Thursday, June 1, 2023

Gilmore - That Cat - Is Gone


The last four-legged member of the Davidson troupe is gone. Gilmore has taken his last breath. Acute renal failure took him at 13.

Gilmore arrived in the Davidson Shelter for Wayward Animals in the oddest of ways. While walking the runway one sunny day, Ginger heard what she believed to be a stressed baby bird. Slowly triangulating to the sound she stumbled upon a slimy little fur ball out of its element.

Barely a few weeks old, square in the middle of the runway, his attendance to this place would have been inexplicable were it not for another four-legged critter named Bair; our black lab, of loveable fame, was prone to grabbing baby things and carrying them in his mouth without damage. It was the only logical explanation. Yet, it was also an unnecessary explanation. The kitten didn’t care how it got there. He wanted, and needed, care or he was going to die.

I was away flying when I received Ginger’s message saying she had found “something.” During a few spare minutes between flights I called to see what it was. To be clear, when she told me I was not excited. We already had three dogs and a cat living in a thousand square foot home.

However, Ginger explained it was so young it couldn’t eat solid food and given its extremely young age it probably would not survive without perfect care. That’s all I learned before my free time expired. When I landed again I called for an update.

Ginger had been online, found the chemical/nutrient composition of cat’s milk and put her mind to work finding those items. Unsurprisingly, she had gone ahead and home-brewed a batch. All she needed was a way to get it down his throat. With that, my time was up again. One final leg and I would be home.

A few hours later, on my way to the house, I pulled into a drug store and bought a dropper. Arriving home with this item qualified me as a temporary hero. It was exactly what Ginger needed. Before I could sit down the little thing was taking excited swigs of Ginger’s snake oil. A concoction our vet would later marvel over.

A day or two later one of us took a photo we’d eventually refer back to a hundred times or more. Despite having grown significantly since Ginger found him, the little kitten could still fit in a shoe. Walking, however, that was a problem.

When the little guy had enough strength to be active he pulled himself along with his front legs. Worried he would never be able to walk, due to early separation from his mother, we contacted our vet again. The news we received was that it wasn’t that odd and he might very well develop normally if he continued to eat GSO. Before long, he was running around the way kittens do.

Feeling he was going to survive, and that there was no room at the inn, we began looking for someone who might want him. The task would not be easy. There were not many people we would trust to give him proper care. Thankfully, some good friends stepped up and that weight left our minds. There was, however, another growing problem. Every hour he spent with us made it more difficult to give him away.

A week later we told our friends we couldn’t let him go. This presented a new problem.

At five animals the household was over capacity and the newest addition struggled to fit in. Our cat, “Meatball,” easily one of the chilliest cats to ever exist, was not happy. Gilmore was a different beast. Uncivilized and oozing with sarcasm, he drove Meatball crazy. Nevertheless, Meatball was sick and that problem soon, and sadly, rectified itself. A few months later, with the original Davidson feline gone. Gilmore, as we had named him, eagerly filled the spot.

Right then, for the briefest of time, everyone was well. We’d take evening walks and all four of them would follow. Every member of the gang knew their place in the world and brought seemingly endless amounts of joy, and vet bills, into our lives. Gilmore was the joker.

When you spoke to him he’d always talk back. If you scolded him you received the attitude of a teenager. When you said hello he’d make a little squeak, run somewhere, and flop on his side hoping you would pick him up. If you asked him random questions, “How you doin’ little dude?” he respond with a sound appropriate for the query. “That cat” was so vocal we came up with things to say to him just to hear his response. He was never-ending entertainment on four legs.

Much of this came from something we learned raising Meatball. When Gilmore was young we picked him up hundreds of times a day. If we walked by him we’d grab him, turn him over, upside down, grab and lightly squeeze his paws. This conditioned him for human interaction and came with a useful bonus. When your cat is easily handled veterinarians love them, and in turn they get better care.

Later in life Gilmore realized it was more fun if he pretended he didn’t want you to grab him. Ginger would tell him she was going to scoop him and he’d run – far enough away to make her run but also to a spot she could easily reach down and lift him into her arms. Once there he’d purr with every stroke.

Looking back, perhaps the best part about him was that he was “my cat” when he was good and “your cat (Ginger’s)” when he wasn’t. Somehow, though, we both claimed and disowned him multiple times a day. Odd how that works. Maybe it had something to do with the litter box or whose turn it was to give him insulin injections.

In truth, it’s amazing Gilmore made the age of thirteen. Seven or eight years into his life he began to get cranky, have random problems, and cause us infinite issues. Long story short, he had kidney stones.

