The camellia bloomed first; the azaleas came next and are now empty of their bright, white flowers; as are the dogwood trees; and the rich purple flowers of the rhododendron and irises at the gate are limp imposters of their former selves. But the hydrangeas form small bubble-like features that will soon burst into balls of blue-yellow and lime; both gardenias are poised to burst forth to slather the garden air with fragrance; and the lyda roses grace one garden wall with their pansy-like opened faces. As if all of this is not enough, while riding my stationary bike yesterday morning a whisper of scent from the large Ligustrum across the road floated by me.
Nature is composed of cycles and sometimes, as described above, cycles within cycles. That is one way to describe birth and its conclusion—death. So yesterday, on May 11 at 4:46 pm, Nolan the noble hound “went the way of all living things.”
Fourteen years ago when we were living in the Shenandoah Valley, my wife Mary Ann took some items to the local animal shelter. It was there that he found her and won her heart with his “Whoo, whoo” each time she passed his crate. The next weekend we visited him and the adoption of us was completed.
He was a stray that had wandered up to a local man’s kennel. Fortunately for us, the man had many dogs, so he brought him to the animal shelter. While he appeared to be an ordinary black and tan hound that had gotten lost or had been abandoned; a young hound that carried buckshot in his hindquarters delivered by a cruel person, he proved over time to be much more than the sum of his first two years.
At that time, we were dividing our time between Washington and the Valley, but Nolan slipped effortlessly into our schedule. During that first car ride to our home in the Valley he did vomit from car sickness, and he did mark the smoker on the screen porch when he marched into his forever home. Oh, and later that weekend he pulled too hard and turned my wheelchair over, tossing me to the ground. But after that, he began life with us and our beagle Callie and our cat Katie Kitty. During the week while in town he enjoyed walks on the leash with us and Katie Kitty, and each morning if we were not vigilant he would take Callie’s stuffed dog out of her crate and attempt to escape to the backyard. He never harmed Buddy the stuffed animal, but he gained pleasure from slipping him out of her crate, for whatever reason.
During the weekends in the Valley, Nolan was freer because we had an acre that was fenced in by an underground wire. While Callie respected the fence, he would sometimes be overcome with the hound urge to roam. He had chosen a back corner of the acre and would crawl on his belly to “slip” below the fence. His yelps alerted us to his escape. But he never wandered too far, just enough to satisfy his roaming instinct.
Nolan never met a person or animal that he did not like. After we moved to the Valley full time, we adopted another beagle and a stray mother cat with her kittens. He shared the house, yard, and family room sofa with them all, restful and at peace in his life. However, he would grab in his mouth any squirrel or groundhog that Callie chased his way. Oh, and he would chase thunder across his acre lot, howling and jumping as he repelled the invading noise.,
In his youth Nolan enjoyed slices of an apple or tomato as a treat. However, as he grew older, he came to dislike the tomato while retaining his love of bits of an apple, but he remained Mary Ann’s “My sweet boy” who would obediently eat his medications wrapped in a pill pocket or a slice of salty ham.
When the moving van was loaded and headed to our new home on Lake Norman, Mary Ann and I packed our vans for the five-hour ride to the lake. The cats rode in her van, and the three dogs rode with me. Callie slept on the passenger seat, Mickie in the back between plants, but Nolan sat erect between the front seats for the entire ride: My noble co-pilot on our new adventure.
Just as he did all those years before, Nolan accepted and adapted to his new life. He slept on the library sofa with cats and dogs; and he learned to drink his water from the bird bath so as not to stress his aging knees. He loved his mistress as always and shared life with her. But after almost four years on the lake, and sixteen years of life, he aged out and yesterday made his last car ride.
Nolan’s cycle has ended. But like the plants in our garden, he lived and bloomed and graced Mary Ann and me and all around him. His early years of lonely roaming the Valley do not define him. His long life—lovingly lived—does.