As Rosie got older, she lost her ability to jump on and off the tailgate so she moved her daytime base of operations to one of several well-hidden spots around the yard from which she could observe her domain undetected and launch surprise attacks on anything that moved. She became so good at this disappearing act that I started sending friends “Where’s Rosie” photos with the challenge to find her black and white body under the camouflage of the day. Some days, she didn’t come out of hiding for hours. I never worried. Rosie always came in when she heard me dig into the giant bag of kibble.
That’s why I wasn’t concerned that late July afternoon, when I returned from Ed’s funeral and Rosie was no-where in sight. Teary-eyed and exhausted, I stumbled into the house and headed for my favorite couch. I remember thinking, “I’ll just take a little nap and then go find her.”
About an hour later, when Rosie didn’t come to the sound of me filling her dinner bowl, I headed outside and began walking around the property calling her name. At first, I was enjoying the hide-and-seek game, but after about 15 minutes of checking under and behind all her favorite bushes, my stomach began to knot. That’s when I started pacing up and down the driveway, searching the creek at the bottom of the deep ravine between the yard and the road. I made three increasingly frantic trips back and forth before I spotted two ink black eyes staring up at me from the creek bed. Only Rosie’s face was visible. The rest of her was buried in a tangle of vines and leaves and mud.
When I called to her, she didn’t reply and she made no effort to come to me. My heart shattered with the realization that my self-sufficient border-collie-and-more had probably been there for hours, using up all the strength her aging body could muster before finally giving up and waiting for help that didn’t come.
I tried to reassure her that I’d get her out of there. But how? Even if I could slide down to her, there was no way I could dig her out of the mud and carry her back up the steep incline.
My only hope was the Bainbridge Fire Department. They responded almost immediately – four strong young men who, without hesitation, climbed down into the abyss and dragged Rosie’s hundred-plus pounds of dead weight back to safety. Just then, my neighbor Chris Pfouts, who owns Ardenbarry Kennels, noticed all the commotion as he was heading home and stopped by to help. He knew Rosie well and lifted her massive body over his shoulder for the last part of the journey home.
It didn’t appear that Rosie was injured – just completely drained. I monitored her through the night and, by morning, she was back to roaming the property, if a little stiffly, and living her old-dog life.
Rosie died two days later from an apparent stroke. There’s some speculation that an earlier, smaller stroke caused her to fall into the ravine. This was Rosie’s domain and she had maneuvered it skillfully for 12 years. It just doesn’t make sense that she would have wandered over the edge.
When I recall the day of Ed’s funeral, I remember the sadness of his death, the mass with no one in the pews, the uncomfortable socially-distanced family brunch and the emptiness of the house when I came home. But I also think of the four firefighters and Chris coming to my aid when, like Rosie, I was completely drained and had given up hope. And I know that we will find our way home.