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Fermentations, Ruminations & Meditations


Nov 22, 2015

Our dear Pippin is gone away.  The farm family here at Finnriver has been reluctant to make farewells since we don’t know if she is still out there somewhere, but it feels time now to at least offer a tribute to this sweetest of dogs.

Pippin was a deeply gentle soul, easily frazzled by loud noises and frightened to her bones of big booms of any kind.  She would quiver in response to gunshot and her eyes would get watery and wary with concern.  It was like she was a UN Peacekeeper from the dog nation of Loving Affection and any sounds that seemed to indicate discord or violence were anathema to her.  She seemed deeply grieved by gunshot, as if she believed that such noises could only mean that humans were causing harm.  But then maybe it’s just too tempting to project that she was a canine conscientious objector...maybe it was just startling and disturbing to her because she was sensitive to noise and it made her nervous for her own safety.  

In any case, it got to the point where we needed to sedate Pippin to cope with the fireworks of July 4th and New Year’s.  When duck hunting season started in the valley, with its repetitive pops and bangs, we knew she needed to take shelter inside.  In those moments of disturbing loudness she wanted the comforting presence of her quiet human family and we would make sure to open doors and offer cushioned spots to put her at ease.  

When we noticed she was missing a few weeks ago, we asked ourselves the usual questions. Did she run away in response to a loud noise?  Was she cowering in one the barns?  Did she run off to escape her fear and was she taking refuge at a neighbors?  Or was she lost in that ferocious winter wind?  Did she have an encounter with another creature out there in the forest?  A few years ago Pippin ran off and we feared her lost forever, only to find her a few days later unconscious in the woods.  It looked as if she had feinted in terror and we wondered what wild thing had made her so afraid.  She was never quite the same after this episode and so we thought this same cycle of noise-fright-flight may have happened again...only this time she hasn’t come back and we haven’t found her.  

It’s so sad...

I know many of you have dogs you love and that you know what we are feeling.  That sense of having lost a friend who loved us more than we may have deserved. Or perhaps better to say that she loved us better than we knew how to love?  Or, well, that she was an actual animal embodiment of love...a sort of doggy goddess of love.  And that her presence among us inspired a rare quality of love that is not easily replicable in the human heart.  

We people talk a good game about ‘unconditional love’ but really?  Really?  There seem, so often, to be so many conditions.  Speaking for myself only here, I will say that on any given day if you and I cross paths your potential to receive any loving energy from me will be shaped by: the weather, my hormones, my ‘to-do’ list, whether or not I have consumed sufficient protein, how much I may have listened to the news lately, the thickness of my socks and the content of my dreams the night before.  While I truly want to be a beacon of love to all I meet, the reality is that I am a rather thin-skinned mammal with a big pre-frontal cortex and an untamed consciousness; and I am often not the person I actually want to be.

But Pippin...well Pippin was always Pippin.  She always greeted us with kindness, everyone, all the time.  That same welcoming wag of the tail. That same excited, expectant trot over to see who had arrived; who was willing to lean over and offer a tender touch; who was willing to play, to smile, to talk with her in friendly fashion.  Pippin wanted to be your friend, she really did.  And she didn’t need to read your profile or know your politics or assess your worth or in any way judge whether you were worthy of her love.  It was offered genuinely and gently to anyone who wanted to kneel down and get doggy with her.

Pippin was also an important part of the farm crew.  Her job was to guard the farm and the flock.  Season in and season out, she took her guard dog duties seriously, circling the chicken coops and keeping an eye out for predators.  If a hungry eagle perched or flew nearby, she barked it away.  If some wild animals were out on the farm, prowling and howling, she barked them away.  If a chicken got loose and wandered away from its comrades, she would bark the alarm and work in tandem with the available human to usher the chicken back inside the fence.  And yet somehow she knew that if a child was skipping playfully towards the chickens to take a peek, that was okay.  She trusted people and assumed they were there to help her in her task, or maybe just to admire her prowess as a protector.

A few days after Pippin’s disappearance, a weasel (we think) decimated the new flock and we lost 150 chicks.

Pippin was also a wonderful playmate.  My boys and I and the rest of the human farm family here spent countless hours tossing fir cones in the air for her jumping pleasure.  Pippin would leap and twist like an Olympic acrobat and snatch the cones out of the air over and over.  She was incredibly agile in her youth and we would gasp and blink in admiration of her cone-catching style. She was like a parkour puppy.  That simple thing made her so happy.

There was a chair she loved too...the nice Arts & Crafts chair with the green cushion that we kept in the tasting room.  It was her humble throne, decorated with dog mud and   her silver hairs. She would curl up in it and gaze lovingly and lazily at the folks coming in and out to sip cider.  

Pippin also participated in cider production by being a vocal and energetic member of the Artisan disgorging team.  The Artisan is a champagne-style cider that requires a labor and time-intensive process of bottling, aging, riddling and then disgorging-- which is the act of flash-freezing the neck and then popping the cap off the bottle to release accumulated yeast.  This occurs with some fanfare and actually represents one loud noise that Pippin seemed to relish. The cap would come off with a perky ‘POP!’ and she would bark once and then dash to catch the yeast plug in the air.  It was charming to watch her and appreciate how humans and dogs have been working together over the ages.  The cidery crew has mentioned how lonely it feels now to do the disgorging.  The cheerful bark is missing and Pippin’s expectant expression, her tongue hanging happily out of her mouth as she waited for the next cap to pop.

I could go on and on about how much we loved that dog. Her absence is a hole in our farm heart.  Kingston, the pup we got to be her companion, is still here to guard the flock and greet our guests, but Pippin is sorely missed.

Those of you who have been coming to the farm for years know exactly what I mean and we thank you all for the expressions of puppy love and empathy we’ve received.  Loss is a part of life of course and the farm has long been a place to experience that weather and the whims of nature determine the fate of crops and creatures alike.  

We honor Pippin’s sweet and devoted service to our farm family, and we will keep planting our hearts here and harvesting love for each other, this community and this land…

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