Ranger: dog, beast, friend. I know, I’m about to write about a dog. Some of you may be uninterested by that, it’s true, he was not a person. Maybe you never set foot on the farm, or you’ve never had a dog? If you have had a dog, you may know the nature of that relationship. If you have set foot on the farm, you would know this dog had a love to be reckoned with. You would not leave the farm without having smiled at him and snuggled a bit, or at least wanted to, even those non-dog people out there. He could win anyone over eventually. He was part of the farm and everything we did, even if he did eat veggies right when you were trying to harvest them, or wash them, or pack them... Out in the fields with us he was eating, chasing, digging, tromping on baby plants, or sitting on your feet while you were trying to work, looking up at you with those eyes, you know, those big brown puppy dog eyes that would bore right into your soul, his head resting on your legs, waiting for you to reach down to stroke his proud chest. Some may think his behavior was annoying, or distracting. Sometimes it was, until you found yourself wondering why on earth you were just taking yourself so seriously. I think he thought everyone came to the farm just to play with him, if thinking is what one would call it. Actually I think a lot of our youth farm workers did come because of him, farming too, but also him. Their first words upon arrival at the farm wouldn’t be, Hey Ann, what are we harvesting today? It would be, Hey Ann, where’s RANGER???
This life seems to be such a delicate balance of living in the present moment and planning for the future. Even if no one knows what the future holds, we spend a lot of time making plans for it. I’m pretty sure Ranger didn’t think much about his future plans. Every moment was claimed with an equivalent amount of enthusiasm, regardless of how repetitive it was. He seemed utterly delighted every time his food bowl was filled up, and I fed him pretty much the same exact dog food his entire life. He was filled with identical fervor every single time you picked up his leash or opened the car door. As if he had literally won the jackpot, AGAIN. He looked like his world was falling apart in joy if someone was rubbing his belly, or better yet, when someone was lying on the ground with him, rubbing his belly. You’d be surprised how often I’d encounter that scene. Taking him on a walk in the woods was to witness the wild in him. Watching him bound through the trees like a skilled huntsman, disappearing, than reappearing from a completely different direction, like he had just looped you five times without you realizing, like tiredness was for the weak. He would hop like a goat to get a better view of the squirrel to chase, as if gravity was his antithesis. Then he would stop suddenly, perk his ears, cock his head to the side, and just end up looking like he was posing for a picture, before resuming his hunt for victory.
One of the best compliments I ever got was when someone told me I was a lot like my dog. Is it weird to say I can only hope so, minus the inappropriate licking, gorging on dead things and occasional terrible gas? I like to think I can learn from my relationship with him, and how he lived in the world. Ranger shared with me his compassion and empathy and simple expressions of joy all the time. I felt like he knew me like no one else, had more patience with me than anyone possible, would look me in the eye and understand all of me, without having to exchange any words! What empathy! I want to remember the gift he left the day he died. How it is a miracle that I wake each morning with an entire day in front of me with my son in it. That I get to fill up my lungs and breathe, look with my eyes around at this magical world, and live. Not a life tied to a leash, a life tied down to burdens of obligations or expectations or false securities, but with a true heart, honesty, a certain grace and maybe a little wildness. To live with complete abandon and joy, I can only hope to emulate as Ranger did.
So in Ranger’s honor, wherever you are today, try channeling some of his energy. Approach someone with gentleness, compassion, and empathy. We are in this life together, and there are never any guarantees. We might as well be kind along the way. Approach something you’ve done a thousand times like it’s the best thing you are going to do all day. There is a lot of kale out there, might as well be the best kale ever.
Rest in peace, Ranger. We love and miss you.
Call as You Will
By Todd Boss
the sun makes
up its mind
(in this most
vivid of vivid
and now is
good in the