1.24.2011

Rest Well, Old Friend.




On Friday, our family (my husband, his sister, his parents and I) said goodbye to the family patriarch, our dear old dog, Duncan. A real downer, I know, but he lived a long, good life.

A long, good life, I should mention, in spite of nine long years of neglect and abuse. When his rescuers found him, his fur was so matted he couldn't walk. His fear of humans was so fierce, they had to sedate him. His body was so malnourished, he nearly starved to death.

You would think that a dog who has dealt with that measure of brutality would be irreversibly messed up, rightfully unwilling to trust another human being ever again. Not Duncan.

His is a story of hope. As Good as Gold [a rescue organization dedicated to golden retrievers] rescued him, rehabilitated him and found him a loving home with my in-laws. Aside from his desperate begging habit and distrust of children, his past was far removed from his present peace and happiness. Duncan turned out to be a friendly, quiet, cuddly companion that our family absolutely adored.
And then, after what seemed like 6 very short years, he became very ill and we had to put his tough old body to rest.

It happened so fast. Thursday, my husband spent the morning cuddling with him and playing tug-of-war. Friday, Duncan couldn't eat, couldn't walk, could barely lift his head to look Mom in the eye. A tumor had developed and grown to the size of a grapefruit in the 5 short months since his last visit to the vet until his body couldn't handle it anymore. The arthritis in his back and hips would have made healing from an extensive surgery impossible. We decided to let him rest in peace instead.

It sucks.

The brevity and finality of it, the ache of the unexpected goodbye, the shock of suddenly being alone really really sucks.

And he was a dog. He was a member of our family, a dear old friend, but he was a dog. Having never lost a pet before, only people, this has been a strange grief for me to comprehend.

It hurts. In a separate, but all too familiar kind of pain, it hurts. We miss him. The soft tendrils of his fur between our fingers; the enthusiastic dash to the door with his big droopy eyes and swishing tail there to greet us, to tell us he's happy we're here; his cool, wet nose brushing our elbows as we sat at the dinner table; the warmth of his body next to ours on the couch; even the simple sense that we have someone outside of ourselves to care for, leaves an acute sense of loss.

Yet in the wake of his death, I'm not just struck by the void of his presence, but by the palpable reminder he gave us with his life: that hope, trust and redemption are real.

Maybe innocent animals are not as emotionally, mentally and spiritually complex as us humans... But then again, humans have a spectacular capability to complicate the most simple and fundamental truths in our lives.

Now, whenever I begin to lose my faith in change, in restoration, in redemption, I'll remember the feather-soft fur beneath my fingers as a tangible truth:

It's possible.

Even after we've experienced the most degrading, abusive, dark moments of our lives, it is possible to uncover truth, restore trust, feel joy. It is possible to find love.

Rest well, old friend.

4 comments:

rochesterreader said...

Thanks for sharing Duncan's story, Bethany. That's such a tough thing to go through. And you are so right: it happens so quickly, so unexpectedly. Anyway, thanks again, and sorry for your loss.

Jeff Finley said...

I'm sorry for your loss. We have a shelter dog, and I've grown quite attached to her.

SallyBoyd said...

Thank you for sharing your story about Duncan. In my lifetime I've lost several beloved pets, both cats and dogs. Chris and I have no children so our cats are our "children." They're pampered, spoiled and at times, just as naughty as human children. Take comfort in knowing that he's in heaven with the cats and dogs that have passed through my life over the years.

Moneypenny said...

The loss of a pet is a always a great sorrow ...

For you , to smile ...;-)

DIALOGUE DE BÊTES

LE CHAT ET LE CHIEN.


COLETTE


Le perron au soleil. La sieste après déjeuner. Toby-Chien et Kiki-la-Doucette gisent sur la pierre brûlante. Un silence de Dimanche. Pourtant, Toby-Chien ne dort pas, tourmenté par les mouches et par un déjeuner pesant. Il rampe sur le ventre, le train de derrière aplati en grenouille, jusqu'à Kiki-La-Doucette, fourrure tigrée, immobile.

