The sweetest dog in all the land set down her body on Dr. King's birthday this year. She was almost 13. Jim and I drove to a rescue in OH to get her when she was just a puppy, Like so many families, she was our first baby. We found she was mostly good, like the rest of us. She had a deep desire for tissue paper that overtook all sense of right and wrong. She had the most beautiful, intelligent copper-colored eyes and was the most endearing close-talker I've ever met. She really liked being right up in your grill. We named her Aloha, and called her Allie, and then we called her Dogamus Maximus which became just Moose.
Her body developed Lymphoma in October. We decided that we would only intervene to keep her comfortable. We also decided that we would tell the kids what is present for Allie, leaving out what is in the future for her. We wanted to take the weight of anticipation off the kids. At 5 and 8, they don't have the perspective to manage a loss that can't easily be predicted. I think it helped all of us, staying present to this girl we love. I know in the last months we had more moments of deep appreciation with the Moose, noticing her sweet, constant presence in our home.
When I told our neighbor about the Lymphoma, a doctor, she said she thought experiencing the death of a beloved pet would be valuable to the kids. It gave us the opportunity to look at what we believe about life and death. We have explained to the kids that our family believes we inhabit a body while we're here and when we're done with it, when it stops serving us, we set it down. We told them that we believe there is an energy to all living things that came from the same place and never really leaves, like borrowing a cup of water from the ocean- it's always water wherever it's stored. So it makes sense to us that when the body is set down, the energy is still here. We also explained to them that it's the story that makes the most sense to us, that other people believe a different story.
I went away for a few days to attend the funeral of a dear family friend and when I came home it was maybe easier to see that this sweet girl was nearing the end. One morning she stopped eating, truly the clearest sign from our food-motivated pup. The kids chose to be at their closest friends' house while Jim and I took Allie to the vet. Instead of anything I thought of the moment, the moment truly had me. In the abstract, I would have thought that being with Allie at the moment of her death would be creepy and awful, and maybe the intentional way we moved through the experience with the kids is what shifted that, but that moment was quiet and graceful and fast and powerful.
Jim and I cried when we returned to the house without Allie. Later, when we brought the kids home, my daughter sobbed in a way that felt like it was for all of us. My son didn't really look like he was much moved by the loss. Our daughter cried a little more, drew pictures, told everyone about what had happened. Then one day on the way home from school, we were talking about different animal's vision and my son said he wished he had Heaven-vision. When I asked him what that was like, he explained how we are already together right now with Allie in Heaven- it's just that we have bodies down here and she doesn't. So if we could see Heaven we'd see that we're all up there together. Just when I think he needs teaching, he teaches me.
Sometimes I wonder if I was good enough to you, sweet girl. Did I walk you enough? Let you sleep in the bed enough? I will always be grateful to you for what I learned through you about living and dying. Bye, Moose, be good.