farewell to my sabrina   27 comments

Posted at 6:22 pm in Uncategorized

Sabrina on the front lawn last week

This is another of those posts that I hoped never to have to write, but knew I would have to before long. As you will know if you read this post about our trip home, I had been concerned that Sabrina might not make it. As it turned out, she managed okay and even had a chance to do a little of what Don and I used to refer to as her botanizing. She had an uncanny interest in any plant that she regarded as conspicuous. She was also an excellent scout when it came to looking for frogs, snakes, and even butterflies – standing patiently as she gazed back and forth from me to the creature until I came over with my camera. She would then move on, scanning for the next creature along the trail. For many years, she was a great hiker, wanting to lead the way and choose which branch of a trail to take. She would look visibly offended if we did not take her advice.

Sabrina in the perennial garden last week

Of course, those days have been over for some time as old age and arthritis gradually caught up with her. However, there is a story there too. In the last months before Don died, Sabrina became almost inseparable from him. She had always been Don’s dog, in that way that, when you have two dogs, one will often attach itself to one person and one to the other. During the first four years of Sabrina’s life, Maggie, an almost identical looking tricolor Rough Collie from the same breeder, had been her mentor. But Maggie was my dog, so Sabrina decided that she would be Don’s. That special relationship continued until Don’s death in September 2008. In the final weeks of his illness, Sabrina became increasingly vigilant and would not leave his side. In fact, she took to sleeping beneath the raised leg rest of the recliner chair where he spent all his days and nights toward the end. I practically had to drag her out to get her to eat dinner. Whenever Don had to spend a few nights in the hospital, she would remain under the recliner, staring at me for hours as though wondering why I took him away and returned home without him. By the time that Don died, Sabrina had become weak and almost emaciated. She could barely walk and I feared I would lose her too. However, as you will know if you have read this blog since the beginning, Sabrina and I departed for points almost unknown about five weeks later. Yes, she was weak and shaky, but the two of us managed okay, struggling along together on what has become a long, strange journey.

Sabrina and Don at Baxter Conservation Area in October 2007

You have seen many of these photos in the past, often when I have written about Don on the occasion of the anniversary of his death. What is conspicuous is that Don and Sabrina were together in so many of the photos in my collection. So many times, I would snap a photo of them around the house or the gardens, or on a hiking trail, and there would be Sabrina sitting or standing close by. They really were an inseparable pair. While looking for photos to use in this post, I came across a couple of nice little movie clips of the two of them together. I hope these will work for you. The first is of Sabrina trying to protect Don from our lawn mower. Even though the mower is not running, Sabrina worried about it and would make a fuss if Don got too near. What is interesting is that she had two barks – a gruff serious bark and a higher pitched puppyish bark. It is the puppyish bark that she is using in this clip.

Sabrina and Don at Baird Woods, Lanark.

The second movie clip is just a short one taken at our farm around the time that Don was diagnosed with cancer. I am so glad that I shot a few short video clips – most are about a minute long – while we were walking around the trails on our land. These are nice reminders to me of our “family” back before the wheels came off of our lives.

Sabrina and Don around 2001

So, anyhow, enough about the past and now to the present. For the past few days, Sabrina showed signs of weakening. There wasn’t really much to do about it. She is old – about 14 years old – which is really getting up there for a collie. I gave her what assistance I could in getting in and out of the house on the couple of steps, and then last night, she lay out flat and made no effort to rise unless I gave her a boost to a normal lying-down-dog position. It was clear that the end was nigh. This morning, I called the vet clinic and made arrangements to bring Sabrina there to be euthanized. It seemed the only kind thing to do – the last kindness that I couod do for a dog who has shared so many of the good times and the bad, that have taken place over the past few years.

Sabrina and Don around 2006

I set her down on a soft comforter in the bed of the van and then drove to town, arriving there about twenty minutes early. I decided to go ahead on over the causeway as far as the tidal generating plant and turn into the fisherman’s lot and stop where there is a stone memorial cairn. Many is the time that, Don, Sabrina and I stood at that spot together to watch the tide flowing back out through the generating plant and into the Annapolis Basin, during our frequent summer trips to Nova Scotia. I opened the side doors of the van so that Sabrina could look out onto the waters and then sat with her for a minute, saying goodbye and telling her that I had done the best I could for her and now it is time for her to run to Don. She’s become pretty deaf in recent years, so I doubt she caught much of what I said, but she turned her wise old eyes to look into mine and I think she understood that all was well.

Sabrina and Don in Spring 2008.

And so, that is how things went. I stayed with her until the end and it was genltle and an easy death. Of course, I am sad – sort of heartbroken all over again, I suppose. I have become so accustomed to death and loss that this time was perhaos easier than some of the others, but there is something different about this one, and the effect it has had today. I knew that when Sabrina died, it would be as though the final thread that bound the three of us together would finally be broken – and that is how it feels. My life is changed in ways I could never have predicted just a handful of years ago – and Sabrina’s passing is like the closing chapter of this book.

There is an odd little observation that I wished to include in this post. In August 2007, Don and I came here to Nova Scotia for a late summer vacation. Don had not felt well all that summer – tired and with a persistent cough that the doctors assured him was asthma as, after all, he was a never smoker. He seemed to feel so much better here by the ocean where the air is so fresh and clean. On our last afternoon on the Atlantic side, I shot this little movie clip of Don walking away into the sunset, and of Sabrina anxiously looking back at me and then deciding she should go on with Don. It was a beautiful late afternoon with a brisk breeze and a wonderful sky, but in the moment that I shot the clip, I felt a shiver as though something was about to change – as it soon did. Now, as I look back at the clip and this photo, I realize that I was just anticipating that thing we call The Future. It is not to be feared, but also the thing we may not change.

Farewell my beautiful Sabrina. You are free now. Run to Don!

Sabrina And Don walking on Crescent Beach in Nova Scotia, August 2007.

Written by bev wigney on May 29th, 2012