Life with My People
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"Orbit is not just a dog; he's a spiritual being..." Yakov Smirnoff Orbit was a Great Pyrenees who touched many people all over the world. He was born in a log cabin in the Ozarks and was adopted by a self-sufficient community. Within the community, he adopted Bettine and Peter, whose property, Alpha Meadows, became his kingdom. His life was filled with a lot of happiness in an idyllic setting, but set against a back story of fear and pain. His ability to sing to Bettine's flutes, took him in film around the world on concert tours where his spirit moved international audiences. His circumstances at home, and his compassion for his people, caused him to develop his unique canine understanding, which was confirmed for him when he went over the rainbow bridge. Here, he reveals his wisdom in living the unconditional love of animals, despite all the complexes of their human companions. Orbit's was a good life; he spread a message. Just be glad that he lived!

Most the time, the three of us dogs roamed freely through the woods, digging holes, chasing rabbits, pulling on smelly deer bones or the carcass of the occasional armadillo. The woods were exciting, and we spent a lot more time in our woods than I used to. Sometimes, we crossed the road below the guesthouse and roamed farther afield. We thought we saw a deer standing among the trees. Ninja started to run toward the beast. Asha was close behind, and I in the rear. There was a loud bang, and the deer lept up and ran off. Ninja and Asha chased after it. A voice yelled at us. There was another loud crack. Ninja fell, and before I could reach them, a third terrifying sound rang through the air, accompanied by a sinister whistle. Asha jumped and ran back toward me before stumbling in the underbrush. I could still hear shouting, and I saw two men reach Ninja. They kicked her, but she didn’t get up or even bark. I crouched down beside Asha and saw blood on her shoulder. Asha was whimpering. The men moved on in the other direction. I went back to Ninja and nuzzled her. There was lots of blood, and there was no response. Her tongue hung out, and her eyes were wide open and still. She seemed as lifeless as a dead armadillo. Is she dead? I remembered encounters with possums, which had tried to fool me this way. I gave a little whine and looked toward where Asha lay. Slowly, I walked back to her. She was very still, too, almost stiff, but she continued to whimper, and her eyes were fearful, looking right into mine. I gently placed my big paw on her back, and licked at the blood on her shoulder. She whimpered louder. I must get Robert and Clara. I ran back toward the road and our guesthouse half-way up our hill. Robert was splitting wood. I stood in front of him, barking furiously. “What is it?” he said, lowering the axe. I continued to bark. He stood and looked across the valley. “Those shots,” he said. “Come, Orbit, show me!” I led Robert down the hill, across the road, and back into the woods. I knew I could find Asha and Ninja. I could smell our scent on the fallen leaves from the autumnal trees. Asha was still whimpering and even gave a faint bark when she saw her master. Robert knelt down and stroked her. She yelped, but looked up at him. “There, there…” he said. “We’re goin’ to get you home. Everything’s goin’ to be all right.” Robert looked different as he cradled Asha. He reminded me of Johnny all those years ago. What about Ninja? I patted Robert’s shoulder with my paw, and barked. Robert looked around. I started to walk away toward Ninja. “Ninja, too?” he said, and he stood back up and followed me. Ninja’s lifeless body was only a few trees away. “They got her, Orbit,” Robert said slowly. “They might have got Asha, too. She’s really hurting.” We went back and found Clara. They brought a blanket for Asha, and together they carried her home. Then, we went back with a blanket for Ninja, and took her to Fred at Laughing Dragons’ Lodge. Tears ran down Fred’s face. At the guesthouse, Clara cleaned Asha’s wound. Asha yelped when Clara dabbed at it with a wet cloth. “We must get her to the vet right away,” Robert said. Robert lifted Asha into the back seat of his car. I watched. “All right, Orbit, jump in,” Clara said. “But they might not let you come with us into the animal hospital.” I snuggled up beside Asha on the back seat, and looked into her eyes. On the way, we had to drive through the river above the waterfall they called Finley Falls. I had been driven across there so many times, but when we met the uneven surface and the car bounced through the shallow water above the shelf-rock, Asha yelped. I could feel her pain, and I reached for her with my paw. It wasn’t long before we arrived at the animal hospital. Robert had to carry Asha, and I followed with Clara, lifting my leg to pee on a bush along the way. The vet people let me in. I could smell that veterinary smell as we sat waiting our turn—sickly sweet. There was another small dog waiting. We sniffed each other, but I knew my task was to stay with Asha. I rested my head on Robert’s knee beside Asha. Then, my friend Dr. Espey came out. He took us into a small room and lay Asha on a table. As the vet examined her, she gave more little yelps. I responded in kind just to let her know I was still there. “She’s lucky to be alive,” the vet said. “It just missed the back of her neck and deflected off the shoulder blade. She’ll recover as long as we can keep the wound really clean.” They kept Asha at the animal hospital, and I felt very sad having to leave her. The next day, when we returned to see how she was doing, she was in a stall, a little larger, but like those stalls at Aunt Ellen’s place where I occasionally got taken for those baths and coat trims. I immediately went to the stall, and they let me in with Asha. She had a large cone around her head. “She’s going to have to keep this on for a while to stop her from licking at the wound,” Dr. Espey said. “I’ll let you take her home. I’m going to give you something to dress the wound, but I want you to come back here tomorrow. It’s vital we get no infection in there.” I snuggled up beside Asha. Our eyes met. She licked at my fur, and I licked her front paw. Dr. Espey patted me on the head. “Good dog, Orbit,” he said, “I know you’re helping.” I panted, but kept my eyes firmly on Asha. They carried Asha to the truck. I followed, and sat with her on the back seat. Most that afternoon, I stayed in the guesthouse with Asha. She couldn’t walk and still whimpered a lot, but she knew I was right there beside her. She struggled to get up a couple of times, but the pain in her shoulder made her howl, and she lay right back down again, her head surrounded by that cone. That must be uncomfortable. Several more times, we went back to the animal hospital. Dr. Espey always told me I was a good dog. I felt the love that connected me to Asha, as she gradually recovered her strength. As Asha got stronger, I couldn’t help remembering Ninja. When we took Ninja’s lifeless body to Fred at Laughing Dragons Lodge, he had cried. I knew he was sad, but as I looked up at him, a smile had come across his face. “Ninja’s gone over the rainbow,” he said, “to a better place.” Over the rainbow. The bridge in the sky that leads to that place where everything is forever ‘now.’ I think I remember Al and Julie talking about that when Timo lived with us. Somehow, after Ninja died, I became very conscious of those rainbows in the sky. I saw the colors in the high-pitched notes of strange music that rang in my ears whenever that magical arc stilled the rain, and shafts of sunlight filtered through the clouds. The music made me stop, look up, and see the rainbow bridge. Then, I remembered Ninja. We are forever connected. Nothing begins…nothing ends.

