Tasha Lynn, a female Husky-Shepherd mix and our erstwhile canine camping companion for more than a decade, gently closed her eyes and “slipped the surly bonds of Earth” yesterday afternoon at the Hermosa Animal Hospital in the Los Angeles South Bay. Her passing although heartbreaking, as parting with a much loved pet always is, has provided both my wife and I with a matchless set of memories – on beaches, in campgrounds, and in state and national parks the length and breadth of North America – from which we can both draw strength in the difficult days and weeks ahead.
Tasha actually entered my wife’s household as a 6 to 8-week-old black, white and tan bundle of fur – with outsized ears and huge paws – after a work colleague found her abandoned with a broken leg in the car pool lane on LA’s busy, and super congested, I-405 freeway. It’s hard not to love a pup with big doleful eyes, and Tasha – who was now sporting a bright neon pink cast – was no exception.
Her gentle disposition, stoical loyalty, and unflagging love of those around her are aspects of her canine persona that I have striven to emulate over our nearly 16 years together but, burdened with my many human failings, have inevitably failed to replicate. Tasha was always an inspiration to me. Just as my wife makes me want to strive to be a better man, Tasha was imbued with a set of canine characteristics that drew out the very best from those around her. Her love of life, on good days and bad, was often the only catalyst required to bring a smile to your face or produce an extra spring in your step and it added an essential and irreplaceable ingredient to our many hikes and walks together.
Tasha’s loving nature was demonstrated over the past year when, in spite of her dislike of veterinary hospitals, she accompanied her sister in crime, Millie, a Labrador-Retriever mix (and another rescue dog), to a series of seemingly unending radiation and chemo visits at the Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City. Millie, who had been diagnosed with Osteosarcoma of the jaw in 2011, had become increasingly reluctant to be led back to the treatment rooms and would do so only when accompanied by her now creaky and rheumy-eyed, but always indefatigable, big sister.
Tent camper, truck camper, and RVer, Tasha was never happier than when she was on the road and she accompanied us on some momentous RV road trips from Los Angeles, California to Baton Rouge in Louisiana and also on a circular grand tour that extended east to Yellowstone National Park (where she saw her first bison and coyote), then north to Vancouver Island in Canada and returning via the California Coast to our home in Los Angeles.
In recent years, Tasha became increasingly arthritic and our walks together grew shorter and shorter. Tasha’s last RV road trip was to Kings Canyon National Park, California in August. She had to be lifted in and out of the RV but was happy enough to lie outside in the summer sunshine with her nose pointed skyward to catch the assorted scents and smells that drifted across the sun-dappled campground.
Only three years earlier, Tasha had accompanied us on a hike to the Boole Tree in the Sequoia National Forest but this time out she sat on the rear seat of the Jeep and peered out of the window as we navigated a 4×4 off-road trail in the Converse Basin. Older and certainly less animated than before, she still managed a big doggy grin when we spotted two wranglers and their cattle dogs herding some cows beside the trail. It’s her grin that I’ll remember, on walks, in the car and sitting on the couch behind the driver’s seat in the RV watching a panoply of landscapes and seascapes unfolding before her. I like to think she’ll be grinning still when I see her trotting towards me when we meet again on another ethereal plain.
- Traveling safely with your pet: By car, RV or plane