For almost twelve years, my Great Pyrenees Tulip was the farm’s jokester, a shiny-eyed, smiley-faced cross between an oversized seal pup and a benevolent polar bear. For twelve years she multi-tasked as the farm’s protector and its own personal stand up comedian. She died in my arms several years ago, and is buried just a few feet from the front porch, where she used to stand and bark at the coyotes who yip-howled their way down a ravine toward my young lambs. No coyote, or canid of any kind, ever bothered our sheep when Tulip was alive, yet she loved everyone equally, dogs and people alike, unless they appeared to be a threat.
Once I was awoken at 2 AM by hushed and hurried voices coming from my front yard. Alone that night, I peered out the window to see three shadowy figures moving around behind the spruce tree that anchors the yard. One of them darted out of the gloom and began to run–and I mean run–toward me and the house. I took Tulip by the collar, all 100+ pounds of her, and walked onto the porch. Tulip was barking as only a huge dog can; deep, thundering WOOF WOOF WOOFs coursing through the air as I said “Stop right there! I’ll let the dog loose if you don’t.” Of course, I knew that Tulip was most likely to run up and lick his face if I let her go, but my “visitor” didn’t. He stopped in his tracks and said “Oh gosh, sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. But my motorcycle broke down and I wanted to know if I could leave it here until morning.” His words weren’t quite so, uh, clear, being influenced by something I’d guess was at least 40 proof. “Uh, sure, no problem,” I said. I might have mentioned that it would have been more polite to just leave it there and not wake me up in the middle of the night, but he left and I went back in the house and sat down with Tulip and took her head in my hands and thanked her for being there for me. Having her stand there beside me that night made all the difference in the world.
Here is a difference I would like to make in her name. I’ve joined the 2 million dogs campaign to help raise funds to combat cancer in dogs. It was started by Luke Robinson, who lost one of his beloved Great Pyrenees to cancer, and committed to walking his two remaining Pyrs 2,000 miles to raise money to fight cancer. That evolved into the 2 Million Dogs project, in hopes that 2 million dogs, walking just two miles, could raise a significant amount of money. Tulip didn’t die of cancer, but my first Pyr did (Bo Peep), as did my Border Collies Misty and Lassie.
So I’m in. I’ll be walking with friends (many from the UW Vet School Pet Pals program) in Madison on May 4th. Everyone who registers commits to raising a certain amount of money. I’ve set my goal at $3,000, but would love to do better than that. If you are so inclined, you can CONTRIBUTE HERE.
Whether you can afford to join in or not, I’ll love hearing memorials to one of your special dogs. Here is my Tulip, in a photo taken by one of our country’s best dog photographers, Amanda Jones.
Here is our last photograph of Tulip, resting in her grave, covered with the tulips that friends spontaneously brought to the celebration of her life, a few hours before we sent her over the bridge. She is resting in peace, but I’ll be joining millions of people and dogs all around the country, in an effort to keep our beloved dogs alive, just a little longer.