and it helped for a while. Later, on one of my visits she noticed that I was dragging my right rear leg and said that it looked like things were getting worse. She prescribed a regular dose of medicine and my master and mistress mixed that into my food every morning and evening starting near the end of August 2013. It helped the pain, but I still had problems getting around. I couldn’t see as well as I used to, and sometimes couldn’t hear my people calling me either. My master would find me just staring into space out in the yard – Dr. Harker said that this is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans, and that they just needed to be careful and care for me as best they could.
My mistress found me stranded on the cover to our swimming pool where I had wandered and rescued me with some difficulty. I don’t remember going there. After I did that a few more times my master put up a big snow fence around the pool to keep me safe. After the snow came and I couldn’t get around with my bad rear leg he set up a folding fence around the edge of our farmer’s porch so I could go out from the kitchen to go to the bathroom without worry about my getting stuck in the deep snow.
My legs wouldn’t work right on the slippery wooden floors and I’d get stuck and couldn’t get up. My mistress bought many runners and area rugs so I could get traction and get around, and my master was always there to lift up my rear end when I got stuck. When I was confused and wandering around the house he would gently lead me to my bed and make sure I was all set. For more than six months they watched over me, doing their best to make me comfortable. When I made a mess in the house they never scolded me. My master checked on me several times every night, taking me outside to pee a couple of times and gently leading me back to my bed. He lifted me into the big bathtub at least weekly to shampoo me down and wash away where I had soiled myself. My world shrunk from roaming the fields and farm to the small area from the bedroom to the living room and kitchen, with brief trips out to the back porch, but my people still loved me and paid me extra attention all these long months as I got older and more infirm.
During these months my master would often lay down on the floor next to me in the living room and pet me, telling me what a brave and wonderful dog I was. I would close my eyes and enjoy the attention, and I felt that I was truly the most lucky dog in the world. When my master was gone on a trip or errand out of the house, I would roam the house, restless, until he came home. When I took a nap I often did so next to his big chair or where he has left his boots. I really loved him.
I was now nearly 15 years old - old for my mixed Wheaton Terrier – Chow mix breed. I was tired. I slept most of the day, but still roused myself for breakfast and supper and clean my dish.
On March 4, 2014, I took a turn for the worst. I was in pain and the medications didn’t help. I started giving little yelps of pain when I was in distress, and my master came and held me until the pain went away. He lay on the floor next to me and stroked my head, and I drifted off to sleep. The next morning I wouldn’t eat my breakfast, and refused even the choice treats my master offered to me. I finally got to sleep on my bed.
My master and mistress took me to Dr. Harker at the vets that afternoon and for the first time I didn’t struggle on the examination table. I just lay there, not sleeping but not moving either. Dr. Harker checked my heart and lungs, and told my people the sad news they already knew. I was ready, and tried to tell my people to let me go – it was time, and it was ok.
On the afternoon of March 5, with my master holding me in my arms, the doctor gave me an injection and I peacefully passed away. No more pain, no more slipping and falling. My master kissed me on my head and told me he loved me one last time. He carried me back home and when the snow goes and the ground thaws he will bury me in the corner of the back yard next to the two beloved brother dogs, Buffalo and Happy, which came before me. I miss my people so much, as much I know they miss me. We had nearly 11 wonderful years together and so many warm and loving memories. I have truly been a very lucky dog, but I miss them.
The Rainbow Bridge
A good friend sent me this poem when Buffalo died in 2000. I sobbed with grief when I read it then, and still do now that Colby has gone from our lives. I'd like to think that we will see Buffalo, Happy and Colby again sometime, that there is a "Rainbow Bridge" where they wait for us, just outside of Heaven.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....