Sunday, September 2, 2007

To all the dogs I've loved before

Dogs are such a huge part of the lives of millions of people, and I’m no exception. This morning, as I prepared to write, I wondered if God set the lifespan of dogs to be in that perfect sweet spot where we, who live far longer, have the time to become attached to our dogs without having the years we would wish to have with them once that attachment forms. It’s not really the sweet spot, it is the bitter/sweet spot.

I’ll do my best to avoid going all philosophical on you, but it is so sweet and so cruel, don’t you think? We’re here in these earth suits to provide the rich experience that beings who are only light cannot have. We inform them via our lives. So, as part of that project, we domesticated dogs thousands of years ago. We bring them into our homes and come to love them, and so quickly they are gone. So quickly, indeed.

To get personal about it, I met my wife ten years ago and spent three days in a rented truck moving her and her beloved Luna from North Carolina to Denver in early 1998. Luna used her powers during that trip to show me that I had far more trouble on my hands than I had even the slightest clue about at the time. She insisted that the person in the passenger seat hold her on their lap. How did she insist? By whining so obnoxiously that it was impossible not to pick her up. Our ears were threatening to fall off the sides of our heads from the sound. No one should have to walk around carrying their ears in a bag, so we went along with her plan.

That dear little girl dachshund weaved a thread through my heart strings over the next months, and even though she was partially crippled—she lost use of some disks in her back which would have made most dogs goners, but for her it only meant she could not jump anymore—she lived large. Why would she jump, anyway, when she had these tall two-legged servants who would pick her up and put her wherever she wished to be?

My favorite memory of Luna is one I have thousands of pictures of in my mind. She had little use of her back legs, yet she could motor across the back yard just as fast as her younger companion, the little boy Roly we rescued to join her in our hearts a couple of years after we set up housekeeping in Denver. When she ran across the yard to emphasize most powerfully to a squirrel dashing along the top of the fence that this was HER YARD and he had NO BUSINESS being in her sight, her back end looked just like a truck going down a dirt road when the driver has a lead foot: the back end would stray back and forth, unable to gain purchase.

I remember so well her favorite position. She would sit in the grass, Sphinx-like, nose pointed into the wind, eyes mostly shut, and simply soak up the warmth of the sun. It is exactly what she did on her last day with us. She was so regal in appearance, and especially so that day.

Luna never accepted “handicapped” as a label. She knew there were things she could not do, so she decided that she no longer wished to do those things. After all, if you have no desire to do something, how is it a handicap to be incapable? Where there were physical limitations, she knew that her humans would make it as if she had none.

She loved, just as we do, her little boy companion Roly. Toleration is a crucial part of love, and Luna taught us how to tolerate Roly. Let's just say that he has some issues, but none of them get in the way of our love.

A dog who has lost her ability to control her back legs also loses, to varying degree, the ability to control when she does her business. Luna was not happy about this, and she mourned whenever we were not paying attention and she was forced to go in the house. Sometimes, she needed more help that she would ever have asked for, but when we gave her that help out in the yard, she never for even a second was less than royal. Try holding your head high while someone helps you poop. She did!

The day Luna crossed the Rainbow Bridge, she was concluding a sold-out, month-long, standing-ovations-every-performance last run. She had gone seriously downhill, leaving us distraught, when she suddenly became her younger self (not her old self) for those few weeks. While Julia and I wanted to believe she was all better, we knew deep down that it was the farewell tour. After a few weeks, she went from vibrant Luna to the old, tired girl in the backyard for the last time in a matter of a day, steering her nose one more time into the wind and closing her eyes to the sun, warming herself in preparation for the last journey.

Bless our vet. She came to our house to help, and Julia and I comforted Luna, and then each other, as she departed.

Luna embodied the best of what Spirit can do in the face of physical challenge. She lived for ten years after a trauma that would have killed most critters. Julia was her savior, as she did all she could and called upon all the resources, traditional and otherwise, she could find to help Luna after her back problem occurred. In return, Luna allowed us to worship her (and yell at her, and coo, and smooch, and generally act like idiots in an effort to get her attention and gain her affection). It was a bargain we would make again in a heartbeat.

Today, Luna is visible in the healthy and beautiful little garden beds you see in the photo above. It was her ashes which were used to give the Luna Beds their start, and it is in her memory that I write today.

Good journey, dear Luna. I don’t know how to thank you enough. I wonder if I loved you enough while you were here. If not, I know that you know the depth of my feelings for you now.

For those of you visiting who are part of My Sacred Life, please note that this post is dedicated, as well, to the beloved Elliott and to Carla who grieves his passing still, even as she feels his warm trusting spirit every day, close at hand.


Julie said...

Oh great, now I'm crying my eyes out when I had already deemed this day "no crying day." What a well beautiful love story, so well written that I'm printing it to post on my fridge.

Hamguin said...

Julie-Thank you.

For the record, there is no such thing as a "no crying day", any more than one would believe in a "I'm not living" day.

To live, is to hurt. It also allows loving, playing, dancing, breathing...all of that "not hurting" stuff. But, bottom line, we are here to feel. And, we do, don't we?

Thanks so much!

Kate I said...

Oh yes, this brought back a few bittersweet dear dog Jesse died just the day before my mother about buckets of tears! They're such precious and wonderful gifts that it's hard to put into words just how much they mean to us. Thanks for sharing Luna's story of dignity of grace.

Beverly Keaton Smith said...

Oh, what a beautiful tribute to Luna and Love. Soul companions, that's what are precious pets are...forever. ~Beverly

The Dream said...

Tight squeeze on my heart right now!!!! Fantastic to read your words, Rick - mucho big thanks.

Carla said...

Oh Rick. Bless you. Bless your Luna girl. Elliott and I thank you for the dedication. These tears are the good tears...