Praia, my loyal companion for the last 12 years, died on 1 April 2014. Sadly and surprisingly, he was healthy one week, and gone the next. He almost made it to his arbitrary 13th birthday of 1 June.
Praia spent roughly the first year of his life in an animal shelter on Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal. He was in a dog pen with 6-12 other dogs and seemed content. In May 2002, I went to the animal shelter three times and each time he caught my eye so I adopted him. I put a collar and a leash on him, and he immediately plopped on the ground on his belly…it was probably the first time he experienced that! He was hesitant to get in the truck so I lifted him up and drove to my little home in Praia da Vitoria. The little turkey entered the house like he owned it and immediately lifted his leg! Thankfully he didn’t do that too many times before he learned it was a no-no. He was fairly easy to train, very playful, and loved fetch and tug of war. I took him to work often. He slept comfortably in the truck until I’d take him out for some fetch every other hour. He regularly accompanied me on errands around the base. I would park in a central location and walk all over, tying him up outside each place. He sat erect, alert, and quiet, waiting for me to return. People gave him a little love as they walked by.
We left the Azores in May 2003 and headed to Germany. We spent almost four years traveling all over Europe. The little guy went to shopping centers and restaurants and fit right in with the well-behaved German dogs. He rode in taxis, trains, and even a ferry in Amsterdam. He also had a bunch of doggie friends. His besties were Buck and Buddy.
We arrived in Washington state in March 2007. Due to military deployments, Praia didn’t travel as much, but he had a wonderful half acre yard to roam. We played a lot of fetch and he had plenty of squirrels to keep him busy. Jake, the neighbor’s younger dog, latched onto Praia, and they wore each other out.
Finally, we hit the road in spring 2011. Praia adjusted perfectly. We promised him we would no longer leave him for days at a time and that we’d spent much more time with him. Though he no longer had a big yard, he got tons of walks and enjoyed new smells everywhere he went. Each time we left a campground, we had to make sure he was in the truck. He’d excitedly jump in, sprawl across his bed, and fall asleep…we hardly knew he was there! Initially, we took him hiking a bunch, but he slowed down and let us know the longer walks made him sore. Even towards the end, he eagerly walked 4 or 5 times a day, each walk a half to two miles.
He had a good life and we made each other happy.
1. May 2002, Praia da Vitoria, Azores Portugal…In his back yard shortly after I adopted him. 2. Sep 2002, Praia da Vitoria, Azores Portugal…He liked to curl up with us. 3. May 2002, Praia da Vitoria, Azores Portugal…One of my favorite pics. 4. Jun 2002, Praia da Vitoria, Azores Portugal…He really liked toys. He liked tug of war and fetch. He learned “drop” very quickly and hardly ever chewed his toys to bits. 5. Aug 2002, Praia da Vitoria, Azores Portugal…He is just being a ham. He rarely rolled onto his back. It was usually because he wanted to play.
1. Oct 2003, Zell, Germany on the Mosel River…He liked to be on rock walls. Waist high rock walls were all over Terceira Island and he’d jump up and walk along them. He did that his whole life. 2. Jun 2004, Neuschloss, Germany…That is one happy dog playing fetch with a rope toy in our back yard. 3. May 2005, Rothenberg, Germany…Playing fetch with a baseball. He was faster than most dogs and jumped quite high. 4. Jan 2004, Neuschloss, Germany…Playing tug of war with Buck. 5. Dec 2003, Neuschloss, Germany…Praia’s typical cocked head, floppy ear look after being asked if he was hungry or wanted to go for a ride or a walk. 6. Jul 2005, Neuschloss, Germany…One of our favorite pictures of Buck and Praia.
1. Feb 2006, Neuschloss, Germany…Praia and Buddy. 2. Jun 2006, Neuschloss, Germany…He would often stare at us over the arm of a chair. His eyes would say “feed me!” or “take me for a walk!” or “let’s play!”. 3. Sep 2006, Czesky Kumlov, Czech Republic…Praia and Buddy waiting outside the historic gothic cathedral. 4. Jul 2006, Lampertheim, Germany…Buddy, Praia, and Ballou fetching balls in the Rheine River. Praia was a decent swimmer especially for balls or sticks. 5. Jan 2007, Gargellen, Austria…"Yes, yes, I really want to go for a walk!” 6. Jul 2006, Lampertheim, Germany…Buddy, Ballou, and Praia headed home after swimming in the Rheine River. All three are saying “aahhh, do we have to go home?!?”.
1. Dec 2007, Spanaway, Washington…Jake and Praia in our back yard. They had already played for awhile and were tired. 2. Dec 2007, Spanaway, Washington…On our back deck. He loved laying here in the sun. 3. Dec 2007, Spanaway, Washington…Praia chasing Jake in our front yard. 4. Oct 2007, Spanaway, Washington…Curling up together on the couch. 5. Jun 2007, Spanaway, Washington…On “squirrel patrol” in the back yard. 6. Oct 2007, Spanaway, Washington…He was very content laying with us on the couch.
1. Oct 2009, Spanaway, Washington…Just relaxing in his bed. 2. Apr 2011, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon…One of our favorite pictures. He is sitting on a rock wall. 3. Oct 2009, Spanaway, Washington…Being silly in our front yard. Arleen sent me this picture to cheer me up while I was deployed. 4. Sep 2008, Spanaway, Washington…Hanging out on the couch. 5. Mar 2010, Spanaway, Washington…Posing in our back yard.
