OK, fine, I admit it. I was a little annoying on the river the other day. Crying, excited, anxious, not caring about anyone’s feelings. It was a rough day for everyone. Walter was at home snoozing, but I was not about to be left behind.
I’m just too special to my man friend, or so I’d like to think, to not be there for him. He needed me. It was his Dad. It was the final moment to let go and move forward. Plus, there was opportunity for exploring and romping, and there always has to be a dog there for that.
We were graced that day not by lots of trout hooking fishing lines, but by birds. How can anything be more glorious and patriotic than an eagle soaring above? Plus, there was a bittern (perhaps?) showing us the way downstream most of the time, with sandhill cranes in the distance cheering us on as we floated. And, most amazing, there were two (or the same one appearing twice) owls being woken from their daytime slumber to quickly take flight and show off their glorious size and beauty. We were fortunate that day to be visited by some special, rare animals and, one might think, their appearances were purposeful and meaningful to the journey we were taking.
Then, we stopped, knowing it was time. When the moment came, I blasted up out of the water to try to jump in the boat and splashed everyone. A little comic relief, they implied, but I really thought they were going to leave me on the shore and take off in their boat. Instead, they were getting ready for it.
The day could not have been more beautiful, with crisp and clean air, bright blue and piercing sunny skies. The Tetons were clear in the distance, unbelievably not obscured by haze as they had been for days prior. The sun was powerful, but not too strong, the temperature just right.
The only cloud seen that day was in the water when his ashes were released. The huge plume blanketed the water and drifted downstream, beautifully moving at the pace of the current and slowly getting more faint as it glided along. His spirit was floating away. We all saw it and it was lovely. And, surely, the remaining bright white sediment that stayed on the river bottom will slowly release itself downstream over time, speckling the river with his memory and, if we’re lucky, allowing us to spot him here and there among the fish for awhile.
Of course Willie Nelson was playing during the moment. Jack loved Willie. And some other fun music that they all envisioned him pumping his fists to, that being his signature move. They drank beer, pumped their fists, let the ashes go, spoke some words, cried, hugged, laughed and continued to float. All that among the birds.
We’ll always remember the location, that one spot on the Teton River where two channels meet to form one wider section of water, just after you turn and the Tetons are revealed yet again. The spot where you remember where you are and, even with the most eager of fish nudging your fly, you can’t help but look to the horizon and give thanks. We’ll always be close-by in one form or another, floating over that very spot again and again.
And, whether it is with me or with other future dogs lucky enough to be with my friends and their family, we’ll stop for a break, splash and run in the river, along the banks, back over that spot again and again, with glee, love and appreciation for the moment, for many years to come. Just exactly as he wanted.