On the morning of November 19, 2014, with Jean and I by his side, Pepi passed peacefully away. Anyone who knew him understood he was an embedded part, heart and soul, into the fibre of the cliffLAND story. He lived his 16 years at cliffLAND and knew it like the back of his hand. Times when I was turned around after bushwacking into remote parts of the property not visited in years, somehow he invariably knew the way home.
Just one month ago I sat alone with him at the top of Blueberry Mountain. He seemed to be enjoying the view as much as myself, seemed at peace, and seemed equally engrossed in thought. I asked him the question I have been so often asked and could never answer. “How many times have you hiked to Blueberry?” There have been times when I was two or three years younger and led as many as three trips a day to the top. Almost always Pepi tagged along. Now, like me, his spirit still longed to do so but his body could not. One thing I know, Pepi and I have made this journey more than any other human. I am convinced he loved it too.
Following his death I couldn’t help but reflect on his life. I recalled Tania making us laugh by relaying the words of a lady at our annual walk: “Why would anyone bring a Chihuahua for such a long hike?” If only she knew the half of it! Except for Newfoundland, Pepi has tented and hiked in every province and in remote areas of the Yukon and N.W.T. He climbed mountains in Alaska, visited Glaciers, hiked parts of the Appalachian trail, hiked and kayaked Walden Pond (of Henry David Thoreau fame), hiked to Grey Owl’s cabin in Manitoba’s Riding Mountain Park, and kayaked to Grey Owl’s cabin in Prince Albert National Park. He visited the haunts of John Muir in California. Probably the most amazing feat was hiking a return distance of 28 km up Mount Robson when he was well into his second decade.
But without a doubt, cliffLAND was his turf. He seemed fearless – not afraid of the dark, thunder, or lightning. He once chased a bear and sent a pair of moose running. Both times swaggering back with the look of “You don’t need to worry about them anymore!” He brought to our attention things we would otherwise missed including the first sighting of a Blanding’s Turtle, a new born porcupine who’s bristles were still soft, snapping turtles and much more.
Always reserved with other people, I was surprised by an event on Blueberry Mountain while performing a John Muir story to an adolescent group. One of the supervisors told me how helpless she felt when she observed a girl, who had recently attempted to take her own life, brought out a knife. Afraid to make a sudden move, she noticed Pepi get up and walk over to the girl and climb on her lap. The girl visibly relaxed, put the knife away, and petted him. I knew he was astute and sensitive but this was a side I hadn’t seen before.
Two days following Pepi’s death, Stan Errett, who has a special place in his heart for Pepi, made a motion that Pepi be made an Honourary Director on the Board of MMLT. He related that Pepi had actually attended board meetings in my shoulder-bag, he had attended al the Nature Walks, and was a wonderful ambassador. The motion was warmly and unanimously passed. I noted I was not the only director fighting back tears. PEPI MUST SURELY BE THE FIRST DOG EVER TO BE SO HONOURED BY A LAND TRUST.
I think Pepi would want me to thank them. He might add: “I loved and guarded this wilderness paradise all of my life – I now must pass on the torch. Please let there be many places like cliffLAND forever protected! Please make it happen!”
His shallow grave within earshot of those climbing to the summit, serves to make this spot even more special to Jean and me – may I say even more sacred. As I laid him gently into his final resting place I was at loss for words. Silently I said – WELL DONE – PEPI – WELL DONE!