A little over thirteen years ago my mother picked up Nellie (my girlfriend of one year!) and I after university ended for the summer. Our job that day was to help her pick out a puppy to bring home to the farm. My parents had been without a dog for a year, ever since our good old pup Asterix passed away the summer before. My dad wanted a big dog, so my mom had an appointment to see some Rough Collie puppies. We saw a few but she developed a soft spot for the oldest one there. He’d been passed over a few times as he was the runt of the litter, and was now a few months older and a little bigger than the other puppies. Honestly, he seemed a little stunned. But mom liked him, and he was undeniably cute, so we put him in a cage, stuck him in the car and headed for home.
His first night on the farm was a little rough…he’d never been away from the other puppies, so he whined in his cage non-stop until I went downstairs and turned on the radio. That seemed to calm him down, but that scaredy dog streak never left him…he always snuck upstairs to my parents’ room during thunderstorms. His courage didn’t seem to fit his name — we’d named him Stryder, a variant on the ranger Strider from Lord Of The Rings, so we pretended it had something to do with his long, spindly legs.
After some awkward initial meetings Stryder eventually befriended Tigger, the house cat. With his best friend away at school and then moved to Toronto, and his mother gone for a year (she died the same summer that Asterix did), Tigger was lonely. This excitable puppy, now grown into a giraffe-like (and no less excitable) dog, lavished all the attention on him that a cat could want.
It wasn’t at all uncommon to see them sleeping like this, or sharing a basket. Stryder would often chew on Tigger, or occasionally chomp down on his head and fling him across the kitchen floor. Tigger, in return, would catch mice for the dog and expect him to come eat them, the way his mother had caught mice for him. It was an odd relationship, but cute. Except for all the dead mice in the driveway.
Eventually Tigger passed away too, but Stryder still had my mom and dad around. He would follow Dad everywhere around the farm while he worked, and would follow mom on walks. He would whip himself into a frenzy when my brothers or I came home, running endless circles around the kitchen table and knocking over chairs, and garnering the unofficial nickname you see above. He eventually found new friends, especially when my brother moved back to the farm and there were kids around, and other dogs like Riley and Ayce. But he was getting older, and couldn’t off the floor very easily. Collies like Stryder often have hip problems, and in the last few years his had gotten worse and worse. He couldn’t bark much any more, and he was pretty much deaf, but he still recognized us and enjoyed our visits, using what little energy he had to thump down at our feet at night. For the last two years or so, Nellie and I would always say an extra farewell to Stryder when we visited, knowing it might be the last time we’d see him.
As it turns out, our visit eight weeks ago was our last goodbye. Stryder passed away this morning. Rest in peace, circle-dog. We’ll miss you.