Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | July 6, 2014

R.I.P. Shep…

Herewith I humbly submit a piece of advice: When making plans, do not try to accomplish in a two day period a road trip, a tour of a big island, an all nighter, a root canal, and a funeral.

By the time one reaches a certain age, and especially if one has lived as full of a life as we have here at Magic Mountain Farm, one has seen the face of death. And perhaps even, held a loved one as they transitioned from this world into the next.

As it happened this week, we had a lot going on. Which is usually the case at Magic Mountain Farm. Forget being lonely and isolated. The phone was ringing off the hook. Text messages were pouring in. We had new help arriving at the airport at no less than 5:45 a.m. from New Zealand, via Honolulu. With a five hour layover. But just like in those ads on TV where you order something, that was not all we were getting or doing. My huScreen shot 2014-07-06 at 10.16.04 PMsband had an emergency dental appointment the same morning. A hundred miles from our farm. The route to which, only required a few mile detour, to go to the airport. So we offered the young man we were picking up, and the woofer* already on our farm a rare opportunity to have a tour of the entire island, if they wanted to accompany us.

Our amazing tenant and dear friend Juli offered to take care of the dogs while we were gone all day. She would be home, training a new caregiver to help with her profoundly disabled daughter.

As the day unfolded however, not everything went as planned. Juli’s new caregiver cancelled at the last minute so she was alone, with her daughter and the dogs. Thankfully on our end, the drive went smoothly, picking up David at the airport and continuing over the Saddle Road, between two volcanoes that top out at almost 14,000 feet. My husband’s appointment took a few hours. He came out dopey, but on the mend, and we got coffee and started back, along the Hamakua Coast, which is incredibly beautiful.

We had decided that we would try to mDSC_0061-e1306367071797ake one detour, on the way back to the farm. Waipiu Valley is stunningly gorgeous, even by Hawaiian standards. It is also far and out of the way, not an easy place to get to from where we live. So we thought, it would be worth it to go with our woofers, for them to have a once in a lifetime chance to see it.

And it was as amazing as it always is, no matter how many times we have seen it, to go. And also as remote. Which meant when we finally got back to the highway, several texts and messages popped up on my phone, letting me know that our dog Shep was having seizures again, only by this time they had been going on, back to back, for 1-1/2 hours.

When a large dog has seizures it is very ugly. And smelly. And violent. And frightening. Juli had her daughter and our other dog shut up in the bedroom. When we got home, which took another 1-1/2 hours, driving as fast as we could, her apartment was in a disarray with dog poop, pee, slobber, and a strange, terrible adrenalin infused stench that permeated the entire living space. Shep was on his feet, but just barely, leaning against the daybed. I managed to get him outside on the dog run, and that was where he stayed until he died the next morning.

Except for a few brief departures, Shep was with someone the whole time while we tried to figure out what to do. But being in a rural area at the end of the day does not offer a great deal of options. So what happened was, I spent the night holding him while we tried to contact vets and friends who might be able to help.

When the vet finally came up the road, just as they drove to where our farm begins,Screen shot 2014-07-06 at 10.17.21 PM Shep died in my lap. His great, golden eyes had been mostly fixed and open for some time. But the pupils suddenly became large and a shadow seemed to pass over. There was clouding. A dimness and somehow a grayness that overtook the darkness and the gold. And he became very still, though he was warm.

We were all weeping; me, Juli, James, our woofer Mariah. Juli’s daughter could not bear it and had to go back inside. She suffers from seizures as well, and was very close with Shep, so what was happening hit too close to home, literally and figuratively. The vet did not charge us, but James brought her and her partner a bag of our coffee and some fruit.

We buried Shep that same afternoon, near the road, where he can keep an eye on the farm. When the ground is ready, we will plant a tree over him. Perhaps Juli’s daughter, whom we call the Dolphin, will help us. Perhaps in the winter on Tu B’Shevat, which means “New Year of the Trees.” The Dolphin is Jewish and deeply spiritual. It could be an avocado tree, and that would be fitting, too, because Magic Mountain is a tree farm, and Shep loved eating avocados, almost as much as he enjoyed a chewing a good bone.




*workers on organic farms


  1. Oh dear friend, I am so sorry for this loss. Our pets are such an important part of our family and I know Juli and her daughter treasured the solace they gave them as well. It’s nice to know Shep was such a big help to everyone while he was here. Now he’s on the other side of the rainbow bridge with all the other furry loved ones (and I am SURE Mike goes there often to throw the ball for them!) Much love to you all.

  2. I give you my greatest condolences. Every furry member a family has is unconditionally loved, as we love all of you. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone. Big hugs and pets to all.

  3. I’m glad Shep can rest in peace now. How lucky he was to have you all to be his loving companions during his short life, and to be able to pass over to the other side in the arms of those who love him, comforted and secure as possible during his transition. Kathy Burkholder’s mother Jean told me once that Quakers believe that when someone dies it’s as if they went on a long trip, or moved away. You may not see them again, but they are still alive in your heart and mind.

  4. RIP Shep. WE love you always The Dolphin and Juli…

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