Saturday, April 26, 2008
goodbye, dear friend
dogs get you lost. lost on a trail. lost in the park. lost in your head with all the things they do. sometimes it's not you who is lost, but them. i know too well about the agony over a dog who wanders off. but i was lost in love for over 10 years with one of my best friends. fragile, dear and sweet miss figi (sometimes called babydog, little bear or mrs. applesauce). today, i believe that i'm even more lost.
yesterday in the early evening as the sun began to kiss the sky goodnight, figi's sweet soul was released to that wonderful place we in our home now call "dog heaven". she was 13 and had been battling terrible arthritis for years. she'd recently lost most of her ability to control her bodily functions. she'd been suffering falls on hardwood floors for quite some time, and now she was falling in places that weren't safe for her. i decided that i wouldn't crate her, for that was a sentence of boredom for any animal. we'd tried medications that only seemed to serve as a buffer to an inevitable and undignified decline, though they helped so much in the last 3 years.
for the last year i tossed and turned daily (with lots of guilt) about euthanizing my beloved friend. last tuesday i was finally able to understand why letting it happen was more about love than letting go. so yesterday, i did just that. she's free now to run as fast as she can in the green fields that will always stay green. and as my son says, "she can walk again...and she's going to be better...and she won't have any more accidents or struggle." and he's right.
over the past week i've come to realize quite a few things about this great friend of mine. she'd battled a lot of odds. when i met at age 2 or 3, she had been saved by a no-kill rescue group in richmond, virginia. her skinny, tick covered self was originally found in a dirty backyard dog pen in god-knows-where. i loved her instantly--especially her pointy little ears with their wispy hairs. she also beat the odds many times over the last 10+ years by avoiding the wheels of trucks and cars, often after wandering off through an unclosed gate--by a forgetful parent. and then there were the animal attacks and terrible falls. in '99 she fell down a flight of stairs and dislocated her leg. in 2001 she was viciously attacked by a german shepherd, which left both of us (particularly myself) with a bit of PTSD. i was really never able to go to the park or walk her again without fear of her being attacked. but she weathered all of those trials--including the arthritis and mild dementia. yesterday, i realized that this dog had gotten through so much on her own. to deny her dignity in the end would be dismissive of all that she had survived.
yesterday we took one last good walk together without fear and with lots of gratitude. i think that she had decided that it was going to be a good day for her--or perhaps her body did. she didn't have any falls and was able to walk with me in the park for a good hour and a half, curling her feet through the lovely trees and trails. the weather was perfect with a touch of wind that kept us cool. we ate turkey and cheese sandwiches (she had 3) under a beautiful tree and sat by the river (her choice) to watch one last time. then we went home. the spring flowers that surrounded her time at the park made it all the better.
i tried to make her last moments meaningful. the walk made her tired and the tranquilizer that the vet gave her brought her to the afternoon nap she had probably been waiting for. i lit candles and brought in flowers. the room was beautiful. our good-bye so peaceful. everyone allowed me to cry, a lot. but most importantly, though i got to say everything i needed to her beforehand. i apologized for the times i had been angry at her, especially in her most recent condition. and i got to tell her that i was so grateful for all that she'd given me in this life, which included her total unconditional love.
the last thing that i got to say though, which i don't know i had really realized until that point, was that i was thankful to her that she had made a space in her life for me. it's always obvious that dog owners are making space in their life for dogs, especially those that they rescue or get from a shelter. but it's a foreign idea that somehow dogs give themselves to you...make space in their little lives for you. those last words i spoke to her marked probably the one moment in my life when i have felt the most gratitude. and there she goes again...giving me more.
i will miss her so.
photos are from our time together yesterday