Where do I begin to tell you about what a great dog our Old Yeller was? It's so hard. She was our one-in-a-million dog. I'm her mama and I'll try to tell you a little about her. |
Old Yeller came into our lives on my birthday, April 16, 2000. She had been abandoned.They say she had been wandering around our farm for a week before she finally showed up on my back porch. She was half starved. But she was still the most beautiful dog I'd ever seen. Surely this was someone's pet! But after checking around, I saw she had no one and must have been meant for me.
What is really amazing is that the night before, the movie "Old Yeller" was on TV.
Yeller was about 6 months old then, and must have been surviving on killing and eating moles, a pasttime that she relished right up to the very end. (She didn't have to eat them now to survive.)
The good Lord sure knew what He was doing when He sent me Yeller. I was newly married to a wonderful man, a legend in the world of Bluegrass music: Jesse McReynolds. Me being a northerner in the south made making friends difficult. I needed a friend, and boy did I get one. We were inseparable for the next 14 years. I'd had some nice dogs in the past, but this relationship was truly special. She was my dog. She chose me. I never experienced such loyalty. Her eyes were always on me.
Don't get me wrong. Jesse loved Old Yeller and she loved him. She followed him around in all his doings around our farm. Yeller was very handy at killing snakes. They didn't stand a chance with our girl around. As time went on, I didn't let her do that because I was afraid she'd get hurt. One time we were walking by the lake & she stuck her nose in a pile of leaves. I yanked her away. Good thing. There was a little copperhead snake in there! And forget about mice. She was such a good "mouser!" I'd put her up against a cat any day.
Yeller had a little beagle friend, Bridgette. Bridgette was already here with us, having been rescued by our niece and fellow ardent dog lover, Janeen McReynolds. Yeller and old Bridgette were inseparable. Best buddies. The only consolation I have now is knowing she is with her best buddy. Yeller always protected old Bridgette. Nobody knew how old Bridgette was. We nicknamed her "Methusaleh" and she was just a sweet old thing. Pretty near blind, and toothless... but she just stuck by her buddy, Yeller. Yeller really missed her when she passed away. After that, every time we saw a dog who looked like Bridgette, she wanted to go kiss them.
Since Jesse played so many shows on the road, we bought a van with a couch in back so I could travel with her. The couch was for Yeller. :) One trip we drove to Mississippi... A 9 hour ride. She was such good company. Just a darling companion.
She was kind of scrawny and splay footed when I found her. She grew into the most beautiful dog! People would stop me to tell me how pretty she was. She was even prettier inside. And smart!
One time Jesse lost his wallet while he was out mowing our farm on his big tractor. He walked for days looking for that wallet in the fresh mown grass. No luck. I suggested we give Yeller an old wallet to sniff and see if she'd be able to find it. It was laughable, I guess, but we were desperate. I don't think it was a coincidence that Yeller took a short walk and sat down right in front of that wallet! She entered our "Doggy Hall of Fame" on that alone!
Yeller was also very talented. We discovered she had a talent for singing. Jesse was practicing his mandolin one day when Yeller spotted me out in the yard and began to howl. So Jesse developed her "singing" abilities ...so well, to the point that she was invited to sing on the world-famous Grand Ole Opry! The management of the Grand Ole Opry (Pete Fisher, Gina Keltner & Steve Buchanan) were so kind to let Old Yeller sing with Jesse on the Grand Ole Opry stage on 2 separate occasions for Petsitters "Take Your Dog to Work Day." Thank you, Grand Ole Opry, for such a big thrill. I got to walk Yeller onstage, along with my dear friend, Ida Whitstine. Yeller loved Ida. Aunt Ida could really get Yeller singing. And the Grand Ole Opry crowd just enveloped Yeller with LOVE. You could feel it. Just an amazing experience I will never forget.
Yeller also had an amazing persistence. She had such patience when hunting moles. She would stand by that mole tunnel for hours, just waiting for the earth to move, and then she'd pounce! She rarely missed. I was thinking of putting her in the yellow pages under mole removal! And there was her gentle insistence when she wanted to go outside. It was her nose to my knee, walk to the door, and repeat. It might take her 10-20 times before I caught on. And you never wanted to get into a staring contest with her. She had a "tractor beam" gaze. She'd almost seem to stare right into your soul.
She was pretty healthy her whole life. But over the last few years she developed a benign fatty tumor on her rib cage. It would fill with fluid and need to be drained every year or so. She was also deaf but understood my hand signals. But I could tell what she was thinking /needing by looking at her.
She really wasn't my "baby." She was more like a mama to me. If I were up late, working, she'd come & get me. Time for bed. And then never leave my side.
Eventually that fatty tumor came to a head and I took her to the vet, where he found another tumor, but that this one was malignant. Yeller was 15, and it was discussed among family members and the consensus was that it was time to let her go. It seemed like the right decision. I wanted the best for her. We all did. But her passing was anything but peaceful. The reason I tell this story is I would never want another pet owner to go through the agony I experienced with my beautiful, devoted friend. It seemed like a good idea, and you have this fairy tale dream that your beloved pet will just peacefully drift off to sleep... but my girl went through such agony that it will haunt me the rest of my days. How I wish I had brought her home and cherished every single moment I had left with her.
Now I am NOT an advocate of pet euthanasia unless it is under the direst of circumstances... and will never again put one of my pets "to sleep" without examining every other possible option... never, ever again in my life. I can't begin to tell you how sickened I am over the whole tortuous experience. Dear God I hope my story helps someone else avoid this heartache.
And I hope & pray you forgive me, Old Yeller. I let you down.
