I first met Sage when she was just a few weeks old. She was one of eleven puppies and the last one to come out – the runt of the litter, as they say. In my eyes, she stood out from the rest of the litter not only because she was the smallest, but also the mellowest. If someone approached the puppy enclosure, ten of them would rush the door, jumping and barking for attention. And then there was Sage, sitting quietly in the back round, somehow aware of her stature and the futility of fighting for attention. When you picked her up, she was the only one that didn’t squirm , she just laid there in your arms, studying your face.
I was fresh out of college, starting a new job, but I just had to have her!
Old Sage had these beady brown eyes, a really soft white and yellow coat, big floppy ears, and the disposition of a warm pastry. You could just eat her up, she was so sweet.
Technically speaking she was a purebred labrador retriever, but she wasn’t much for fetching. If she did chase something down, she rarely brought it back. I think her loyalty to me trumped her retriever instincts. I would throw a ball, and she would just look at me, thinking –
“Why would I run over there to pick up a ball when you’re going to be standing right here waiting for me to come back? I’ll just wait here with you, maybe sniff the perimeter?”
God bless her loyal heart.
For fourteen years she never once left my side or asked where we were going, just an enthusiastic wag of the tail when we hit the trail.
Now, bear in mind that when I say she never left my side, I’m excluding the occasional chase of a deer, antelope, elk, bird, etc. I remember camping just outside the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, I took Sage and her soul sister Dels for an early morning hike up on the ridge above camp when the dogs took off after a scent. I followed after them until I heard a yelp in the woods ahead, and then what sounded like branches snapping – the next thing I knew Dels and Sage were running full speed back towards me, with a bull elk just a few steps behind them. I lunged for the nearest tree fearing for my life, but the elk had made its point and turned back to rejoin his cows. Sage and Dels appeared to be grinning from ear to ear, literally.
That Sage wouldn’t bring back a tennis ball, but she and Dels sure scared up some big game.
She lived the life that most dogs dream about – ample food, abundant adventure, and best of all, a family to protect. She didn’t let a tennis ball or a stick distract her from the one thing she loved most – just being there with us.
Everybody that writes a eulogy about their dog probably says this, but when it comes to Sage, it’s actually true – you couldn’t ask for a better companion. She’s been gone for five months now, and we still miss her very dearly.