One surgery later, and his post-op bloodwork completed, we learned he would be on insulin the remainder of his life. With that, Ginger jumped into action again, this time training Gilmore to readily accept the shots. The biggest headache was the insulin and needles.

There were times it felt as though all we did was make needles for Gilmore. Other days were spent finding insulin and rock bottom prices. Then there were the days we expended great efforts to glue glucose meters to him – yes, that’s a thing. Whatever he needed, we made sure the little joker received the best of care.

Unfortunately, there comes a time all the effort isn’t enough; nature wins out.

When I learned Gilmore’s kidneys were done, I was days away from home. A week earlier Ginger and I had noticed him lying around more than usual and not eating. After a short discussion, we made him an appointment with a vet hoping it would be something solvable. It wasn’t. Gilmore was experiencing acute renal failure.

That night, as I sat him my hotel room, Ginger told me the news and we made a decision. The experience of the last few years made the conversation much easier than it should be. For one brief moment years earlier, our home sheltered five cherished animals. Since then, as they say, it had been the long goodbye; one of them leaving us for good, every other year or two, until the only one remaining was the cat named in honor of the world’s fastest lion.

Everyone who really knows us knows we love dogs. However, anyone one can love a dog because they love you. Cats are a different story.

For a person to develop any kind of relationship with a cat a person must be willing and able to pay attention to the animal, listen for clues to its mental state, observe its body language, consider its age, understand how food affects it, and consider every possible action and sound that could possibly strengthen the bond between human and animal. This is why so many folks describe cats as “assholes.” They’re just like humans. All successful pairings are the outcome of hard work and understanding.

The downside to all this effort is what awaits you if the animal “goes” first. With all the effort put into a cat, there are seemingly endless, unique, little, exchanges that come to be. Those small things, the ways you interacted with each other, serve as never ending moments of melancholy when you’re the last one standing. Where once there were the unexpected treasures of life, there are pockets of space wherein those things will never again occur.

Raised with dogs, Gilmore displayed many dog like habits. Whenever you came through the door he was there. Ginger would lay in bed, call his name, and he’d come running to lie on her chest or at her feet for the night. When I sat in any chair, he’d be on my lap within fifteen seconds, no matter where or what time of day it was. Now I just sit.




Gilmore has been gone for almost two months now. I wrote this shortly after the little shithead pulled his final joke on us and left us behind. He was such a part of our lives I still sometimes see him at the door when I come home; whenever the curtains hang away from a window I expect to find him behind them enjoying the sun. Today I sat in my chair and leaned back to make room for him. Bummer.

Losing this little guy was different. When we lost animals before Gilmore, we always had others to take care of. Today our house is empty. The energy his life brought to our home was certainly underestimated. Yet, none can replace him.

He is missed.

Meatball, Sky, Ace, Bair, and Gilmore

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Memories Count as ROI

Whenever I feel like strangling someone I always end up thinking about better things, better times, and the great people I have known. Last night it happened again. While searching out a bad ground I had a vivid memory of an old friend who died several years ago. In my mind I could see the day he bought the most insane car of the day and the fun he had letting me drive it. I’ll never forget it. It was hilariously fun. I’m laughing as I write.

Thinking back to that day it hit me there was an interesting connection between the bike I was working on, the car from my memory, my old friend, and the person responsible for the creation of both the car and the bike. This got me to wondering if latter person was still alive; it had been a while since I had seen or heard him in print, online, or TV.

Searching his name I found an email and sent something to remind him of our friend. In doing so I hoped to give him a simple sincere, “Thank you..” for playing a part in creating an endless number of great machines which in turn led to so many great memories like mine.

This morning when I woke up he had already responded.

People are just people, after all. Those who are worth knowing don’t want fans. However, I’ve never met a hard-working man who hated to hear a sincere appreciative “thanks.” I’ve done this for decades and I’m always amazed how many “living legends” answer emails and calls. Most of them, if they live to a ripe old age, are happy to not be forgotten. Now think about those who were working class stiffs like you and me. They aren’t “living legends” and they’re too old to matter to most but they're still there.

When things are not so great, I highly recommend you follow my lead. Think of the good and thank everyone you can find for playing a part in it. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Best Supporting Character - Betty Davidson, Passed Away on January 7th.

Soar with the eagles
Roar past the lions
And call the heavens home
May you rest in God’s arms
Walk in his garden and
Drink from his fountain
I shall feel your spirit
In the carefree breezes
And hear your song
When the wild birds sing.
        -Author unknown

Betty Davidson, my mother, was a truly unique lady. A combination of great intelligence, inquisitiveness, stoic presence, and warmth gave her an innately pleasant demeanor. More keen to listen than talk, and always quick to smile, she made friends wherever she went.

