The Navigator and I are back home in the glory of our mountains as fall begins to make itself known here in beautiful Buzzard’s Roost, just outside of Canton, NC. The leaves are showing the first signs of color as some yellows and a few reds are emerging.

Our trip to the Low Country was, on the balance, another successful adventure. I managed to ride more miles last week than I’ve ridden since the 30 in 30 attempt in April. It felt good to be able to get out each day and power myself around on my Salsa Fargo.

Unfortunately, our trip ended on a sad and now final note for us…

As the Wood-Man and I were just beginning our Thursday ride, we received a phone call from the kennel where our Labrador Retriever, Orla, was staying with the Navigator’s sister. We were informed Orla had taken a turn for the worse and was not walking on her own and seemed to be in pain.

Orla in her Halloween kercheif

(Orla camping in better days in her Halloween kerchief)

We knew she had recently been diagnosed with cancer but, she had been doing quite well and I really wasn’t worried that she would have a crisis while we were gone. I was reminded that Life has ways of proving assumptions and beliefs wrong. After arranging for some pain medication via our local Vet and the good graces of my sister, Orla showed some improvement on Friday so we made our plans to leave the island at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday and pick her up before the lunch time closing of the kennel in nearby Asheville.

We had numerous phone reports through out the day and even some hopeful signs of improvement as we made our way home. Once we arrived, she clearly recognized us, got up on her own power, and walked to the door as if letting us know it was time to get home.

The rest of Saturday and Sunday was spent tending to her and keeping her pain free as much as possible. Early this morning, I called our Vet and arranged for a visit to get his opinion although, truth be told, the Navigator and I both had come to the realization that her quality of life was greatly compromised. The Vet, following his examination, concurred and we ushered her off to whatever journey awaits her spirit.

Supevisor Orla

(Orla became the supervisor of all things garden related)

Orla, Irish for “Golden Girl” we were told, joined us some 13 years ago as a rescue from West Virginia. She was approximately 2 years old at that time so, at the time of her death, she far exceeded the life expectancy given to most large breed dogs. She soon “socialized” our still wild 6 month old Chocolate Lab Zeke and became an integral part of our family. Following Zeke’s death in February of this year, Orla became even more attached to me than had previously been the case. I didn’t go to the garden unless Orla went to the garden. I didn’t mow most days unless she rode in the cart behind the mower.

Age related infirmities, in addition to the cancer, finally took their toll on her body. Her spirit was never broken however and she had that happy Lab grin and rapidly wagging tail right up to the end. In my 60 years on this orb, I’ve been honored to share space with some wonderful critters. Orla will always be, in my mind, one of the sweetest companions I could ever imagine. RIP, my friend…

I gotta go ride now…