1. Jun 2011, Paradise Valley, Montana…A hike in the Montana mountains. 2. Jul 2011, Canyon Ferry Reservoir, Montana…Sunset at the lake on a hot day. 3. Sep 2011…Cape Disappointment, Washington…Playing fetch and tug of war with a stick on the beach. Praia loved sticks. Starting in Germany, we played with them a lot. I would “make” him a good smooth stick with no bark. When we were done playing, I’d hide the stick in a tree. I called it the “stick tree”. Sometimes I hid 2 or 3 good sticks in the “stick tree”. As we neared the “stick tree”, Praia would go nuts, jumping around and barking. We played fetch and tug of war until he got tired. We did this more days than not in Germany, and anywhere else we could get away with it, like some remote west coast beaches. 4. Oct 2011, South Beach, Oregon…Howling on the beach at sunset. He was actually a pretty quiet dog. I had to get him pretty riled up to howl, but he would bark when I told him to “speak”. 5. Oct 2011, Florence Oregon…While staying in Florence, we played fetch with sticks in the sand dunes every day. We had a “stick tree” near the edge of the dunes. Though he was nine and a half years old, he acted half his age every time his feet the sand. 6. Nov 2011, Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, Oregon…This was during a loop hike through sand dunes and woods to the lighthouse.
1. Dec 2011, Klamath, California…Having a little chat on the beach at sunset. 2. Feb 2012, Lake Mead, Nevada…Just taking a rest during his morning walk. 3. Apr 2012, On the Road…His typical travel mode in the truck. 4. Aug 2012, Creed, Colorado…This was the last tough hike we did. We walked nearly 8 miles and climbed 1,700 feet to the top of Copper Mountain, elevation 12,500 feet. 5. Aug 2012, Creed, Colorado…At the top of Copper Mountain…one of our favorite pics. 6. Oct 2012, Alma, Colorado…This was a short 2 mile hike to almost 12,000 feet to see the ancient bristlecone pine trees. It was a great place to play fetch with a stick!
1. Dec 2012, Nathrop, Colorado…He loved to put his face in the snow. He’d often run around with his nose buried…it was pretty funny! 2. Mar 2013, Ridgeway, Colorado…This was a morning walk in Ridgeway. In the background are the San Juan Mountains near Ouray. Note that Praia is sitting on a rock wall. 3. Feb 2013, Nathrop, Colorado…He would fetch almost anything. He’d attack the snowball, chew it to bits, and run back for more. 4. Dec 2012, Nathrop, Colorado…He liked heat! He often laid right in front of the electric heater. He also liked to lay in the hot sun. We joked about him getting “medium rare”. 5. Apr 2013, Needles, Canyonlands National Park, Utah…Just like rock walls, Praia loved scampering around Utah’s slick rock. He would try to follow me no matter how difficult it was. We had to be careful because he had no fear! 6. Apr 2013, Moab, Utah…Praia would not eat his food until we told him it was OK. At his best, he would just sit and stare at it. Often, he’d spin in circles and bark. Sometimes we made him wait 5 minutes…It drove him crazy!
1. Jul 2013, Bryce Canyon Nation Park…My nephew, Austin, liked Praia. 2. Jul 2013, Panguitch Lake, Utah…He wanted to be near us and often laid on our feet. He was a great foot warmer! 3. Aug 2013, Panguitch Lake, Utah…He is keeping a close eye on chipmunks. His chaise instinct was very strong…sometimes too strong! The little turkey would get completely deaf when he slipped into chaise mode. He chased wild boars and deer in Germany. He went after chickens in Belgium and went crazy for lizards, rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. He chased cats unless they stood their ground…then he would wisely keep his distance! 4. Aug 2013, Panguitch Lake, Utah…The poor guy was terrified of fireworks and thunder. Once we got back to the States, we tried to find a quiet place to camp every 4th of July. 5. Nov 2013, Valley of Fire, Nevada…We were playing on the slick rock. Although Praia was about 12 and a half years old, he acted half his age…he was a happy dog! 6. 26 Feb 2014, Lake Mead, Nevada…I laid with him on the floor. He was getting sluggish on warm days, but otherwise enjoyed his walks and seemed healthy. He would be gone just a month later.
We had Praia cremated and decided to spread his ashes in the mountains east of Cedar City, Utah. While staying at nearby Panguitch Lake the previous August, we hiked all over the Cedar Breaks and Brian Head areas. We really enjoyed the relatively easy alpine hiking with spectacular views, but the area was special to us because we found pounds and pounds of tasty king bolete and chanterelle mushrooms! We labeled one area the “honey hole” because we found fresh king boletes each of the 5 or 6 times we hunted there. We spread tons of mushroom spores under the pretty spruce trees in hopes that there might be even more shrooms in the future.
We knew getting to the “honey hole” would be tough in the winter. The road was closed and under a healthy blanket of untracked snow, so we would have to snowshoe. We estimated our special spot to be 4-5 miles, and nearly a thousand feet higher than where we’d start. We wanted to be thoroughly whipped and hoped 6 or 7 hours of trekking though fresh snow would be a bit therapeutic. Tears were shed as we spread Praia’s ashes, but ours spirits gradually rose as we exhaustingly made our way back.
Spreading Praia’s ashes under a young spruce tree
R.I.P. Praia…you were a great companion!