Our sweet niece, Rayne, loves to come to our little farm to gather eggs, see the horses, the chickens, the turkeys, the duck (well it was ducks when she was here last time), the now invisible pigs and the kittens. But the farm creature she loves the most is the one named Billy, who she calls "My One White Dog."
Rayne, who just turned 3 last month, earned a trip to the farm from the Valley one weekend this summer just because she wanted to see My One White Dog. When she learned she was going to get to come visit, her mom (Mike's sister) told us that she could be heard to spontaneously break into song, "Mike and Teri have a farm, ei-ei-o...."
We're not sure how Rayne came up with her quirky little moniker for Billy. We're also not quite sure why, when she isn't calling him by his Indian name, she insists on calling him, "Bill." The rest of us have always called him Billy - it's the name he came to us with. But not Rayne. For her, it's Bill. Maybe she takes him a little more seriously than the rest of us; maybe she senses a wisdom in him that we all have missed. To me, he's the goofy little white football I watch through my kitchen window, leaping through the high green alfalfa field, visible only when his ears clear the waving fronds. But, Rayne must have sensed the side to Billy that needed to be taken seriously, the side that called for a little respect. The side that required he be called "Bill."
When she arrived at the family campout in the White Mountains of Arizona in July, Rayne's first words to me were, "Where's Bill, My One White Dog?" Turns out, we'd brought him along because he was recovering (splendidly) from coyote attack No. 2 and we wanted to keep an eye on him.
I don't know how we'll tell Rayne that she isn't going to find her favorite friend on our farm anymore.
It's taken me a few days to be able to write about Billy because my heart's just broken that he died in the night and there was nothing we could do for that little guy who made me laugh. I actually ache because we didn't get to let him go the way we did our old dog Whitney - petting his head, looking in his eyes, and talking to him until the sleeping meds finally closed his eyes.
I'm having a hard time shaking the sadness, and when I look out my kitchen window at the tall, empty alfalfa field, I wonder, "Where's Bill, My One White Dog?"