Loyal friend never truly left us

English Shepherd, Billy

“People leave imprints on our lives, shaping who we become in much the same way that a symbol is pressed into the page of a book to tell you who it comes from. Dogs, however, leave prints on our lives and our souls which are as unique as fingerprints in every way.”

— Ashly Lorenzana

Our sweet dog, Billy, has been found, tucked far from view upon a lovely bed of leaves near my big flower and gardening pots, a place he never went unless I was working there in Springtime.

There is a peacefulness there, a small grove of trees offering shade and natural shelter. It looked as though he died peacefully in his sleep.

Billy died as he lived — a beautiful, majestic dog who gave us so much and never asked anything of us but love. Anytime we came back home, no matter how long we had been gone, this great English Shepherd would run the pasture fence line, as if to say, “I was on guard while you were gone, and all is well!”

And then he would greet us with grand affection, so happy to see us again. For a month, our hearts were heavy with worry, unable to find this loyal, wise dog who had never been the type to wander from our farm.

Endless search

We searched, we called, we walked and worried and wondered. Our entire community watched and hoped right along with us. With help from dear friends, flyers were placed all around, we knocked on doors and made calls, disbelief behind each action.

It didn’t seem possible that this dog who loved us with loyalty and devotion had it in him to leave us. As it turns out, he never did.

After meeting someone just once, Billy remembered. The sound of a returning vehicle brought a wagging tail, and a joyous greeting. Meeting Billy prompted love in return.

“What a great dog!” we heard over and over again. Our own kids and all good friends could barely open their car door because Billy was so anxious to place his head on the lap of a return visitor.

He leaned in, with joy and exuberance. His happy spirit was contagious. This dog could make any bad day tremendously better.

Anytime we had a gathering around the pool or a bonfire, Billy stayed near, and even though he was a large fellow, he wanted to be a lap dog. I will forever remember him sitting on his haunches, his head and front legs held by someone who welcomed him.

He loved his people with a calm, sweet, lovely presence. I would hold his big head in my hands, Billy looking into my eyes. There was such love there.

Coming home

A dear friend wrote that driving up our driveway has always felt like coming home, and now will never be quite the same. We all will forever miss Billy, his dance of greeting, his wish to show off the newest arrivals in the barn, that nudge of the hand with his big, beautiful head as if to say, “hey, idle hands are the devil’s work … don’t you want to pet me?”

When waiting for a bucket to fill with water from the barn hydrant, Billy conveyed it a perfect time to share affection. Every time, like clockwork. If searching for my hubby, I learned to call for Billy and watch the direction of his arrival and then I would know where to find Doug.

Billy was always with him. If a visitor was in the barn, our Billy dashed in and out, always the entertainer. He could learn tricks easily, and performing them was such fun when new people came to call. A wise and happy soul, Billy was the dog of a lifetime.

A gift we rejoiced in, always. Our hearts are aching with this loss, though there is peace in knowing he lived out his days a happy farm dog. Always, without fail, happy.

“Dogs lives are too short. Their only fault, really,” said A.S. Turnball. At eight years old, Billy’s time with us was far too short, and he will be missed for the rest of our days here. Rest in peace, Billy boy.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.


  1. Miss Judith, Grieve not that good old Billy is gone, but give thanks and celebrate that we had him for so long! He was an awesome dog.

    He left us and “bedded down” in a quiet and peaceful place he remembered from the Spring time–a season of blossoming new growth and freshness. Spring chases away the bland and cold Winter.

    Billy boy remembered that peaceful spot where you and he had grand times. Peace be unto him for remembering it!

    We’ve been dog people for at least 52 years, mostly Beagles. We cry as each one leaves us and lovingly and gently sears its memory deep within our hearts. Treasure the grand memories–when you think about it–that’s all we have. You and Billy had GREAT ones–be proud!

  2. I so agree with Kenneth Wood! I prayed you would find Billy and to find him as you did has so much meaning as Kenneth said. Our pups take a piece of our hearts with them every time we say good bye to them….. and yet, I wouldn’t live my life without one. I cry along with you, I feel Billy was a part of my life too, thru you. 🙏❤ P.S. Your column is the first thing I read each week in the farm and diary.

  3. Maybe, just maybe…..with all the Love Billy received from you, possibly another
    Doggie would be the answer. Not to replace his forever spot in your heart but
    to help you get thru this and to honor his memory with the same affection he received from you.


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