As it was with almost any child raised in eastern Kentucky in the first half of the twentieth century, she possessed the skills of the pioneers and the strong mind of a person firmly grounded in reality. These things never left her. She could do anything and excel at it but never felt the need to compete. This meant others always respected and admired her for her abilities. However, the wise knew better than to taunt her. The witty end of her sarcasm gene could be deadly – one of the many things my dad loved about her.

As scandalous as it may seem today, when she married my father, a man who was her high school teacher and 14 years older, locals considered it a fairy tale wedding. Together they lived a largely traditional and happy life of marriage until he died in the year 2000. Up to that point, despite working as a full time teacher, she had never really been alone without anyone to look after her the way she looked after them.

Silently, myself and my siblings wondered what she would do. What she did amazed us.

She took up golf and excelled at it. “Ran the roads” with the energy of a kid, driving regularly for hours on end to see family and friends. Soon her clothes took on more color, she purchased the red convertible she always wanted, and bought herself a place in Florida. Refusing to wallow in misery or grow old, instead she adapted to expanding boundaries. She didn’t give up; she gave life a run for its money, and it was impossible to do anything but admire her for it.

However, through it all she was there if you needed her to be..

Many of you knew her as the lady
who ran the fly-in store. Meeting everyone
on hand was something she always enjoyed.

When she passed I was tasked with describing her and found it to be strangely impossible. Sitting here days later I still do. She did so many things with intent and so little self-promotion that nothing stands out even as I list them. I think about that and wonder how it can be.

I never thought of her and style together
but she certainly had it.

She was a textbook housewife of yesterday, reliable friend, and hard worker. She also loved sporty little cars, had a closet full of color, was always where things were happening, and everyone loved her. Modern women would hoist her image as a poster child for feminism if it weren’t for her insistence on logic and reason and women of yesterday would find her too progressive. Men and women both said she was beautiful yet she never graced the roll of any pageant. She was always there, whatever “there” was, but never the focus.

YES! Now I see it. That’s who she was and I am disappointed in myself for never seeing it before.

She was the universe to our stars - the scenery upon which we imagined ourselves framed. In a world of portraits, she was a landscape.

Betty Sue Davidson

Novermber 16, 1938 – January 7th, 2022


After my mother passed, we found out (through Ginger) that mom had a poem written to her by my dad that she carried everywhere. Had Ginger not snuck a photo of it one day we would never have known it existed. Here it is below.

Until I met you I just wandered around,
    searching for something hard to be found.

Searching for someone who maybe like me,
    was searching for someone who would always be

Honest and faithful, and true, and kind,
    One who in trouble would always find,

Time to listen and stop falling tears
    To protect and defend from bewildering fears.

One whose love was as sure as the dew
    I was searching for someone until I met you.

                                        - Eldon E. Davidson


Monday, December 20, 2021

Jim Nolen - A Friend to All

Somehow Jim decided this job was his.
He always showed up to wash glasses
for Sinful Sundays. It was nice to
have him back there with us.

Last night Ginger and I reviewed our Lee Bottom photos hoping to find some good images of a friend who recently passed away. What we discovered instead was an inescapable realization. A sizable percentage of our friends and airport regulars, people who were pretty much family to us, are gone. Yes, as each of them passed away we felt it. However, they went one by one.

These things creep up on you. Often you sense it coming; sometimes you see its light around the next turn. Yet, thing get real when you see it round the bend at high speed and turn your direction. Heading your way is an object most of us eventually feel. The loss of people for which there exist no replacements.

For us these individuals were part of our family. Many were like family to our families. They volunteered, flew off the grass regularly, brought us pheasants for Thanksgiving, shared amazing stories of early formation teams, found and restored the rarest machines, loved on our animals, offered us great opportunities, educated us, befriended our parents, painted great works of art, made us laugh, and offered unique friendships.

Today the airport is busier with daily traffic than it used to be. However, to me, it feels less alive. Think of living in a great neighborhood and all your neighbors are wonderful. Then, over a period of a few years, all those fantastic neighbors die. Your life is still good, you live in the same place, but you know it will never be the same. That's probably the best way to describe it.

Nearly all the big personalities are gone along with the amazing machines that transported them and their stories. The thunder of booming voices and aircraft radials replaced with the soft spoken wisped along with a Rotax buzz. Jim Nolen was one of the big voices.

Jim has been part of Lee Bottom since before I called it home. One of our earliest Lee Bottom photos is of him sitting in the golf cart with the airport’s previous owner, Fritz. Through the last decades of his life he spanned all but the most distant generations and eras of the field.

