The death of Mr. Leonard in November took the life out of us. He was not a big winner, in fact he finished his championship one week before he turned seven years old. He was not wholly imperfect but not the best example of our line either. He had his mother’s loving nature, but sometimes he was his troubled father’s son. Still, his absence created an unexpected void that has been difficult to fill.
There is no way to prevent Death from coming to collect his due in his own time, in his own way. Of that I am keenly aware. My husband’s death was for the most part a simple cause and effect occurence. He was a live-for-today person. The best kind of human being to succumb to a terminal illness. These types of people waste little time and effort planning their golden years, or padding their bank accounts. What occurs to such people as a fine idea on Monday, is often carried out on Tuesday. This propensity for living life full tilt, coupled with a lack of impulse control, was like a loaded gun in my husband’s hand. So when told his life was going to be ending sooner, rather than later, my husband seemed to take it in stride. As his illness progressed, we made small decisions about his care, until he could no longer take part in these discussions. He died four days before Christmas, 1994. When I returned that night, Mr. Leonard’s father, always more my husband’s dog than mine, sat by me on the couch, tilted back his long head and howled and howled. It was the only time in his life he made that noise. Sitting woodenly by the grieving dog, it was the first time I felt that strange mixture of sorrow and relief. I think I felt this again, in almost exactly the same way, with the passing of Mr. Leonard.
Possibly I was primed for my emotional malaise by the past show season. I am thick-skinned and tenacious. I can take winning and losing philosophically and realistically assess the strengths and virtues of what we send into the ring. But, I admit that I was not ready for the kinds of people showing Bedlingtons. Instead of embracing the competition and welcoming the chance to go up against dogs from varied lines, I was relieved when Peyton was the lone entry. When our season ended in November, we were happy to have our dog home and be finished competing in the Bedlington ring altogether. It had been a long, overly emotional time that drained us. About two weeks after this homecoming, Mr. Leonard was diagnosed with lymphoma. The remaining days of the year drained away thickly and slowly.
With all we have to be thankful for it seems oddly self-indulgent to harbor this lingering sadness. Time to put it away and look forward to the new year. We will try again for puppies in the late spring or early summer. Finding a suitable suitor for Eva will slowly carry us on. We are ready for the challenge of puppies and hope there will be one in this litter for us. Danny will start his showing in earnest this year. He will begin the show season in a town 500 miles from us called Glen Rose, Texas. One more place our dogs see that we only know from premium lists and catalogs. This young dog is all potential and not nearly the dog he will become. He has time to learn, he is just beginning. We will busy ourselves planning his future shows and hoping there is more winning than losing.
Every new year is unique and full of possibilities. More hard work ahead and goals to reach. The past year was unlike any in recent memory. I seemed more acutely aware of the inequities in our sport than in other years, and witnessed how endangered honest competition in the show ring has become. We will travel to shows to watch Danny and begin learning about our new breed. Learning has always renewed me and pushed me past sadness and defeat. There is so much to learn and the new year is just one day old.