I’m Just a Dog
“I wish I could stay longer because I know that petting me makes you feel better.”
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To: All my friends
Re: Tree of Life Life
Date: June 27, 2016
I’m just a dog.
But you’re just people, so we get along fine. I only have two things in this life… my name and my collar. Thanks for those. My name is Gateway, though Hilda calls me Kiwi and Antonio, Cappy. That’s OK. I have trouble with pronunciation too. Lots of you call me Cappy. But my collar says Gateway.
I was born in the exact spot where I will die. Not many can say that these days. July 2001 to this time in 2016 makes me 15, and if my math is correct, 105 in the years of you people. I feel it. Mike, about that little “nudge” you gave me with your truck last month, don’t feel too bad about it. I’m recovering. I’ve been through a lot worse, but we were all younger back in those days. I appreciate all the nice food and the recent PT. Don’t worry, we’re gonna make it together a little while longer.
I have a lot of great memories about Tree of Life Nursery and all of you. And a couple questions as well. Hey Mike, what was that all about… docking my tail on day two? I couldn’t even see yet, but I know it was you. And doors. That’s my big question. I and my kind still want to figure them out. One thing for sure, I did learn how to slip in from outside at the slightest chance.
Zeek and I grew up here but he died young. We were true brothers. Until he was killed, Zeekers and I were also best friends. We chased coyotes like nobody’s business. Man, we chased ‘em out in the creek and beyond. After we buried Zeek, Tank came along and we became best buddies, like brothers. We still are. I know he’s gonna miss me when I’m gone. We chased coyotes too, but neither of us are in shape for that anymore.
I’m just a dog but I did try to be helpful. When Hilda was weak and tired, especially after her heart surgery in ‘03, I would lie next to her (or even under her) on the office floor while she rested in the hammock. Sometimes I would lie on my back, just to make her laugh. Zeekies too. Then Tank. We took naps together with her. I think we helped her get well. All my life, I have followed her everywhere. Even a couple months or so ago I made it with her clear down to the big shade house and back. That was my last long walk. After that, just hanging around the barn and the office or visiting the folks at Casa La Paz is about all the energy I can muster.
I think I have made a lot of people happy. Everyone would pet me… little kids, old people, nice people, mean people, all you people. On Saturdays, I lay right on the path to the bathroom and get so many pets. And a lot of you take my picture. I’ll bet I’m one of the most photographed dogs ever! I may be just a dog, but I believe I have led the life of the quintessential ranch dog, a dying breed these days around these parts.
Dirt and dust, mud and rain, hot and cold, watching every critter under the sun and those who only venture out on still dark nights, howling at coyotes and sirens on the highway, running and yip yapping in my sleep, getting dirty to the point where it doesn’t even make sense and then becoming miraculously clean with jaunts through the moist sagebrush, sprains, scratches and bruises, an occasional tick or two, avoiding rattlesnakes, knowing when to skeedaddle (mountain lions), when to give chase (coyotes), and when to stand my ground (racoons at my dish)… this is the life a ranch dog. Just thinking of it all makes me smile.
I have been glad to have other dogs around; for the most part they didn’t bother me. Tank has been like a brother after we lost Zeekers ten years ago. Do you remember how we lost Zeekies? We were chasing a coyote and Zeek went out on the road after him, big mistake, the dark midnight eve of Thanksgiving Day, Joshua was only five months old, I remember him the next morning in his little basket when you guys came to cook the turkeys. We were all pretty bummed for a long time after that. You know Zeek and I were part of the legacy left by Aussie, my mom. My other brother Skippy went to Danny and my only sister Chloe to Terry. My mom, my two brothers and my sister all died a long time ago. I’ll be joining them soon and then there will be no one from our family left. You guys have been good to all of us. But you’re just people. I hope you’ll bring Tank a new buddy when I go.
Some of you have brought a few cool dogs by day and loaded them into your cars when you left at night. That’s OK, I never wanted to go in a car with any of you anywhere. It’s overrated. I will admit that for a short while, I took to riding in the golf cart with Patty and Hilda, mostly to make them laugh though. Let’s see, there was Aussie, and Patch who both treated me like a little kid. When TJ came, he was tolerable, fun at first, but way too much energy. Thank God for people who throw balls. Then came Chloe and Roxy, friendly enough, but mostly interested in all the treats and trying to nab all the attention in the office. But Tank, man I love Tank… he is still by my side day and night.
When we have been “all dogs on deck” in the office, I have been blamed for some farts that were not mine. I just want us to be clear on this before I go. Most were from Tank. And Roxy. I will take responsibility for a few. Oh yeah, then Shaymus showed up and I actually liked that little fellow. I don’t know if he farts but he did make me feel young again for a short while anyway, here near the end. And Jack, not sure about Jack, but he’s not sure about me either. He’s OK though. Antonio’s chihuahuas came to stay a couple years ago, but I pay them zero attention. A few other dogs have come as visitors every now and then, but I mostly just ignore them. City dogs are hard for me to understand.
Here’s something not many dogs can say… I have never been in a fight. It’s just not worth it. Oh, I may have growled at TJ when he was young, but only to establish who’s boss on this ranch.