Peter Longley is a British author who has lived in the United States most of his life. Born in Scotland, he was brought up and educated in England, where he gained his masters degree in theology at Cambridge University. He worked for an American family as Estate Manager of Tullamaine Castle in Co. Tipperary, Ireland, from 1966-77, and then moved to Sea Island and St. Simons Island, Georgia, USA. From 1978 to 1997, he was a cruise director with Royal Viking Line and Cunard Line, and traveled all over the world. Today, he works in horticulture as the Horticultural Interpreter at the Springfield Botanical Gardens in Springfield, Missouri. Peter has several published books including Two Thousand Years Later (Hovenden Press 1996) and his award-winning Love is Where Your Rosemary Grows (iUniverse 2003). His definitive work is his trilogy on a plausible life and times of Mary Magdalene. The first book was published as Legacy of a Star (Durban House 2003), but subsequently he brought the whole trilogy out in the three volumes: A Star’s Legacy (iUniverse 2009); Beyond the Olive Grove (iUniverse 2009); and The Mist of God (iUniverse 2011). His family memoir and commentary on John Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga, depicting the parallel rise and fall of the British upper-middle class and the British Empire, was published as Forsythia (iUniverse 2012). Further information on these books can be found at www.PeterLongleyBooks.com or on www.amazon.com Further information on Bettine Clemen and her music, including Orbit’s ability to sing along to her flutes, can be found at www.joyofmusic.com


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