Jim was always eager to help in any way he could. He was such a significant part of the background of every event here at Lee Bottom we considered him a bellwether. Being a Baptist minister his voice was well trained to carry the message of fellowship. Both in sound and words, his presence conveyed the feeling everything was good even when it was not. Likewise, when he wasn’t around things felt a little off.

His presence was so interconnected with our events, when he first missed one we realized our clan was on the cusp of collapse. Looking around we could see the writing on the wall. Ten years of magic confluence were about to end. A few calendars later there were no events.

After that, time went on, he got older, and visited less. From there it turned into the occasional email or word of mouth from mutual friends. In his big personality way his energy was still there – only transported through others.

Sadly, we learned of his death a few weeks after he’d passed. The leaves were gone from the trees by that time, cold days were appearing, and talk about next year was in the air. No events were on the agenda but the next era of Lee Bottom was. Jim’s death made it more real.

His existence was that of a character, a string that tied so many together. Every group, organization, event, family, and generation has these people. Often unnoticed until people ask what happened to the good old days, they rarely get the thanks they deserve. They can be the janitor, the CEO, the friend, and even an enemy. But, they always exist. When they no longer do, the thing their connection highlighted almost always vanishes in short order.

Jim was one of the good ones. Everybody’s friend. His loss marks the end of an era. Anyone who wishes to honor him should see to it the next one is full of character, honestly, principle, and friendship. That’s what he always offered all of us.

* I only scratched the surface of his life. See below for more. 

Click here for Jim's obituary.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Last of the Monochrome Minidudes

The early years.

Today, Bair, the sole surviving dog of our once grand monochrome cadre moved on. Aging, aching, and anemic, he ambled at best. Devoid of the Labrador spirit, he laid his chin flat on the floor between his paws and quickly went to sleep just short of the age of 13.

Our family vet once told us you know it’s time when they can no longer do two of their three favorite things. Walking was out, leaning on us with his full 80lbs was gone, and his tail only sometimes pounded out a rhythm when we called his name. The only thing remaining was his not-of-this-Earth ability to absorb all the stresses we carried. There were two options. You could lie on the floor with your arm around him to receive instant peace. Alternatively, as he preferred, you could rub his ears until all your cares were gone; 43 minutes was the average time. However, to insist he stay only to benefit us would be wrong. He was ready to go and we let him.
Years ago, an airport volunteer befriended Bair. That’s how he came to us. Back then he was just a pup living a rough life with no veterinary care. We told our friend Larry Hagen, “If you keep that up when you leave you’ll have to take him with you.” He didn’t. Honestly, though, I’m not sure we could have let him go.

Walking by Ginger's side.

He was the perfect dog right out of the box. Fun, gentle, and black and white; with zero training he walked beside you the way a soulless metropolitan something-doodle would after years of manipulation. When he wanted to go out, he did. When he wanted to come home, he did. Once, between all those ins and outs, we tracked him miles away making more friends and eating all the treats they offered. Whenever he started to gain weight we knew he'd found another friend and we'd have to track them down and ask them to stop. Somehow, everyone as far as you could see knew his name. Hilariously, it was not uncommon for strangers (to us) to ask how he was doing. Yes, a first class lover boy he was.

Here you can see him saying with his eyes, "I know I wasn't
supposed to, but it was deer guts. I couldn't help myself."

Bair’s only drawbacks were understandable. Before we adopted him the people where he lived would knock the crap out of him if he tried to jump onto anything then they would put him on a chain and leave him outside. Until the day he died he would flip out if a vet tried to put him up on a table or anyone attempted to lift him onto anything. A leash (chain) did the same. Thankfully, Ginger was able to work with him the way she did with Ace and get him over it. This allowed him to tolerate a leash and go for a ride in a car. Other than those rare trips to town, he was pure country boy.
Of all our dogs Bair was not the most of anything. Although, he was the second best at everything. There wasn’t anything about being a dog he wasn’t very good at. More than once during a long walk or hike, even simply sitting on the deck watching the world go by, I looked at him and thought to myself how much I loved that dog. An honest pup unspoiled by modernity; loyal, gentle, best friend to children, and always, by choice, coming home to us.
Oddly, his passing was in many ways less painful than others. Once he made it to us he lived what may have been the perfect dog life. He missed out on nothing, lived the way a dog wants to and should live - on edge of wild but wholly tame - and when his time came he didn’t suffer. However, in those same ways it is devastating as I realize I shall never see that again in my life.
He was the best dog ever.

One of his last days on Earth,
hanging out on the deck.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Already Mowing in 2021

You may have already seen the golf cart we use for picking
up the cones in action. This is how it looked 17 years ago.