Before I go I want to say thanks to a few people. I could not have made it without you. For consistent feeding I want to thank the folks who lived here with me, Antonio & Maggie and for a few years, Patty. They only forgot to feed me or ran out of food a few times, and for this I forgive them. Mike would sometimes come in on weekends and late nights when the food bucket here was empty, but we would never know yea or nay and growing dogs do get hungry, you know. Back in my days with Zeek, probably on one of those foodless occasions, I ate rat poison, hey it’s a bait, and Laura got me the all night pet ER in time to save my life. For this I am very grateful, and you all should be too, because you almost lost a young dog with great potential. Remember how I howled and sang for joy when I got back into the office with you? You may not realize, but that night I had stared death straight in the eyes, turned aside and walked away, and lived to tell you about it. Oh it was so good to be back home!
For treats I want to thank Hilda. She brought them my whole life. Tastiest treats any dog anywhere could ever have. Her grandsons, Josh and Zach have been favorites of mine and I will miss them. For always being my friend and taking care of me through thick and thin I want to thank Pat. She has been my confidant, my health advocate, veterinarian’s aide, nurse, and caregiver and without her I would have been gone a long time ago. For biscuits I want to thank the last one to leave the office every day, even Jeff who breaks them in half, but mostly Pat who has kept the cupboard from going bare. I want to thank Dr. Weekamp and the various groomers who have worked on me, but again, it was Pat who called them in as needed. Thanks Ramo for opening the door for me every morning. Hedgehog calls me Freeway or The Old Guy. Ha! Thanks for the scraps, Old Guy.
And thanks to you all for the abundance of pets and attention, even though Tank always horns in. I wish I could stay longer because I know that petting me makes you feel better. Thanks Mike for the special, cooling baths in my final days, and for laying down next to me sometimes. The world looks better from the “dog lying down” perspective, doesn’t it?
I used to roam this whole place and this has been the best place in the world to be a dog. But I’m just a dog. Sometimes on weekends, Tank and I would get bored and take off. When we heard Mike’s whistle we hustled back, but it usually took a while because we were so far away. You people will never know what we know about these hills, this creek, and this ranch. Speaking of the creek, what happened to the water? I used to take my baths down there. The black mud of Frog Eddy was another of my favorites, but here near the end I have have stopped going in by myself because I know if I lay down, I won’t be able to get back up. But the other day my mudbath in the remodeled wetland sure felt great! Thanks for helping me out Mike. Man, it’s tough getting old.
I have liked nursery work and Casa La Paz and customers and Angelo’s visits delivering bottled water with his dog treats and early mornings and lunch times and late afternoons with the guys out at their camps. I like hanging out in the office and the barn. I used to like walking through the growing grounds alone, just to see what happened the night before, or following one of you on an errand in the nursery. Tank and I like to stand guard at the greenhouse door when Hilda is in there working on weekends. But I never went in so much for nursery tours, especially with TJ or Roxy around, as they tend to steal all the attention. I just wait in the barn until the end of the tour and at that point, everyone notices me.
You know my best memories are those of gatherings, parties, and special events. I liked the Saturdays in Hilda’s Hortaliza where I would walk up and down the rows and pretend it was a maze. The corn leaves, squash plants, and bean vines were fun to run through and the big tamale feasts that ended the day were amazing. I liked all those family gatherings under the Big Oak, or out in Redwood Camp where Tank and I would stand guard on the nights Mike camped. But my favorite was when I would see all you guys getting ready for a big party. Oh boy, more people, food, music and attention! I soaked it up. When they put a flower lei on me for Terry & Kay’s wedding, I got more photos than anyone! I was even in the wedding, as I recall I walked the rings down the aisle.
You people celebrate everything don’t you? Birthdays, Debbie’s college graduation, Mike’s 50th, Deb’s rehearsal dinner, Ali’s wedding, Hannah’s wedding, Mike’s 60th, not to mention church events, a couple family reunions, Christmas parties, workday going-away parties and others that I can’t specifically recall here in my old age. So many parties! Sometimes we had events that actually looked like parties to me, big gatherings during the workweek, mostly related to the nursery. No matter the occasion, I loved them all because everyone loved me. I do have to mention though that last year, the RanchLife people locked Tank and me in the office while they had a gathering with wine, refreshments and an art lesson. What!?! Uninvited to a party!?! What’s up with that!?! Man, whose ranch is this? When Mike let us out, everyone loved us… but of course we already knew they would! I’m glad you guys have lots of pictures of all these events. I have great memories.
To all my friends, I hope you can appreciate that I tried really hard to make your parties and special events more fun, and I hope you will celebrate on the day I am laid to rest. I’m just a dog, but you people will never be able to get me out of your hearts. I’ll be in your conversation all the time and at every party, so throw one in memory of Gateway. I’ll be there.
I simply tried to make you all happy, but I’m just a dog. I will tell you this… you sure have made me happy… but you’re just people.
Hasta la vista,
PS. Plant some milkweed on my grave. It will be fun to watch butterflies dance in the sky above me.
PPS. If you want to write me, email my business manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gateway, May 12, 2016 – 15 years old with 150 people around at Tree of Life Nursery