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The Hawk's Nest

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Lessons from Glacier

Lately I’ve been thinking about what we learn from the animals in our lives. Like Glacier, a white German Shepard, who taught me about unconditional love and how to lighten up and have more fun. 

All Glacier ever needed for a toy was a stick, and nearly any stick he could pick up was fine. On several occasions the stick was, in reality, a branch or root that had a Ponderosa Pine attached to one end, but he would give it a valiant effort just the same. When it wouldn’t move he simply had more fun finding another one. 

I think Glacier wanted to have a pet of his own. He would spend hours trying to draw a squirrel down a tree, just for the fun of it. Another pet that intrigued him was chipmunks; he was always excited in spring when they started running around. When they ran into their hole he would stick his nose in to see what was going on. Imagine being four inches long and suddenly a snout longer than your body, and with bad breath, appeared in your home. He just wanted to join them in their fun but they didn’t seem to understand. 

It is said that people and their dogs look alike. Glacier always received compliments on how good-looking he was.

When I needed to talk he was always willing to listen without judgment or advice, just listen. When I did some favor for him he just received it. He didn’t say, "I’ll do you a favor tomorrow," or "Don’t do that for me," or "Now I owe you." He knew he was deserving and simply accepted it. 

This 80-pound pal loved the out of doors even more than I do and his name was perfect. When the snow fell he couldn’t be happier. As soon as he was in fresh snow he started rolling on his back, making a Shepard's version of snow angels. When the mercury reached about 65 degrees he was looking for shade. But he was always willing to go hiking or be with me when working around the place, no matter how high the temperature, even though his comfort level was in the cooler ranges.

One hot day the stresses of life were weighing heavy on me.After observing my inability to cope Glacier started walking away from the house. He took only a few steps when he stopped and looked back, as if to say, “Follow me.” At first I didn’t understand. He wasn’t a Rin Tin Tin or a Lassie, so I wasn’t used to him taking me somewhere to rescue someone in distress. In fact, I think that might have been the only time he wanted me to follow him. But he finally got through my self-absorbed whining and convinced me to follow along.

Starting up a hill behind the house and into the woods, I trailed behind. When I stopped to look at the sights he stopped, but kept encouraging me to move on. So I did. 

I started wondering if he had found an abandoned mine shaft with an injured child in it and we were going to be heroes, or some other kind of high drama. I started getting into the hike, wondering if this dog should have his own TV show. 

As we came out on a rock overlooking the valley, a place where I have sat and contemplated the beauty of my surroundings many times, I stopped and turned around for a quick look. As always it was perfect. A hawk was gliding over the valley looking for a meal. Close by, the chickadees and wrens were singing and winging in the trees. Across the valley a doe grazed on some leaves between glances at us to see if we were staying a safe distance. 

When I turned back to follow Glacier on his epic, he was laying in the shade of a spruce tree taking a nap. That is when I realized he knew what I needed - to get out and relax, maybe meditate, and this was the perfect place to take me. I looked back out over the valley and wondered if Glacier had the birds and the deer on retainer just for a perfect moment like this. He may have just been tired of listening to me grouse about the condition I thought I was in, but he knew what to do. So we spent some time there on that rock, Glacier, me and God, fixing me, at least for the moment.

I’ve been thinking I need to go back to that place again. Last week my pal, Glacier, finished his work on earth and moved on. Naturally I miss him, but more than that I appreciate him for the lessons and gifts he left with me.

Thanks, Glacier, for stopping by and giving me a few years. 

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

dogs, Glacier, love

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