Wednesday, October 8

Walking in Gold: Finding Healing in Nature

Walking in Gold

Yesterday, Sam and I took a hike through the Montana gold -- that ecstatic autumn aliveness when aspens turn and skies stay clear blue even as temperatures drop below 50F and there is new snow on the peaks.

We walked along a meditative runnel through aspen and chokecherry groves, marsh grass and spent wild iris seedheads. The sage pumped it's heady volatile oils into the breeze. Rabbitbrush brightened the dry, grassy hills with pillows of yellow-white, backlit seeds.

We found "our" redtail tree -- an ancient aspen tucked into the creek bottom where a pair of hawks raise their brood each spring on an ever-expanding platform of twigs and limbs.

I half expected to find a redtail feather gift, under the abandoned nest. No such luck. But I did have the luck of a whole hour lying on the gold with my companion and best friend ... Sam taking in all the sights and smells of grove-wetland-autumn-turning. And me, absorbing healing rays of sunlight and marveling at the trembling frame of sky leaves above me.

Saying Goodbye to the Gold

Sam is going to be 20 in March '09. He is really slowing down lately. We think it might be canine Cognitive Dysfunction. He has most of the signs now. There are times when he walks into the kitchen or my office and just stands there looking a little lost, as if he is thinking, "Now, what did I come in here for?"

Routines are much more important to him than ever -- yet he often refuses to sleep on either of his two comfortable beds -- he prefers to squeeze himself into small complicated places like under our kitchen table between all of the chair legs. If breakfast is delayed, or I don't take him for his morning walk right away, he may stand in one place for an hour -- literally -- just staring, waiting for the expected promise to come true.

Sam sleeps alot, like most elderly dogs.
An hour for each year of life - 20 hours a day.
The remaining 4 hours are divided like so:

  • 1 hour walking slowly, rationing his pee so he can leave as many business cards around the neighborhood as possible.
  • 1 hour lying with chin on floor watching me without moving anything but his eyes
  • 1/2 hour sitting on the front or back porch watching the world go by, smelling its' enticing fragrances and savoring the breezes in his coat. Sometimes this involves staring at one or more deer as they wipe out our vegetable harvest. It would be too much trouble to get up and bark or chase. heh.
  • 1/2 hour pacing
  • 1/2 hour either waiting for his meals while panting (I often can't tell if the panting is from enthusiasm or anxiety) or working on a cooking pan or mixing bowl project (meaning, licking it clean of all molecules of taste/smell)
  • 1/2 hour lying next to me on the bed in the morning. This is coffee-newspaper-cuddling time for Sam and me after Tim gets up. :-)
Twice a month we have a slight change in the routine: those are the days we mix up his homemade raw food in a huge bread bowl. Sam knows when I get out the cuisinart and cover every inch of counter top in our tiny kitchen with vegetables and nuts, that eventually he will get to lick that bowl. Yummmm. He watches me the entire time I'm cutting, chopping, stirring and scooping. This is doggie heaven! (do you remember getting to lick the cookie dough out of the mixing bowl when you were little?) It's like that.

His coat is shiny and smooth. His zest for life seems strong. His breath stinks and that ear infection still gives him trouble. He has more cysts and lumps and warts as time goes by. But overall Sam is still chugging away happily. His vet said yesterday that when Sam makes it to next March, she will be having a champagne party for him at the clinic. He will be there for the toasts to a very very old gent.


My head knows Sam is not really immortal.
But my heart wonders ...



Patia said...

Twenty! That's ancient for a big dog! I didn't even know it was possible.

You two are doing great!

Bitterroot said...

What a wonderful post. So glad to hear about Sam's day (which is such an important part of yours.

I will write soon...doing fine here.

Jo A. T.B. said...

I just happened upon your blog. I loved reading about Sam, he is immortal especially in dog years! I just did a post of my Delilah, and linked back to your Sam story!
Amazing! :)

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

You know Sam really is immortal, don't you? Because, like the rest of us, he is.

I emphasize with Sam when he wanders into a room and wonders, Now what did I come in here for? I had an old dog named Fred who behaved just like Sam, standing in one spot, squeezing into or behind small spaces. In Freddie's case, it was usually under my chair or behind the toilet. I don't think he could see, or hear much, either. And he had heart problems.

I think the book is going to look GREAT!


Kim Carney said...

I think Sam will be with all us forever so that sense, he is immortal! Lovely to hear of your autumn experience. xoxoxo miss you Kim

kerrdelune said...

Maureen, I am so glad Sam is still here with you.

Michelle said...

You know, if Sam has made it this long with all the love you have given him there is no reason he can't make it until next year! Especially with the zest of life he has. What a sweetheart he is and how lucky he is to have such a wonderful, loving, caring home. :)


themanicgardener said...

Autumn has been genrous, this year in Montana, with warm days and sunshine. Looks like you're taking good advantage of them both.

P.S. I left you a message over at Blotanical--

EJ said...

So lovely to see Sam in the woods. However long he lives his life surely has been blessed.

The concept of healing really does take on a different meaning as life goes on and inevitably comes full circle.

Anirban said...

Nice post...War over water can be addressed with the age old barter system. Read more about this issue at

Jo A. T.B. said...


Some awards for you to pick up on my blog! :)

YesBiscuit! said...

I love Sam's day! And Sam!

Claire said...

What a handsome dog. I consider old dogs to be one of the joys of life.

Jo A. T.B. said...

Hi Maureen,

Just checking in to see how sweet Sam dog is holding up! You know I'm rooting for him to make it to his 20th birthday! I admire his immortality in dog years especially!

Delilah had been holding her own, she did make it for her 14th b-day, same age as my daughter! She's had a rough time on all the ice storms we've had, leaving her to splat out on all fours sometimes. I still walk her, I know that it helps to keep her limber, as well as keep me fitter!

Kiss that sweet Sam dog, and let us know how he's doing! :)

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Twenty years old is really amazing. I have one that is 15, she walks to the bottom of the steps to the second floor and barks, just once. Not entirely sure if she is announcing she is going up or if she is wondering where everyone happens to be. There is a special place in heaven for dogs.

Jo A. T.B. said...

Hi Maureen,

With great sadness in my heart, we had to bury my baby Delilah on Tuesday. I did a tribute on my blog to her.

Even though I know we gave her a good life, I miss her so much I can't quit crying! Delilah at least lived almost 5 more years than her father Sampson!

Hope your Sam is doing well!

Kathy said...

Could you please share what you feed Sam. I am sure it played a major role in his longevity. Thanks

Patia said...

Have you stopped blogging?