Thanks to everyone for your contributions to the Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge Operations Fund. We've already serviced several pieces of equipment and should have the first 2021 mowing finished today.

The next big project is bringing the water back on line. We'll keep you posted.

*Throughout the years we've mowed as early at the second week of March and first week of May.

Ace is Gone


There was no fooling this boy.

*I wrote this as a quick review of his life. 18 years of life makes it long. Not originally intended for widespread viewing I took little care to make it worthy of publication. Then Ginger suggested that because so many people always ask about Ace I should make it public. Here it is. If you don't like dogs, don't bother reading it. If you do like dogs always support efforts that reduce the number of abandoned animals - and people who abandon them. Rich

I remember the day Ace arrived. We had been looking for the right pup for weeks when we found and settled on a reddish brown female border collie. Advertised by a lady who fostered dogs from a high kill shelter, the dog was everything we wanted. However, by the time we could get everything together, including references, she (the dog) was gone. Fortunately, that canine had a brother in the same foster home.

one of
One of our earliest photos of Ace. This is Ginger's dad, Wayne,
watching him while Ginger worked.
Photo by Michael Cuy at the Indy Airshow.

The way we heard it Ace was one of those special dogs who the foster family had been unable to resist falling in love with. Yet, they knew they had to move dogs to new homes because they needed to save more from the shelter. Therefore, they suggested Ginger should visit. If Ace took to her, we had impeccable references, and they felt we had good juju they’d consider letting him leave with her.

Ace hanging out in front of the airport house with Ginger
and anotherfriend gone too soon, Ed Escalon.

When Ginger arrived at Lee Bottom with Ace, my brother, John, was there. I still remember him playing with Ace in front of the airport house. Ginger remembers him saying, “I think he’ll fit right in.” He certainly did.

Always hanging out with the cool kids.

There was a problem though. During the drive home Ginger discovered Ace hated riding in cars – he drooled continuously. Since she was still living in Indianapolis and driving to Lee Bottom on the weekends, one very specific pup would need to develop a taste for executive transportation. However, no matter how much he rode in a car it didn’t get better. A solution was called for. Ginger pulled it off. The following is how she did it.

Debating another shot at riding in the car.

Operation Ace Must Ride: First, Ginger started by taking him to the car, getting him in, giving him a treat and getting him back out. Once he could do that she got him in the car closed the door, left him there a few minutes then got him out and gave him a treat. The next stage of the operation involved both of them getting in the car. They’d sit in the car, Ginger would read for a while, then they’d get out and Ace would get a treat. Next came the noise.

Debating a ride on the trailer.

Ginger would get Ace in her car, start it, let it run, then shut it off and Ace got a treat. Are you spotting a pattern? After a few days of that Ace graduated to being on the move. When Ginger started the car she backed to the end of the driveway, stopped, then pull back into the garage acting as though it was the greatest thing they’d ever done in hopes of encouraging the smart little guy. Naturally, he got a treat.

Ace trying to get someone to take him for a spin.

Finally, after all those days or weeks, the big day came. Ginger put him in the car, started it, backed out, and drove away. The clincher? She took him to a local pet store, took him inside, let him pick out a treat on the bottom shelf, let him enjoy it, then drove him home.

Eventually Ace rode on or in everything except aircraft.
We never wanted him to associate a running aircraft with
a positive. All he knew was that when a plane wasn't running
and the people were out he could lay under it.

If I remember correctly, she continued to do the same thing with him every day for a week or more before she drove him to Lee Bottom again. 98% cured of his drooling, he would soon go on to be 100% convinced no vehicle, truck, golf-cart, or even a four-wheeler would ever move more than six inches without him on or in it. When he couldn’t do either, he’d run.

Sky attempting to catch Ace.

Once Ace was comfortable at the airport, we began noticing an unexpected trait. In much the same way farmers found Superman in a field, we discovered our little fur covered bundle of joy was wicked fast. He had no visible traits of any exceptionally fast breed but somewhere in his genes was rocket fuel. It’s still hard to believe how far he could chase a deer and still be calmly jogging inches behind it. For the first few years of his life he’d also run beside or in front of the tractor as we mowed. Note, we’ve always mowed fast. What was crazy was that he didn’t run along with you for part of it, he ran for all of it - ALL OF IT – MILES AND MILES OF IT.

There would be no honor in outrunning this human.

When he wasn’t running another thing stood out. He had the most head high proud trot of any dog I’ve ever known. If you’ve ever watched a thoroughbred settle into a post work out trot you’ve seen how he traveled if he wasn’t running or riding. This is what he’d do as he played his favorite game – outrun the lazy human.