It sure is empty in the house without you now. I will never, ever forget you girl.
5/21/14 ~ Tomorrow it will be a week you'll be gone. I miss you so much!
I wrote a poem for you. I don't even remember writing it, I was so grief-stricken. But I just happened upon it and here it is:
God knows we all need
He sent me a dog named Yeller
She was a cast off dog
Her eyes were trained on me
I cried and cried
Old Yeller I can see
By Joy McR.
6/2/14 ~ Your ashes came today. I hugged that box so tight!! I feel better with you here with me in some form. I know the good Lord will put us all back together in the blink of an eye before we know it. What a great & joyous day that will be, my dear heart.
I didn't realize I was going past the speed limit on the way to the vet. I was late and pretty distraught. But the very kind police officer gave me a warning. I needed that blessing. God is good. Thank you, Dear God. We only see a little way ("through the glass, darkly"), but You see the BIG PICTURE.
6/6/14 ~ I've been reading about St. Francis a lot lately. I hope & pray you will run & play a lot, & go sit by him until I get there. He really loves animals too & will watch out for you. I miss you. Love, mama
6/9/14 ~ I'm going to get a St. Francis statue to put by your picture. I was thinking of adopting a senior Labrador Retriever who has your kind eyes. It may be too soon. Maybe Daisy won't like him. We are praying about it. No dog will ever take your place. Never, ever. God bless you, girl - we love you & miss you terribly! Love forever, Mama
6/26/14 ~ Dear Old Yeller, I think of you every day. We miss you so much. We decided against adopting another dog for now. I'm so afraid I'll forget you, but I cry if I think of you too much. You never left my side in life, so I imagine you by my side even now. If ever a dog could do that, it would be you, old girl. I always wished for you to be happy and rewarded for all your faithfulness to me. Surely God has a special place in Heaven for you. I pray for that every day. No more being in pain. You can hop in and out of my van like you used to. We take long walks like we used to. You bark at rabbits and hunt moles. All in my dreams. And you're always with me in my dreams. Thank you. Love you always and forever, old girl. Mama
10/25/14 ~ We adopted a dog, Old Yeller. Her name is Dolly. She's a lot like you, but no dog could ever live up to you. But we love her and Daisy seems to like her too. She's a senior dog, being 6 years old. I almost feel like I'm seeing you young & healthy again, old girl. But no matter how many dogs we have, I'll never forget you. Love always, mama.
10/31/14 ~ Happy Halloween, Old Yeller! I'll miss dressing you up and you singing with Daddy. You put up with our silliness so sweetly & patiently. We love you & miss you, girl. Mama & Daddy
11/25/14 ~ Your birthday is coming up on Thanksgiving. We didn't know your real birthday, so Daddy picked Thanksgiving because he said you were such a blessing. Be thinking of you, girl. Love, mama
11/27/14 ~ Happy birthday sweetheart. I will give Daisy & Dolly an extra piece of turkey in memory of you.
3/25/15 ~ There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of you. Love, mama
"ALL ANIMALS GO TO HEAVEN," SAYS POPE FRANCIS (12/12/14)
In his weekly address at the Vatican late last month, Pope Francis issued a remarkable statement that's sure to come as welcome news to anyone who's ever lost a beloved pet. According to Francis, the promise of an afterlife applies not only to believers, but to all animals as well.
"The Holy Scriptures teach us that the realization of this wonderful plan covers all that is around us, and that came out of the thought and the heart of God," Pope Francis said, as quoted by Italian news site Resapubblica.
The Pope then went on to say that "heaven is open to all creatures, and there [they] will be vested with the joy and love of God, without limits."
Pope Francis's stance on animals stands in contrast to that of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who despite reportedly being a cat lover, said that animals' existence was limited to their time on Earth. But Francis isn't the first pontiff to take an animal-friendly approach to ideology. As newspaper Divisione la Repubblica notes, Pope John Paul II held a similar position, saying animals had a "divine breath."
This isn't the first time that Francis, who adopted his papal name in honor of the patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi, has spoken out on behalf of nonhumans. In his first homily as pope, Francis articulated mankind's role in serving not only the divine, but in all creatures born from it:
"The vocation of being a 'protector,' however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as St. Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God's creatures and respecting the environment in which we live."
May 15,2015 ~ it's been a year, old girl. I promise I'll never forget you. I think of you every day. Not too much because I can't. But I love you. And I miss you more than my inadequate words can ever say. Love, Mama
The Last Battle
Do not stand on my grave and weep; I am not there. I do not sleep.
JUST A DOG
From time to time, people tell me, "lighten up, it's just a dog," or "that's a lot of money for just a dog." They don't understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for "just a dog."
Some of my proudest moments have come about with "just a dog." Many hours have passed and my only company was "just a dog," but I did not once feel slighted.
Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by "just a dog," and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of "just a dog" gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.
If you, too, think it's "just a dog," then you will probably understand phrases like "just a friend," "just a sunrise," or "just a promise."
"Just a dog" brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure and unbridled joy.
"Just a dog" brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person.
I hope that someday they can understand that it's not "just a dog," but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being "just a man." So the next time you hear the phrase "just a dog," just smile--because they "just don't understand."
My little bully passed away, no more to breathe a sound.
January 5, 2016 ~ I think of you every day. Love you, old girl.
May 15, 2016 ~ I pray for you every day and light a candle for you. I'll never forget. Love always, mama ❤️
May 15, 2017 ~ I think of you & light a candle for you every day, old girl. Love, your mama ❤️❤️❤️
Prayer For Those Who Suffer