Heintz, as his name implied, was a dog of varied ancestry. He was calico-colored and looked like a collie when he didn’t look like a mutt.
Heintz loved sunsets. He would sit motionless and alert as he watched the big golden ball slowly fall down the sky past our neighbor’s stand of pine trees.
We lived on five acres atop a windy knoll outside of Stillwater, MN. Heintz had charge of not only guiding the sun to the horizon, but also keeping small animals away from my father’s extensive vegetable gardens.
He was a gentle dog, but fast. Jackrabbits got a good cardio workout if Heintz saw them too close to the carrots.
I’m not sure that he knew he was a dog. He’d eat anything. If we put carrots in his bowl, he’d eat them. If we put the leftovers from the previous night’s family meal in his breakfast bowl, they would always disappear. He even entertained the virtues of a tossed salad if beef broth joined the ingredients.
We never knew how old he was. He wandered into the yard as a maybe 5-year-old sojourner and thankfully received a meal. He seemed right at home, but was given every chance to retrace the steps that brought him collarless into our yard. We checked with all the neighboring hobby farms, but no one had an inkling of his history. There was always a sadness in his eyes. He could hold a human gaze as well as most humans, but behind it he housed a pain that time never took away.
He was a natural gardener. Mounds of dirt had to be shaped to serve as a home for watermelon seeds and buttercup squash seeds. Heintz got it. He helped paw dirt back through his hind legs to perfect the mounds. He would wile away long summer afternoons dozing in the tomato bed when his duties as sentinel were not required.
His forte, however, was guiding that big bright ball down to its evening’s rest. I stood with him many times and rubbed his ears while I shared his sacred silent task. When I think back, I wonder if he was secretly hoping for the day when the big gold ball would reach the tree tops and bounce. He would have tried to chase it down.