It has been almost a month since I let my dog “go gentle into that good night.” Getting over it has been harder than I imagined; she was such a big part of my daily life. But bit by bit I am getting to the point where I do not expect to find her waiting for me when I come home.
I read the poem below on the Poetry Daily site years ago. It has consoled me these last days with images so closely resembling my memories of Cammy.
Towards a Theology Based on Labrador Retrievers by Tina Kelley
I am arguing in the affirmative: that the Creator moves among us today in Brooklyn, in the form of a black dog named Addie. Her benevolence is deeper than the farthest foxhole, her gentleness thick as husky fur. Were she human, she would sort and fold strangers’ clothing at the laundromat. Were she only a dog,
she would not fetch without being asked. There is abundance in her, like the butterfly laying its eggs midair. Bountiful and democratic is her spirit: she licks my hand like a spa treatment, she sleeps, calm back flat by my flank, breathing like a separate sea. She dreams of the squirrel’s flicking, scolding tail, its visible neener neener neener.
Her vengeance is quick and awful. Yet love of fellowship runs in her blood, her song like the bird’s that is only heard among other birds. She has taught me the help given to the soul by the mile-wide lawn dotted with trees, by the tossed scrap. I believe in her greetings, in the wide-maple way she roams from one scent to another.
Bury me in this part of the park where the dogs run without leashes, mix my ashes with hers. Shield us in our joy, o protector, o collar. Let her true heart be contagious.
Time tipped into a new season this week and summer was gone. It was a summer of waiting and unanswered questions.
First we waited for the rain to stop. Then we looked for signs of life in the economy. All the while, I watched my much loved dog slide further and further into incapacity, unsure about when it will be the right time to let go.
I’ve imagined the right time will be when she can no longer get up. When I come down to her in the morning (her days of climbing the stairs to sleep beside our bed are long gone), she isn’t ready and waiting for me to feed her. She lifts her head and looks at me without recognition. But once awareness dawns, she still rises, slowly. I help her up and coax her to the kitchen. Her once-graceful tail now permanently curved down between her legs and bedraggled. I don’t know if I can bear to see her lie down and stay there.
So many people have told me this summer that when the time comes, I will know. Instantly. The time hasn’t come. It’s autumn and I’m still waiting.
As anyone who was alive in the 70s knows, happiness is a warm puppy.
My 12-year-old puppy is curled up at my side right now. Now that the mornings are cooler (and I stubbornly refuse to turn on the furnace), she is more inclined to cuddle with us. This makes me happy. Never mind that if I so much as twitch a muscle, she will leap up and start petitioning for food and a walk.
For the past 6 months, I have been following the story of this guy in New York City who has been trying to make no (negative) impact on the environment for year. This means a lot of things, but chiefly he is living on the 9th floor of New York apartment building without electricity, eschewing the use of the elevator, walking or bicycling everywhere, and eating only locally grown and produced food. He also isn’t buying anything new for a year. He and his family (he and his wife have one child and a dog) have been doing this for about 10 months.
This is all background because today he wrote about happiness and, essentially the role community plays in happiness. This feels true to me. The more connected we feel to the people around us, the more happy we are.
Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man