My beloved mother loved animals. Last August and September, I wrote a series of blogs about Packer following his passing. My mother passed away this summer, just shy of her 91st birthday. In her honor, I am repeating The Guardian.

Packer and my mother had a lot in common.  They depended on each other and were each other’s best friends and guardians.  He depended on her to get up every morning, open the back door, greet him in the garage and feed him. I know she looked forward to seeing him, and his presence gave her a reason to get up each day.  He depended on her in the evening to prepare his food and put it on the back step and to call for him in the backyard. My mother walks with the help of a walker and suffers with arthritis. Packer developed arthritis in later years and walked with a limp. My mother walks slowly, and I noticed Packer did the same over the years. He rested more, slept more and stayed in the garage more. In earlier years, he could run so fast across the field.  Likewise in younger years, my mother chased me around the farm!

My mother grows beautiful flowers in the summer and for several summers I have gone home in early June and helped her with the planting. Packer always left the garage and moved to the front yard along the walkway near where we worked. Mother said he always watched out for her whenever she was outside tending the flowers or coming and going in the car. In fact, the morning before I found Packer collapsed in the garage, my mother and I were admiring the flowers. Packer was in another part of the yard and saw us. I watched as he slowly made his way to us. He walked up to my side and looked up with those big brown eyes and waited for me to speak to him and rub his head. Then he walked over to my mother and waited for her to respond to him in kind.

 I also observed how intently his eyes followed her every movement whenever she went up and down the back steps. She has a routine to follow in order to get in and out of the house safely. After opening the back door, she walks out on a landing that is wide enough for her walker. She drops the walker to the concrete at the bottom of two steps. Then she hangs onto the railing and steps down until she reaches the walker.  It takes her a few minutes to accomplish this task. This is repeated in reverse when she enters the house. Sometimes, I felt that Packer’s guardian eyes kept her safe each and every time she went up and down the backdoor steps. I always told her, he was watching over her. She often said that she did not know what he would do if she fell.  I told her he would figure something out. She could be sure he would stay by her side until help came.

Mother always tooted the car horn three times for Packer’s benefit when she left and tooted three times when she came back up the hill. She always reminded me to toot when I drove. What an endearing gesture between them I thought!

With the help of my brother, Packer always gave mother greeting cards (with a dog on the front of course!) for major holidays and her birthday. Sometimes, there would even be some scratch off lottery tickets or cash tucked inside. Mother always joked she didn’t know where Packer shopped.

In 1999, my mother fell inside the house and broke a hip. I know one of the hardest parts of her recovery in the hospital and nursing home was being separated from her beloved dogs, Packer and Lucky. As she progressed with her rehabilitation, she was allowed to leave the nursing home for short drives, and my brother took her to the farm to see the dogs. I know they missed her as well. Many years later Lucky passed away with kidney failure. Packer grieved for the loss of his companion for months—waiting and watching for his beloved to come running up the hill or over the field.

Sometimes, Packer was a finicky eater. My mother had quite a collection of dog food for him. When I was home in June, we tried a different food called Cesar, and he absolutely devoured it and continued to enjoy it up to the last day he ate. When he lost his appetite, he would usually eat raw hamburger. He also loved cheeseburgers and French fries from McDonalds! He did not have them often, but we treated him to this menu on my last visit when he disappeared. I probably will never be able to think of McDonald’s without recalling the last day we brought the cheeseburger and French fries home to him. He had so much fun eating them.

Now I can only imagine what it is like for my 90-year-old mother to open the back door every morning and look out and not see her beloved Packer. Or to look out the kitchen window and not see him sleeping under the pussy willow tree.  Or to pull into the driveway and not toot for him out of habit. It must be heartbreaking. I pray that Packer Boy’s spiritual eyes are watching over my dear mother as she comes and goes, as she tends her flowers or as she gets the mail. May he be with her in every movement and keep her safe as he did for so many years. May the heartbreak and void in her life be filled instead with Packer’s loving spirit.

Postscript: August 30, 2009–I now understand why Packer Boy left first. I know he was on Rainbow Bridge waiting to greet my mother when her journey ended.

Bountiful Blessings!