We went up to Orcas Island this weekend planning to have an easy time of it. We brought along some recycled Sten (Ikea shelving that has since been replaced with the infinitely inferior Gorm), to set up in the Dacha so that we would have a place to put things other than on the floor, or on our loft bed. It was graduation weekend on Orcas on Saturday, in addition to Father’s Day Sunday, and so we were expecting a lot of traffic for the morning ferries. We left Seattle at 6am and made it to Anacortes just after the 7:35 boat had sailed; slightly too good of time. We circled back into town and had some breakfast quiche, then got in line at a more reasonable 8:45am.
Ian took the dogs out to walk on the beach; I stayed put in the warm, comfortable car.
On the island Hoover, as usual, squoke continuously from the time we left the ferry to the time we arrived on our land. As usual, he exploded out of the back of the car as we opened it, side-swiping Spackle (who was, geriatrically, trying himself to explode out of the car), and raced along the beaten-down grass we’d been driving on, heading back up toward the road. He always does this, but recently we’ve been trying to call him back to us sooner, in the hopes that he’ll respond better if he hasn’t put quite the distance between us. He circled back, we unloaded the car, and we went about our business putting up shelving and organizing the interior of our little cabin.
We had a leisurely lunch at Rose’s in Eastsound, then a lively conversation with John, the proprietor and fellow West Sounder. After a couple more errands we were back on the land, in time for a brief lie-flat on our loft bed, dogs lying below. True to form, Spackle was comfortably dozing on one of the dog beds. Hoover made himself at home on the little “sofa” I’d made for myself out of a folded camp mattress.
Close to five, we fed the dogs partial meals (they think they’re starving after 3:30pm every day. They’re fed at 6:00), and left for the West Sound Community Barbeque, a charmingly low-key and quirky event, marking the beginning of the summer season and the end of the monthly potlucks for the year.
We walked back to the Dacha a little after 7:30, and, even though we were completely worn out from our day of driving and being outside with mostly-strangers and getting very wet—either from above or from the grass we walked through—we decided to take an evening stroll with the dogs up to the north end, to look at the nut trees and just walk the land. The day, while not sunny, had been very beautiful, with mists and fogs drifting and coalescing all over the islands, shrouding familiar sights in diaphanous veils. Mournful tones from the ferries added to the atmosphere.
The dogs gulped down their second half-dinners (with a little more added because they were getting more exercise than usual), and we left for our walk. Hoover, who had had a difficult Friday in Seattle with very little attention from us and a lot of time outside in barker mode, vociferously ranting at neighbor dogs who happened by his domain, was delighted to be out and free. He tore through grass so long that we frequently lost sight of him as we trudged along, wet vegetation soaking my knees and thighs so completely that water ran down my legs and into my boots. Spackle stayed in step with us but Hoover cavorted, galloping in large loops, his location sometimes identifiable by his curved tail and a hint of sleek back, but sometimes only by the rhythmic clacking of tags. We tried to keep him around, calling occasionally or giving a whistle so that he wouldn’t forget completely that he was a domesticated dog, but aside from one brief visit when I held his collar long enough for Ian to take a picture (Hoover was sopping wet and covered with grass seed), the dog was in his own delectable world.
As we walked, Ian and I were occasionally searching the ground for tansy, checking the places he’d sprayed at Memorial Day, and in general enjoying this beautiful place, and after the pictures of the wet dog, I was briefly distracted by something, and when I thought about Hoover again, I couldn’t find him. There are deer all over the place right now on Orcas, and Hoover has always had a weakness for chasing anything that would run away from him. I thought he had probably chased a deer across the road; we were meandering up the middle of our northernmost 10 acres and I didn’t see any sign of the dog. “I think there’s nothing we can do,” I said to Ian, and he agreed. It was after 8:00pm; everything was quiet.
Suddenly I heard a car coming down the road, and I had two thoughts in quick succession: Don’t call Hoover, in case he’s gone across the road, and “HOOVER STAY!!!” with all my mental might.
And then I heard a loud WHUMP. And then I was running. Up the hill. Through the long, desperately clinging, sopping wet grass. Straight through a rose bush and up a rock embankment to our northern driveway. And onto the road. Where my puppy lay still and broken on the other side of the street.
I screamed, and screamed, and screamed as I ran to him, his body warm and soft, and his heart still beating. A car stopped, Ian and Spackle were there, a van drove up from the other direction. The driver of the van jumped out and ran over as my screams ran out, and said “OH NO! I never saw him! I thought I hit a deer!” and burst into tears.
“He’s not dead,” I wailed, “he’s not dead!” and the man sobbed “Do you want me to finish him?” and I said yes, yes, please, and he was into his van and back in seconds with a really sharp knife, and he slit Hoover’s collar and his jugular. Hoover’s heart stopped.
The first man who had stopped directed a few cars around us, then, after we were across the road and Spackle was settled with me, he drove Ian down to the Dacha to get our car and some tools. The van driver, Jorgen, about our age, helped me carry Hoover across the road while we cried together. “I’m a hunter,” said Jorgen. “But I only hunt deer! I’ve never killed anything that I didn’t mean to!”
“But you didn’t mean to kill Hoover,” I said, and it made sense at the time. Jorgen stayed with me for a little longer, and I told him how utterly joyful Hoover had been that evening, how manic, in fact, how irrepressible. I told him how much Hoover hated living in the city, how he yearned to run but couldn’t abide strange dogs, and so couldn’t run unless we were out, free, on Orcas or in Jerome Creek or Maple Valley. I told him, over and over again, how sorry I was. How this was not his fault. How sorry I was.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry! I never saw him,” said Jorgen. We hugged one final time and he left as Ian drove up.
Ian and I buried Hoover in the Copse. We carried him in and set him on the overgrown trail; it was dim inside the circle of trees and wild rose, and we wanted to get him buried before dark. A perfect place, probably cleared by the deer he’d been chasing around minutes before, presented itself to us and we dug down deep, curling our puppy into a button at the bottom and covering him with a thick blanket of dirt and a mossy rock.
Spackle, after puppyhood, became a solid, calm dog who teaches us that there’s no point in getting worked up; things will be okay.
Hoover, who at 4 ½ was still very much a fly-off-the-handle youth, nevertheless taught us to embrace life’s joys utterly.
Rest in exultation and unbridled enthusiasm, Hoover.
Rest in your peace.