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  • Taking Ursa The Princess Bunny Home

  • For almost a year, she'd kept me quiet company...a sweet presence ensconced in a small black box, surrounded by puppy pictures of her first steps along the seashore and the portrait my nephew had painted of her many years ago.
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  • For almost a year, she'd kept me quiet company...a sweet presence ensconced in a small black box, surrounded by puppy pictures of her first steps along the seashore and the portrait my nephew had painted of her many years ago.
    Ursa the Princess Bunny was one of those canines that endear themselves to humans — beautiful, well-behaved, in tune with emotions, she was loyal and caring and was the source of many smiles. Born in wintry Cordova, Alaska, almost 10 years ago, Ursa was from a pedigree of black Labrador, golden retriever and Akita. Eighty-two pounds of blond fur, huge paws and classic floppy ears, she sported an unusually long tail that actually dragged on the floor before it curled into a loose, Akita-inspired crescent. That, and her forever-shedding undercoat of fine white fur were the only physical traits that separated her from her golden Labrador genes. Psychologically, though, she shared the Akita's fearless focus on her human — she was never content when I was out of sight.
    My companion and I forged many adventures together. She accompanied me on business trips to Anchorage; when I moved us into a crumbling old miner's cabin in the woods, she was a good sport, heaving a sled full of stove oil through hip-deep snow and barking at curious black bears that nuzzled the window. We'd walk side-by-side for miles every day.
    It was our departure from the Last Frontier that marked Ursa's shift from robust good health to several years of allergies, chronic infections and a growing fear of loud noises. No amount of care, medical and holistic intervention or specialty products seemed to improve her worsening constitution. Gradually her weight dropped and her beautiful fur began to disappear. How very heartbreaking it was to witness my dear friend and companion suffering this way.
    One day, after our morning walk, we stopped by the stream where she liked to quench her thirst. Unable to keep down the water, Ursa looked at me, and her eyes told me she was ready to go.
    I had known for a month or so this moment was coming, but of course no one ever wants to consider the reality of such a tough decision. However, I knew I had to honor her wisdom. Our veterinarian, along with my mother, helped my friend to a peaceful and respectful passing. Afterwards, Ursa and I shared our final ritual pressing of foreheads and, as I felt her little doggie spirit begin to rise, I promised her I would be okay without her.
    Almost a year later, I impulsively decided to visit friends in Alaska. Two weeks and I'd be back on the glorious, pristine Copper River Delta, enveloped between mountains and ocean. And just as quickly as I'd made the reservation, I knew what I had to do: Return Ursa's spirit to the land where she was born.
    On one perfect winter day, when the sun shone clear and crisp, it was time. I headed "out the road" to Sheridan River — a winding system of glacial run-off that feeds miles of willow-covered delta and puts out in the Gulf of Alaska. Ursa and I had hiked much of the wild, rugged terrain.
    I trod downstream and soon found a trail of gigantic moose tracks frozen deep in the snow. Later the trail was joined by smaller moose tracks — perhaps a cow coming back to check on her calf. Each print left a heart-shaped hoof mark in the ice, frozen solid for what seemed would be forever. I knew this was the place, for Ursa would never feel alone here.
    I placed a few tokens amid the wind-ravaged willow branches: smoked salmon and venison sausage in case she got hungry; miniature prints of her puppy photos and three blue-tipped mallard feathers. Then I carefully undid the box fastener. I gave thanks to the dusty skeleton that had been the foundation for so much love and joy in my life. I sprinkled Ursa down into the root system, discovering as I did the faint sound of gurgling water — way down below the snowy crust, the Sheridan River was flowing all the way from the 16,000-foot mountaintop in the distance to the mighty Gulf and Pacific Ocean beyond. Now Ursa was forever part of the flow of Mother Nature's miraculous creation.
    Although I claim no surety about what does or does not exist beyond the material plane, I can feel that, from whichever mountain she might be perched upon, Ursa the Princess Bunny continues to give me love every day.
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