TOBY-CHIEN : Tu dors ?
KIKI-LA-DOUCETTE, ronron faible : …
TOBY-CHIEN : Vis tu seulement ? Tu es si plat ! Tu as l'air d'une peau de chat vide.
KIKI-LA-DOUCETTE, voix mourante : Laisse...
TOBY-CHIEN : Tu n'es pas malade ?
KIKI-LA-DOUCETTE : Non... laisse-moi. Je dors. Je ne sais plus si j'ai un corps. Quel tourment de vivre près de toi ! J'ai mangé, il est deux heures... dormons.
TOBY-CHIEN : Je ne peux pas. Quelque chose fait boule dans mon estomac. Cela va descendre, mais lentement. Et puis ces mouches !... La vue d'une seule tire mes yeux hors de ma tête. Comment font-elles ? Je ne suis que mâchoires hérissées de dents terribles (entends les claquer) et ces bêtes damnés m'échappent. Hélas ! mes oreilles ! Hélas ! mon tendre ventre bistré ! ma truffe enfiévrée !... Là ! juste sur mon nez, tu vois ? Comment faire ? Je louche tant que je peux... Il y a deux mouches maintenant ? Non, une seule... Non, deux... Je les jette en l'air comme un morceau de sucre. C'est le vide que je happe... Je n'en puis plus. Je déteste le soleil, et les mouches, et tout !...
Il Gémit.
KIKI-LA-DOUCETTE, assis, les yeux pâles de sommeil et de lumière : Tu as réussi à m'éveiller. C'est tout ce que tu voulais n'est-ce pas ? Mes rêves sont partis. A peine sentais-je, à la surface de ma fourrure profonde, les petits pieds agaçants de ces mouches que tu poursuis. Un effleurement, une caresse parfois ridait d'un frisson l'herbe incliné et soyeuse qui me revêt... Mais tu ne sais rien faire discrètement ; ta joie populacière encombre, ta douleur cabotine gémit. Méridional va !
TOBY-CHIEN, amer : Si c'est pour me dire ça que tu t'es réveillé !...
KIKI-LA-DOUCETTE, rectifiant : Que tu m'as réveillé.
TOBY-CHIEN :J'étais mal à l'aise, je quêtais une aide, une parole encourageante...
KIKI-LA-DOUCETTE : Je ne connais point de verbes digestifs. Quand je pense que de nous deux, c'est moi qui passe pour un sale caractère ! Mais rentre un peu en toi-même, compare ! La chaleur t'excède, la faim t'affole, le froid te fige...
TOBY-CHIEN, vexé : Je suis un sensitif.
KIKI-LA-DOUCETTE : Dis : Un énergumène.
TOBY-CHIEN : Non, je ne le dirai pas. toi, tu es un monstrueux égoïste
KIKI-LA-DOUCETTE : Peut-être. Les Deux-Pattes - ni toi – n'entendent rien à l'égoïsme, à celui des Chats... Ils baptisent ainsi, pêle-mêle, l'instinct de préservation, la pudique réserve, la dignité, le renoncement fatigué qui nous vient de l'impossibilité d'être compris par eux. Chien peu distingué, mais dénué de parti pris, me comprendras-tu mieux ? Le chat est un hôte et non un jouet. En vérité, je ne sais en quel temps nous vivons ! Les Deux-Pattes, Lui et Elle, ont-ils seuls le droit de s'attrister, de se réjouir, de laper les assiettes, de gronder, de promener par la maison une humeur capricieuse ? J'ai, moi aussi, MES caprices, MA tristesse, mon appétit inégal, mes heures de retraite rêveuse où je me sépare du monde...

COLETTE : DIALOGUE DE BÊTES : LE CHAT ET LE CHIEN.

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