I have been fortunate to travel back to the family farm four times a year for extended periods for many years. I always looked forward to finding Packer in the garage when I pulled up to the house or to having him greet me in the driveway after a long separation. My most poignant memories are seeing mother and Packer together in the garage as I wave goodbye and knowing that God brought them together to take care of each other. And that they did as my mother celebrated her 90th birthday a couple weeks before Packer left us. I learned allot about Packer in those visits, and our bond of love deepened. I always left each visit appreciating the differences between cats and dogs and longing to someday have a dog like Packer Boy added to my cat household.

One way we connected was our great adoration of the farm and the outdoors. I loved taking long walks on the country roads and being away from a busy metropolitan area, and Packer loved exploring the yard and fields and sniffing the shrubs with great interest. He reminded me of a lion overseeing his territory. He stretched out on the lawn, paws pointed forward, head up, ears erect and watched and listened intently. In the evenings, I liked to join Packer in the back yard. The starry sky above us, the darkness surrounding us, the sounds of nature reverberating back to us and the fireflies flashing on and off created an enchanted atmosphere. During those moments, I felt a deep connection to those who had walked the land under our feet (and paws) and gone on before us—my father, my four grandparents and my childhood dog, Penney.

Another way we connected was through funny little games and loving attention. Packer and I liked to play hide and seek. We chased each other around the outside of the house. Sometimes, he ran from me in jest when he saw me. Then he nonchalantly reappeared to see what I was doing—often coming up to my side, looking up at me with his deep brown eyes and wanting the top of his head rubbed. When it was really hot, he allowed me to rub a cool cloth on the top of his head—much to my mother’s surprise since he was scared of water.  He liked to greet me at the car when he had not seen me for months or when I returned from a short jaunt into town. In his younger days, he and his dog buddy, Lucky had the habit of running to the car and wildly greeting us to the point that we couldn’t get out of the car.  It was quite a welcoming commotion. Packer received Christmas gifts from my cats over the years. One year he amused my brother when he buried his Christmas bone until spring!

I often wished Packer would come into the house. I thought he would be more comfortable than sleeping on a pile of blankets in the garage. I thought of how much company Packer would be for my mother if he was in the house more. Not to mention he would be out of the hot weather or cold weather and away from dangerous insecticides or other outdoor hazards. But I have come to realize that Packer Boy was an earth dog—he loved the soil and the wide open spaces. He probably knew every inch of his land from his years of roaming. He never knew confinement of any kind and was truly a free spirit. It is difficult to have it both ways, and I suspect that is really why he would not go into the house even when coaxed. His soul did not want to be corralled, and he needed the freedom to run and live his life on his terms and to die his way. I also understand my mother’s great concern that Packer not be caged up in a veterinarian’s office at the end. That would have been the antithesis of Packer.

Now although he is out of my sight, and I will not physically see him in the garage with my mother on my next home visit, Packer still knows where I am. He is in another dimension and he is free to be by my side.  I am not out of his sight, and his view of his beloved farm is all encompassing.

Next Week:  Packer and my mother

Bountiful Blessings!

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