"Heidi passed away."
Those three words have the ability to tear apart a child's life, even a child that is 15 years old.
I blinked, not wanting to understand, even as my throat swelled.
As my father led me across the campsite, he told me the story of her demise: he returned from taking his quad through the trees to find our dog lying in the sun. She had been tied up since we left, simply to stop her from coming along on our horseback ride with us.
I knelt beside her, my hand automatically reaching to scratch behind her left ear, which was her sweet spot. Just the day before, she was running around, jumping and playing with the other dogs. She had been barking at a squirrel less than an hour before my dad returned, and then she had laid down and went to sleep. She had been in one of her favorite places in the world, Ya Ha Tinda.
Heidi had been coming with us on trail rides since we started coming out to Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, about 6 years ago. She was the perfect trail dog, staying on the path, following the horse in front of her while staying out of the way of the horse behind her. The last couple years, as she aged, she started to forget the lethality of horses' hooves. She started doing things like dashing in front of horses or following too closely, or in one case, stopping dead on the trail and backing straight through the next horse's legs.
Luckily, the horse in question was my mom's horse: she was 20 years old at the time (old for a horse) and as close to bombproof as you can get. She tried to sidestep off of Heidi, but accidentally stepped on her foot.
We bandaged it up when we returned to the campsite, and left her behind for our remaining couple of rides.
When we returned the next year, we let her come along, until she got stepped on again. We figured that as she was getting old, we wouldn't tempt fate any further, and that was the last trail ride that she accompanied us on.
Heidi was a rescue dog of sorts. She was found...
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