On Thursday, Winslow — the great and magnanimous king — barked for the final time.
We knew he was leaving soon — 15 years! But that doesn’t mean it hurt any less.
Every night, before Rowan goes to sleep, we tell him a story about Winslow. It always starts the same way: “It was well known throughout all of the valleys and all of the vales of the Kingdom of the Valley of the Land of the Puppers that Winslow was a great and magnanimous king.”
I thought today would be a good day to share a Winslow story with you.
This particular story is the beginning of the memoir I wrote this year. It’s all about Rowan’s big adventures. Winslow is there throughout the book — barking along, sniffing the ground, and searching for cupcakes. This is the story of the first time he met Rowan.
Rowan and Winslow were quite the pair. We’ll miss his snuffles, his licks, and his endless barking. We loved him a lot. It was well known.
It was well known throughout all of the valleys and all of the vales of the Kingdom of the Valley of the Land of the Puppers that Winslow was a great and magnanimous king.
Well, one day, Winslow was walking down the deer path, when he heard a little noise.
“Bark!” Winslow barked. It was a loud bark. Very regal. Kingly, even.
Then he sniffed the air, peed on a tree, and shifted his fluffy ears to the sky.
He had never heard such a beautiful sound before. It splashed into his ears like the ocean crashing against the rocks, echoing through the leaves of Treeton’s branches, and finally whooshing toward his heart in a flood of sound and life.
What was that sound? He simply had to find out where it was coming from, didn’t he?
He looked to the left, then he looked to the right, then he stuck his nose into a bush. He jumped through the bush, and then back to the other side, following the sound — that wonderful sound — that made his heart so happy.
He ran up the deer path, as fast as he could, and the sound grew louder, and louder, and louder until it was all he could hear — until it filled him up to the very top.
And that’s when he found himself at the base of a little grassy hill.
He dug his paws into the fresh green grass and sniffed his way up the hill, nose to the ground, until he made it to the very tippy-top.
And there, with the wind blowing through his fur, he found what he was looking for.
It was a rowan tree.
Now, the thing you need to know about rowan trees is that they are very special indeed. They have long thin branches and tiny little leaves, and big, round, red berries.
But Winslow had never seen a rowan tree before. Sure, he had seen Pinerton, and Treeton. He had met Birch and eaten scones with Maple. He had even taken a journey far south to the Land of Knowing and met Baobab.
Yet in all his journeys, he had never seen such a beautiful tree, or heard such a wonderful sound.
He stopped and listened beneath its branches, letting the sound fill him up, like a pile of frosting atop Frumpo’s raspberry-lemon sweety squishy cupcakes.
After a long time, he felt a tickle on the tip of his nose, and he saw the tree’s branches dancing in the wind, dangling in his fur, and he realized how utterly, incredibly rude he had been.
So, he sniffed the air once more, then he barked his how-do-you-dos, and they did the Dance of the Knowings.
“What is your name?” Winslow barked.
The tree giggled. “Rowan,” it whispered. “I’m a rowan tree.”
“I’ve never seen a rowan tree before. Is that you making that sound?”
“It’s like the sound of the ocean sweeping the beach clean, or the wind lifting the feathers of a peacock. It makes me feel happy inside.”
“Oh!” Rowan said, his branches swaying with delight. “That is my heartsong. I didn’t know you could hear it.”
“I wish it was all I ever heard. It sounds amazing.”
The rowan tree shifted in the wind. “It’s just me.”
“Well,” Winslow barked, “I am very happy we met. Would you like to go get some tea and cupcakes?”
“I’m afraid I can’t,” Rowan said, his branches drooping toward the ground. “I’m rooted to this spot, right on top of this hill, and my roots go deep. This is where I stay.”
“Don’t worry, friend. I can bring them to you!”
And so Winslow ran down the hill, and off into the forest, in search of tea and cupcakes to fill his belly and to share with his new friend. As he ran, the gentle whoosh of Rowan’s heartsong filled his ears.
And he was happy.