Thankfully yesterday was sunny. She can’t see it, but the sun I think provides a sense of safety and comfort to my newly blind animal companion. If you recall, she has been my cohort on many late nights checking out recent developments in neighboring gardens and yards. She happily kept me company while I snapped shots to share here of the evidence of the best and worst of the surrounding humanity.
I’ve been her alpha human friend since our other cohort was put down after a short, valiant, and intense bout with bone cancer four years ago. He was from a local breeder, and she was a “rescue” dog we added to their pack (a pack of two) four years after I got Jay. So I had ten years with Jay and, assuming things proceed as I believe likely this week, it will be ten years with Abs.
My favorite times were when we were together in the garden. I remember Jay used to get wildly excited when I would dig a hole in the dirt. He’d start hopping around – all 110 lbs. of him – and whimpering like he would implode if I didn’t let him help too. Then Abs – all 60 lbs. of her – would join in the excitement until they were both in full frenzy mode as I dug my little trenches. Sometimes they would get so excited about me digging in the ground I would have to banish them until I was watering plants (and they would jump to catch and lap up the water mid-air) or doing some other task less exciting than digging in the ground. Who knows? Maybe they thought I was going for their buried treasure. Multiple times, bones I thought were long-gone goners would resurrect after several years.
Later, when it was just Abs, she would be happy sitting silently in the sun as I quietly worked the ground around me in the front yard. She was the exception to my general rule of abiding the solitary nature of a gardener’s work. Then again, she was the exception to so many things.
When I brought her home she had all kinds of behavior problems. I didn’t know if it was going to work out to keep her, with another dog already and a very demanding job. But then I learned that she had been turned away and returned to the shelter before. She had a history that remains a mystery to me, including puppies (which I found out only after taking her to the vet for what turned out to be a false pregnancy) and something that caused her to growl whenever a certain spot on her neck was touched. I don’t know the genesis of these things but I do know they made her a more complex creature and sometimes harder to love but always worth the effort. She taught me patience and a certain compassion I never expected to know.
Since Abs had never really had a home before, I couldn’t justify letting her go. I let her stay, and we were worked through many challenges between us. I always thought I was closer to Jay, having gotten him as a young puppy. But as was the case with Abs, the harder won relationships can surprise you with the deepness of appreciation they foster between two beings. I’m sure that’s at least some of the reason it’s so hard now to say good-bye. I don’t want to abandon her in the end as she was at the beginning. On the other hand, I don’t want her to be sad or suffering either. Intellectually I know that one consideration is more me and the other more her, but intellect doesn’t reign supreme when tough decisions dominate the path.
It’s in these times I try to take it day by day and now hour to hour. Yesterday probably was the last walk. I stay grateful for the little things: the moment she needed to rest and we turned with our faces to the sun. I knelt beside her, my arm around the back of her neck. We stayed like that, quiet, for close to five minutes, just breathing and being on the path. We stayed quiet, soaking in the essence of one more day, one more hour, one more moment, one more walk.
I knew things were bad last week when I shook her chain and she barely rallied to get outside. Normally it’s like being on the back end of a bulldozer when she knows we’re getting ready to go out. As much of a rush as she’s in to get out, she’s always been patient with me whipping out my camera to take pictures I post here. In this way we’ve all been on these walks together. I think Abs would thank you for coming along on what’s been quite a ride.