The toughest dog in the world died yesterday. We never knew for sure how old she was, but when she came to live with us, the vet told us she had to be at least seven or eight years old. That was almost thirteen years ago.


She was a Red Heeler, an Australian Cattle Dog – an old cow dog. Her face had character, and there was tremendous loyalty in her eyes. My daughter found her, wandering the neighborhood, all those years ago. No doubt she had been dumped, as so many dogs are where we live. My daughter tried to name her several noble names: Tuscany. White Wolf. They weren’t her. A family friend, upon meeting her for the first time remarked that she looked like she had liver spots. And so Liverspot got her name. Not noble, but along with her nickname – NumNums – she loved it, and would come lumbering happily whenever she heard it.

Liverspot made it her job to guard our family and environs against the giant rolling cows that invaded on a daily basis. Every day, she bravely stood down the huge brown cows bearing the letters UPS, and the scary white ones with the blue and orange FedEx on their sides. The small ones with the eagles seemed to especially delight her, and when one day, two brown ones, a white one, AND an eagle all descended at once, well, Liverspot was in her glory, barking and circling, herding all the offending giant rolling cows together, finally running them all off triumphantly, tail wagging and held high. She slept well, and snored loudly that night, knowing she had protected her family from a major invasion.

Liver was an integral part of the “Cartwright Clan”. The Cartwright Clan was our tight little posse of four dogs: Liverspot was “Pa Cartwright”, the elder statesman, not prone to wandering, a homebody, wise and calm, and brave against the rolling cows. Cleo, the Black Lab was “Adam Cartwright”, the one in black, the brains of the outfit, the lover, the wanderer, and also the first to leave. Krissa, the Chow mix was the lovable, strong, but not always bright “Hoss” – good for muscle, a great party, but not the brightest bulb on the tree. And Elvis, the Jack Russell was “Little Joe” – the youngest, cutest, the sweetest. We’d laugh, watching the four of them charging down the field, side by side as if choreographed – you could hear the theme from Bonanza as they ran. Cleo and Krissa both left us this past year, but Liver endured, the Energizer Bunny of dogs, never slowing down. Cleo’s loss was especially hard on her – she wailed and wandered for two weeks, looking for her friend. But she recovered, and life went on.

Liver was run over last year, and two vets told us she wouldn’t make it. They were wrong by quite a few months. She survived, and made an incredible recovery. The toughest dog in the world. But she was slowing down, and we could see it. we had a feeling this would be her last summer, but we thought she would have the summer. As it was, she only had the spring. Her usual afternoon nap in the garage yesterday was to be her last. Pa Cartwright slipped over to the Rainbow Bridge, met by Cleo and Krissa, along with so many more that have played and guarded this family: Sparky, Chewy, Gracie, Fifi, Thumper, Oreo, so many wonderful friends. Our bridge must be very crowded. Who would think that Pa Cartwright would outlive the younger Adam and Hoss? And what will Little Joe do all alone now? He has new friends to keep him company, but we know it’s not the same.

The toughest dog in the world died yesterday. She outlived everyone. She kept us safe from the rolling cows. What will we do without our Liverspot?