At home on South River Bottom Road,
aka - the Ace Davidson Speedway.

Ace always had to be in the lead. Where it became really apparent was in our nightly walks. No matter how many people or creatures were walking with us he had to be in the lead. From up front he’d look back to ask why you were not keeping up. If you tried to catch up, he’d accelerate. If you started to jog he’d start a slow run. If you took off in a sprint he’d run faster and further ahead of you until you ran out of gas, then he’d fall back into his trot then look back to point out you still were not keeping up.

He loved the cold.  Anytime it was below 70 degrees
he was supercharged.

When we realized this was a game to him we eagerly attempted to make it our own, often trying to distract him then run by. The few times we were successful it was a short-lived victory. Ace would sprint past us and we would never got in front of him again. I’m pretty sure one such time was when I first called him a peckerhead. He relished the title.

During one fly-in I was running to catch a plane parking
in the wrong spot and had to jump over Ace. As my feet left
the ground he jumped up as if it were a game and took my
feet completely out from under me.  I flew threw the air and
landed with a thud in a flying Superman pose in front of a
couple hundred people. I honestly regret nobody caught it on film.

Then there were the days he’d chase a dozen deer off the runway, following them all the way to the top of the hill. Each time he’d come back to us with a giant grin on his face. An old friend was there once when Ace took after some venison. With an exclamation our friend laughed and blurted out, “That’s the fastest dog I’ve ever seen. He certainly was a fast mover.

Ace herded this fawn off the runway and to the house.

Thinking back on those days, I’m required to recount the time Lee Bottom was in the running for Indiana’s Airport of the Year. Somewhat hilarious to start with, a committee much too professional for our kind of airport actually bothered themselves to do an onsite visit. While sitting at the picnic tables reviewing the doubtful claims such a place could be special, they came to the part about training Ace to keep deer off the runway. Obviously, more than a few of them were skeptical. Then, as if we had a trained deer, a doe stepped out of the woods toward the field and BAAAMM! Ace switched from innocuous porch puppy to heat seeking deer dog in an instant - clumps of grass flying as his nails pushed off the turf toward it, the animal turned and placed its white tail in high gear. The look on some of the committee members’ faces was hilarious. Ahhh, great stuff.

Ginger keeping Ace company on the floor after ACL surgery.
That rug had a heater under it and was a favorite of everyone.

Amazed by his speed, Ginger decided to take a shot at training him for agility trials. His learning was fast also. Unfortunately, his mind outran his body and sequentially trashed both rear ACLs. This was the end of agility and the beginning of what would become a very thick book of veterinary care records.

Ace had a love of the finer things in life.

Ace wasn’t unhealthy. To the contrary, he was so healthy he found his way into many minor trips to the vet. Slashes, rashes, and gases, were common symptoms. Whatever it was he received the best ongoing care money could buy. A month ago, a very heavy package arrived on the doorstep. Similar in size and weight to a hard back Oxford English Dictionary, I texted Ginger to ask what it might be. She had requested a copy of Ace’s medical records.

He always thought it was a lot of effort just to bring him shade.
But he appreciated it.

Recently, as we debated the fate of our little guy, thumbing through his records brought a welcome surprise. Every trip to the vet, good or bad, marked a point in the first 18 years of our lives together. In retrospect, yesterday’s emergency was today’s smile. Among the funniest was, “Taught Ace to speak.”

Poor little guy was stricken with caviar tastes and
leashed to a Lee Bottom budget.

Not too long after we got Ace we realized he had never made a sound. His vet, Dr. Foree, helped with that. Within a minute Ace had found his voice. I can still hear it now. Several years later we realized he had gone silent again. Our mistake was helping him rediscover it. After that he never left the building without an announcement bark to let everyone know, “I’m still here mudda fuddahs.”

Laying in bed with one of the most amazing people I've ever known.
My aunt Ursula. Crippled from polio, she spent her life on crutches and
in a wheel chair. She taught on the third floor, there was no elevator, and
she never quit smiling, and more importantly she never quit - period. She was
also the first person in my family to find out Ginger and I were married and that
Ace had been our best man.

Despite that cool gangster attitude, Ace was the most intelligently gentle dog I’ve ever known. Some dogs are the fat dumb and happy gentle. That’s not the same. Ace was considerate, less instinctual. It showed through in his demeanor with kids and other animals.

If there is something else after this world I'm sure
these two are hamming it up again.

Not very long after we got Ace we added Meatball, the cat, to the family. The two of them became fast friends. Very similar in demeanor and intelligence they made quite the duo. Often they’d fall asleep lying so close the two appeared as one. Both of them being black and white, more than once we were surprised to see a large growth on Ace’s side began to yawn. Yes, it was Meatball. Their similar appearances also earned them the nickname, “The Monochrome Mini-dudes.” Our friend Nick gave them the moniker after living with them a few days during a fly-in.

