"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
Last week I wished a tearful farewell to a friend of 12 years, my Australian Cattle Dog, Gunni. She’d been suffering from blindness for the last year now and was recently diagnosed with diabetes. Living in remote Alaska with my mom, it was too difficult to provide the care she needed to live well so we’ve made the decision to let her go.
Gunni came into my life when she was 6 weeks old, weighed just over a pound, and could fit in the palms of my 13-year-old hands. She was destined to be my project dog for 4-H and what a project she was – high energy and full of life. Gunni’s first few nights in our household were sleepless ones for me. Over the next two years, I trained Gunni in obedience and agility, I entered her in shows, and gained a friend. She frustrated me to no end during some of our training sessions; so excitable, distractable, but always a willing learner if there were treats to be earned.
And then we moved to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. My life as a 15-year-old might as well have been over. Gunni came to be my sanity during that time. She was my excuse for long hikes through the tundra. We went out almost every day, regardless of the weather, and hiked 2 – 8 miles. She was my silent companion while my teenage mind dealt with the culture shock, sadness, and anger of moving to a remote island. And as I came to love the wild and raw beauty of the Aleutians, she was still there to enjoy it with me. During our hikes I would let her off-leash and she would charge through the tundra grass, leaping like an antelope – a vision of pure glee. She was ready at the drop of a hat to go exploring.
When it came time for me to move away, I couldn’t take Gunni with me. I was a college student with no stable home, no yard for her to roam, and little free time to spend with her. So she stayed in Alaska. Each year I would return to Dutch Harbor to visit my family. And there was little Gunni, ready with doggy greetings, wet kisses, and excited yelping that always made me smile. During my visits we would return to our old ways of hiking daily – she was my joyful compatriot in the adventures of wandering the island, joined often by my brother DJ.
Gunni was a loyal, childhood friend and it truly saddens me to say goodbye. She lived a full and happy life though, and I would never want her to live in pain. She taught me about loyalty, courage, friendship, resilience, being scrappy, strength in silence, being ever-ready for an adventure, and choosing to have fun. So here’s a loving goodbye to my silent confidant, my happy co-explorer, and my energetic friend – the best dog a girl could have.