I buried Spot yesterday.

Planted her in the strawberry patch in the side yard where we can see her grave from our bedroom window.

Her death, while long anticipated, was more difficult to deal with than I expected. She’d been dying for a long time.

I thought I’d be ready. After all, she was nearly 16 years old, and not our only dog. Gaunt and unsteady on her feet for the past couple of months, she looked like the walking dead.

We’d gotten her from a litter in Hardin a month before my mother died, and my daughter Leslie house sat for us while we went to Mom’s funeral in Florida.

I still remember her phone call: “Dad, this dog isn’t house broke.”

Eventually, however, she was, and grew into a sweet, well-mannered springer spaniel who hunted with enthusiasm, was good with children, and tolerated other dogs with the exception of her litter mate Jenny, my friend Dallas’ dog.

Dallas would bring Jenny up every fall to hunt and the two bitches would bare their teeth and growl at each other whenever they were close.

We always figured it was some unresolved litter issue.

There’s a black-and-white photograph in my house of a young Spot sitting between two other springers, Zoey and Scout. Now all three are planted in the yard.

I thought I’d buried enough dogs in my life to make it easier, but it wasn’t. I wrapped Spot in an old wool hunting shirt and laid her in the ground, said a few words to her maker, and wept as I shoveled dirt into the hole.

She had a good, long life, This wasn’t anything to cry about. I still have three dogs. But that may be the problem. I still have three dogs.

Three more times I’ll have to go through this with dogs I’ve cared for and hunted with, dogs I’ve praised and scolded, dogs that stole my heart.

I’d hoped that as I grew older and my own death drew closer that I would become more matter-of-fact about losing a dog, especially an old dog. But I haven’t. It still hurts terribly.

It still hurts like it did when Rosie, my first dog, died when I was 12. It hurts like it did when Scout was killed by a rattlesnake, when Tippy was hit by a car. It hurts to lose a dog no matter how old you are.

I’m discovering that now.

Parker Heinlein is at pman@mtintouch.net.