I buried a good friend today. His name was Yeardley. He was a special family member for nearly twelve years and it was hard to say goodbye. He was a beautiful brown and white Springer spaniel with a smiling disposition and a zest for life that infected everyone around him.
Now I’m sure there are those who would say oh, he was just a dog. But he was so much more. He was a loyal friend, the farm watchman, the morning wake up call, the protector of chickens and all things fowl, and the family’s positive attitude coordinator. He lived his life to serve us loyally and without question. His mood was always positive and he was truly a “Good Old Boy.”
I think he was about a year old when he came to us. My wife, Charyl, was returning to our farm when she found him sitting in a church parking lot. It was obvious that someone had dropped him off, how long ago there was no way to tell.
He was obviously a pedigree, but it was apparent that he had been on his own for some time. It was a gray, dreary afternoon and he was shivering and very hungry. He also had a very severe case of the mange.
I was working in the barn when she drove up that afternoon. She jumped out of the car with the devilish smile she has when she brings a surprise. “Look what I found?” she teased.
Now Charyl has a reputation for being Dr. Doolittle, so I knew she had some kind of animal with her. But when Yeardley jumped out, I was shocked. The poor dog looked like he was a survivor of a nuclear attack. I was surprised he was still alive in that condition.
I asked, “Honey, how are you going to handle this? We have so many animals now and his care is going to be expensive.”
She looked at me with that I’ll do it myself look and said, “I can handle this. I’ve already talked to a vet about how to give him medicated baths to kill the mange. You’ll see. He’s going to be beautiful.”
Well, despite my trepidation, she won the argument. But I held her to the promise that care was her responsibility and if it didn’t work, he would have to go to the shelter. I didn’t want to be harsh, but with the number of animals we’ve taken in over the years any extra mouth to feed was an issue.
Charyl spent several hours daily caring for Yeardley and to my surprise it paid off. Within a few weeks the scaly, ugly infected skin died and peeled off leaving a fresh pink layer filling in. Hair started growing and it wasn’t long before he looked like the classy Springer he was meant to be.
Even though I didn’t want to get attached he continually worked me over. He was determined to make me love him. Boy how it worked; as we watched him mature and maintain his even demeanor and happy state, how could I not love him?
Charyl even let me pick out his name, Yeardley. It came from my childhood schooling in Virginia History in my native state. I remember pictures of one of the colonial governors of the Commonwealth, Governor Yeardley, who was always shown in the text book with his Springer spaniels.
Charyl had experience with show dogs and Yeardley could have been a good one. He also was a natural bird dog, liking nothing better than a frolic in the water. But we just wanted a good loving farm dog.
Yeardley had no interest in coming in the house. He loved the great outdoors. He didn’t like being clipped and he didn’t like taking a bath. But in the summer, when it was hot, he reluctantly let Charyl clip him and bathe him. He would just sit calmly while she worked; but he made it clear that if she left him unattended he would be gone.
Many an afternoon, particularly in the wonderful Florida winter sunshine, Yeardley would take a walk with us around the property. At the opposite end of our property from the house is a donut shaped pond. Yeardley, showing his true bird dog lineage, would immediately jump in and swim about trying to catch a fish.
He was never successful as a fisherman, but he had a good time. We would sometimes let him swim for an hour or so and he seemed to never tire. But when it was time to go back home, a call of his name was all it took to bring him back to shore.
Oh, and by the way, he always made sure to shake dry in front of us. We got soaked and think he did it as a joke. At least that’s what we saw in his laughing eyes.
Over the last year or so Yeardley started to really show his age. He developed arthritis and couldn’t run like before. And he started showing gray in his face and over his eyes. But, even then he always trotted out to the gate to greet us or to bark at anyone coming up the drive. No one could come on the property without Yeardley checking them out.
Early this morning Charyl woke up suddenly around 3 a.m. This was very unusual as she is a sound sleeper. I’m usually the one getting up at odd hours. She tiptoed outside and I heard one of our little house dogs barking but I just drifted off.
Later when she returned I was in a semi-conscious state. Charyl was softly crying.
She then said, “Yeardley is dead. I found him in the grass near the tree that he loved to rest beneath.”
I mumbled that I would take care of things in the morning. I really wasn’t awake.
At first light, I awoke to begin a new day. I started the coffee, fired up the computer and started an early morning writing session. And that’s when it hit me.
Yeardley, usually sleeping on the porch by the kitchen, always gave me a good morning bark when the coffee started. He did it like clockwork and he wouldn’t stop until I gave him his customary dog biscuit. Today, no good morning came from Yeardley. And the immediate memory of what Charyl had said earlier jolted me into full awareness.
I went outside and found his body lying on the bench under the tree, wrapped in a blanket. Gently I lifted his body and carried him to the front gate. He was going to be buried in the place of honor, the exact spot where he always waited for us coming up the drive.
After laying him to rest, I must confess that I had a good cry. I always cry a little when we lose an animal, but with Yeardley my tears were not just of sadness, but also of joy in knowing that we had been the recipients of his love and devotion. It was an honor to have had him in our home. He was very special and will always be missed.
Goodbye, Old Friend. We hope you have found a nice eternal swimming hole.
A PRAYER FOR YEARDLEY (and other animals needing homes):
Oh Lord, Thank you for bringing Yeardley into our lives and for letting him bring us so much joy during our time together. Help us mere humans to always remember his spirit and happiness and to live our lives in a similar fashion. We learned a lot from him.
Help all of the many dogs and other animals that are without homes, as was Yeardley, to find a good home where they can share their love and devotion. They are wonderful creations of Thy love and deserve a good life.
And also help those who have been guilty of animal abuse and neglect to see the error of their ways. Open their eyes to the beauty and joy of these divine creatures.
We pray in the name of Thy Son, Jesus Christ our Savior, Amen.