Sunday, April 24, 2005

Winding Down

Our old dog Bo is winding down. Three nights now he has chosen to be outside in the cold spring air, and now rain. This morning I get up and find that our young dog Ebony, his protoge and lady love, is not here, and must be outside with him. This is highly unusual, since both dogs eagerly surround me while I make my morning coffee, awaiting the moment when I stoop down and give them a small bit of cream.

Luckily, there are two well-worn dog houses outside for them to use. And since it is spring, there are daffodils, bird songs, and the irresistible trill of the peepers, singing from the meadow pond across the road. It is a good way to go out.

I myself wouldn’t do it so differently, could one choose to die in such a natural way. Last year I wrote a poem about this:

A Good Death

I say farewell to family and friends,
my precious daughter and grandchildren
and the husband of my days;
and I go out and lie among the daffodils
and give myself
to the onward rush of spring.

The vet alerted us to the tumor under Bo’s left arm some months ago, inoperable because of its proximity to other organs. We agreed it was best to let him be, since he was not in any discomfort. He was still quite active, sparring with Ebony and play-mating her at every opportunity, even though both dogs were ‘fixed’.

He’s relished his daily walks with Dan, impatiently smiling and waiting at the door at the least sign of an impending walk. He’s an extremely good natured dog, a cross between a black lab and an Australian cattle dog, about 80 pounds of black muscle and good cheer. I spotted him at the Animal Rescue League when he was 5 years old, locked up for chasing bicycles – logical herding behavior for a working dog. After all, a dog can’t just be expected to lie around and do nothing.

He fit easily into our routine – big, affectionate, companionable – although our lady dog at the time found him a bit uncouth. I’m afraid their years together were something of a disappointment to both, though they managed to get along well enough. It was nothing like the joy we see between Bo and Ebony. Lucky boy to have had such a lady love for the last year.

When it is dawn I will go out and see how they are doing.

later... Not so fast, he seems to say as he eagerly emerges from his dog house on hearing my approach. I am so glad to see him. I signal both dogs to come in for breakfast, and they both come, rounding the back of the house and slapping open the dog door. They eat their chow, then settle in to familiar resting places on the floor, depending on which room we are in.

I think my assessment of Bo's health is probably correct, but I am so glad to see we will still have some good times together. For however long we have, I am thankful for all of it.

gg murray 4/24/05