After a big fly-in Ace makes sure Ginger is left alone
for a nap.

Ace also served as Ginger’s bodyguard and all around top-notch security detail. He noticed everything and never left her side. For years he slept with us in the bed. When he could no longer do so he slept beside the bed nearest the door. Other times he’d sleep in the door. He noticed everything. One winter’s morning he stood at the door and let out a strange bark – strange enough to cause Ginger to look. Snow had collapsed our hangar and I guess he thought she really should know.

This photo was taken next to the sheep pen. I'm guessing
the sheep were doing something to get their attention.

Another year in the middle of winter he did the same thing. This time when Ginger looked there was a beautiful but scared and hungry Border collie outside the door. She became the next addition to our family, Sky. We’d go on to add Gilmore and Bair. However, Ace always remained the animal Alpha. He also was the only one that travelled.

A trip to the Davidson homestead. Here he is with my uncle Walter
looking across the yard, and Mill Creek, at the bluff that helped
define the property.

From the time Ginger taught him to love the car, he went everywhere with us. Rarely was he out of our site. A few months after arriving at Lee Bottom he even travelled to Tennessee to be the only attendee at our wedding; our best man.

Me sleeping with Ace on the floor during his recovery.

Unfortunately, one of the few times Ace wasn’t with us a car hit him. His rear end mangled, head smashed, and very far from care when it happened, I have no idea how he lived. Yet, everyone who could assist the effort did and the surgeon was able to rebuild him. We were at Oshkosh when we heard. Ginger immediately rushed home and I flew home with my brother the next day.

Here he is with the C3B Stearman. A few days later we flew it
to Oshkosh and that is where we were when he was hit by the car.

When I first saw our injured pup I knew the next few months would not be easy. All we had to do was to transport a broken egg home, take it outside several times a day, unwrap and rewrap it, feed it and make sure it was comfortable all without spilling any yolk. 

More shade.

Keeping his hip in the socket and having it heal in place was a critical piece of the post op puzzle. Making this happen meant every time he got up we had to pick up his rear and carry the weight of it in a sling. We traded off nights of sleeping with him on the floor, taking him outside, changing his bandages, and splints for the next three months. Did I mention how much we loved this dog?

Standing at attention.

Once the surgeon said he’d healed enough to put weight on the leg it had been so long we had to teach him to walk again. It started with one of us holding him in the sling while the other articulated his leg to drag his paw across the ground. He was reluctant. We were persistent.

When the power went out the week of the fly-in
we all relocated to a hotel.

Weeks of this therapy finally began to yield results as Ace began to test the waters. Gently touching the ground with that leg, he’d hop over it to keep the weight off. That’s when we introduced distractions.

Hanging out with the nephews.

Doing anything we could to get him to forget about his injured leg wasn’t easy. However, eventually it began to work. Then one day, I have no idea when, we all forgot about it. Only when the vets who knew his history reacted to him as a bit of a marvel did we realize what the three of us had accomplished.

I just like the photo.

Eight months later, he survived the tornado. After that we saw his first weakness appear. The deep rumble of storms rattled him until the day he died. Anything with a low frequency made him uncontrollably chatter. It was so bad I had to remove as much bass as I could from any sound system in the house as it became nearly impossible to listen to music or watch a movie. Thankfully, those changes allowed us all settled into a groove; Ace became an even bigger part of our lives and life was generally good until he began to have seizures.

Eagerly waiting to help Ginger with her bees.

Nobody knew what was going on. He would start pacing, teeth chattering, and looking for a way out of the house. A canine panic attack was the best way to describe it. Once again, after many vet visits, Ginger found a specialist and off we went.

Helping the guys get ready for the fly-in.

Amazingly, the veterinary neurologist knew in less than thirty seconds what had been a mystery to many others. Seizures, most likely caused by his run in with the car, were freaking him out. He could sense them coming on, then he would try to get away from them and couldn’t.

He led a pretty good crew.

Thank God for this lady. She was brilliant. An hour later, for all practical purposes, a medicine commonly prescribed for Parkinson’s disease cured him. For the rest of his life we’d give him those pills morning and night.

One of his many trips to "the vet."

Finally, two years ago his right rear leg started to drag and getting up became difficult for him. Conversations about how we’d know if we should put him to rest became common. Twice it got so bad we were sure it was days away. Both times he rebounded and continued to walk with us nightly.

