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Yoda shaking water after his last swim
Yoda, true to his name, loved to swim and loved the water. By March 2008, at age 11, he was no longer able to jump in the bed of the pickup. So I helped him in the truck and took him to a lake off the Arkansas River Levee for what would be his last official swim. Here he does the Yoda dog-shake. Because of his thick coat, his shake was unlike any other in intensity and volume.

Yoda, the Pategonian Water Dog

A requiem


drop-cp-no one, including me, is certain when Yoda, the Pategonian Water Dog made his first appearance on this earth. Suffice to say, it was sometime early in 1997.

See a gallery of Yoda pictures here.

I can say with certainty when he took his last breath on this earth, because I was there when it happened. It was today, April 7, 2013 at the merciful hands of our veterinarian.

Yoda had a good run, but in the last few weeks it became evident that it was no longer fun to be Yoda, and that the inevitable was drawing nigh. I am guilty of postponing the moment too long, but it was an uphill job for me to reach the decision. Seeing Yoda every day was my pleasure. My apologies to you Yoda.

Yoda was a member of the family for 16 years. He and his sister  Cocoa were the sole survivors of a litter and their mother, which some scurvy miscreant jettisoned on a roadway. The two survivors were found near the run-over and mangled bodies of their mother and siblings. They were taken-in by a kind soul who cleaned them up, fed them, and made them available for adoption. We were looking for a partner dog for our late Rottweiler, Sophie, and Yoda filled the bill.

When we went to pick him up, we took Sophie. When the yet-to-be-named Yoda saw Sophie, he panicked and attempted to bore a hole in a brick wall to escape the giant, who would become his partner. We calmed him down the best we could and took him to his new home. I named him Yoda because of his ears.

He quickly learned to socialize with Sophie. The apparition which formerly scared him out of his wits soon became his joined-at-the-hip partner. The two were inseparable.

When people would see Yoda, they would ask me what kind of dog he was, time and time again. In my mind, his provenance made not a bit of difference to anything. A bit miffed, I concocted a myth to explain his breed. From that moment on when asked "what kind of dog is he?" I quickly responded that he was a "Patagonian Water Dog," a rare breed. I further explained that the breed originated in Patagonia where the environment is harsh. "They needed a dog with the hardiness of a Labrador Retriever and the agility of a Cattle Dog. So they developed the dogs from those breeds and Yoda is one of only two in Arkansas," I lied.

Most, if not all of the targets of this legend took the bait hook, line, and sinker, responding with rejoinders such as, "Yeah I've heard of those dogs," or more popularly, "You know I saw something on television about those dogs." I revealed my secret to a few close friends and left the rest with the wool firmly pulled over their eyes.

True to his name, Yoda loved water. I took him with me on many photo trips. His best days were when those trips included a creek, pond or lake where he immediately plunged. His deal was riding in the bed of the truck, licking his chops for the next swim — or wade and roll if the water was not deep enough to support a swim.

His coat was like no other. As thick as a bear with a soft tuft under coat, his coat made him just about impervious to winter chills. When other dogs were ready to return to the fire place, Yoda was ready to dive in cold water or roll in the snow.

A coat like that has its downside for the human household and vehicles. Each spring he would shed enough hair to make a dozen litters of little Pategonians.

Cocoa, Yoda's sister, went to another family after the two canine siblings were rescued. She finally wound up with an uncle in the family. He contracted cancer and was moved into a long-term care facility. The family members, who are friends and clients of my business, knew that we had Yoda, and asked us if we would take Cocoa. Our round heels worked to perfection upon this request, so now we have not one, but two Patagonian Water Dogs — the only ones in the state.

A few months ago, Cocoa succumbed to what we believe was a snake bite. She rests in honor in our back yard. Today Yoda will join her, Sophie, Grits, and Sherman in the back yard. We are grateful for the times they gave light to our lives.

We know on the front end that under normal circumstances, we are going to outlive our pets. Even with that knowledge, it is a bitter pill to swallow in the end. But anything of value carries a price.

Today, we are paying that price for Yoda — worth every farthing and more — for him and those he joins.