As Ace grew older, Bair became what we affectionately called,
"Ace's hearing ear dog."  When Ace lost most of his eyesight and
hearing Bair became his guide. Bair didn't leave him and Ace
stuck by his side. Ace still knew his way around but Bair could hear us.  Therefore, the few times we let Ace out by himself then needed him to come in we had an issue. 
The solution? When we really needed Ace to come in I would fire off a few rounds from the deck and Ace would hear them and come running.

We always joked his tail was his gas gauge. A few years ago he’d easily walk three miles. Then we began to notice he could only do two. Then one and a half. We knew this because his tail went from high to low in a linear fashion in relation to the energy he had remaining. When he could only do a quarter mile we became worried once more.

The Forees. They gave Ace such good care.

His life fading while we had another sick animal in the house wore on our nerves. During one memorable call a friend asked how the animals were doing and I blurted out, “I wish they’d just die.” Hearing the silent shock on the other end made me realize what I had said. When they verified I wouldn’t do anything to rush their demise, I realized they had no idea how much I loved the animals in question and how often we were questioning if our desire to keep them alive was for us or them.

Toward the end he would go outside, lay on this bank, and watch
the world go by.  To me it looked like an old man sitting in
the sun thinking about better days and wondering when
and how the end would come.

That was the maddening concern all along. Were we actually causing Ace to suffer by doing everything we could to keep him alive? We asked the vet, asked another vet, researched the topic online, and the best thing we could come up with was what Ace’s original vet suggested, “Find three things he loves and when he cannot do two of them, you have your answer.” Yet, if he’d “just die” in his sleep it wouldn’t fall to me to decide when that was. That was the source of the statement that caught our friends off guard.

Always watching you.

However, no matter how weak, old, or thin he got Ace continued to do all the things he loved, only slower. Ginger had always marveled how Ace knew when I was gone and would take on the role of guard dog. Then as soon as I got home he’d play with me like a puppy. This too he did as little as a month ago, although painfully slow.

The last days were filled with hugs and clad in extra grip
booties for getting up and down. 

Ten days ago, that all ended. Ginger and Ace had been enjoying a warm Florida get-a-way, making new friends, walking nightly as we always had, and generally relaxing when Ace decided he was done. I don’t know if he couldn’t get up or he decided he was through trying. All I know is that Ginger’s voice told me it definitely was not good. Unfortunately, I had just left on a short trip.

From a group of photos taken by Shelby Lynn Photography.

Over the next few days we talked frequently about what to do and how. Ginger had already found a service that would come to where we were and now she was asking me where that was going to be. All I knew was that it had to be somewhere special – somewhere he’d love. Thankfully, she found it.

Ginger and Ace smiling for the camera in 2020.

When I arrived in Ft. Meyers, straight from my trip, I was exhausted and Ace was motionless on the floor. Walking over to him, his eyes followed, nothing else moved. Lying down beside him I tried to express in some manner all the ways he’d made my good life better. He made one small movement he always made when happy, and that was the last real effort I saw.

My little buddy's last ride.

Picking him up for his last car ride, I felt the skin on his spine as he, for the first time ever, assumed the fetal position in my arms. Honestly, I have no idea how I took the next steps without folding. Looking deep into my eyes, looking for something, I did everything I could to reassure him everything was going to be better. Laying him in the car, his eyes followed and nothing else moved. An expression of resignation was all he could muster.

Our little boy made a good thing better.

When we arrived at the spot Ginger had found it was perfect. When times are tough she always pulls off miracles. We laid out a blanket, I got Ace from the car, and we rolled him from my arms onto his side. For the next half hour Ginger laid with him on the ground, petting his head, his eyes focused on her, then trying to find me while I mostly paced.

On a day in March...

When the vet arrived she marveled at his health even in his near motionless state. He was clearly ready to go and it was obvious we had spared him nothing. After sedation, I kneeled down with him and Ginger and noticed his breathing grow shallow and rapid. Knowing the drill I steadied myself for the final injection. Resting my hand on his head, he took five breaths and was gone.

A little while later I sent the following to those I knew who’d care.

“It is with the greatest of sadness we inform you that Ace Davidson left this Earth today, March 17th, at 1:57PM. Under the Page Field pattern, in a shady spot next to a lake, birds chirping and butterflies flying, his parents said goodbye to him – the truest of companions, their best man, and all around great dog.”

He was 18 years old.

Months earlier self-doubt filled our thoughts. Were we keeping him alive for selfish reasons? On Ace’s last day I thought back on all the times he could have died and wondered, “Was he living for us?” In retrospect, it sure feels that way. Giving until he had nothing left to give, the little peckerhead left us behind again.

...and into our memories he went.