It was not to be. Tuesday morning brought the blood test results. With a white cell count of 42K, his body full of lymphocytes, a host of smaller tumors appearing overnight, the vet and I knew that his quality of life had diminished considerably and that there was no recovering it. With my heart breaking, I made Dragon's final appointment, an hour and a half after the phone call that had revealed the awful truth: my golden boy's time had come to depart and return to his Maker.
I spent my time on the carpet, laying next to him, massaging paw pads and gently scratching ears, murmuring word offerings to him in the voice he had come to count on for comfort and love. He would look at me with a sort of gratitude that seared my very being. And patiently he waited with me in the silence of an overcast morning.
I was numb with the reality of the coming hour and what it would mean to me: sorrow, loneliness, grief, the tearing of the fabric of my soul to lose this precious life that had given so much to me, that had decided to love me back, and be the most faithful of companions.
I then thought of what the coming hour would mean to Dragon: healing, newness of life apart from this world and its frailties, eternal life with God, meeting my mom and our other dogs in a place of eternal summer, this place where they will wait for me and one day greet me by saying "What took you so long?"
But now, in this moment I only know loss and the silence of a home once shared and played in together, where a greeting awaited me, full of prancing paws and wagging tail...little yips of "hello!" and grunts of "Take me out!".
As he left this world I held him close, partly wrapped in a little faux sheepskin, in my arms. I told him how beautiful he was; I thanked him for loving me; I said I love you more times than I can remember, and then I wished him good night and that one morning I would greet him again. In spite all I have written here, there are truly no words to express the devastation such a death of such an innocent brings.
After he died, I was left alone with him. I arranged him on the sheepskin, perhaps for my comfort more than anything. Alone with him I found myself bent over him, my face buried in the soft fur of his still and quiet chest, weeping and moaning into him, holding little feet and precious head for I don't know how long but after a while a knock came and I knew it was time to let him go, body and soul. My dog-child was gone. The technician tenderly cradled him in her arms and crying, asked me if I was ready to let her take him. I said yes and kissed his head one last time, the scent of holy oil filling my nostrils along with his own unique scent. She assured me that his body would be treated gently as if he were only asleep. I thanked her as she left, and I turned and rolled up the sheepskin that had held and comforted him, and then I left to go home without him who had been my constant companion, through good times and sorrowful times.
I have decided to have him cremated for purely selfish reasons. When I am ready I will let him go, but honestly, I'm not prepared to do that yet, nor anytime in the near future. It's about faithfulness, fidelity, honoring the memory of a creature sent to you for reasons known only to God. Dragon taught me much, but then all dogs do. They have ways of being Zen masters, true disciples of their Creator, and also the comedian who makes us laugh when nothing nor anyone else can.
And so I write this memorial to my dog, my most trusted confidante and companion in life. I love you, Dragon, my beautiful boy. Good night, my lion dog. I long to see you one bright morning...
"God, You bless me so I bless. You make me your own, and I carry your goodwill into the world. I have places where I go door-to-door, bed-to-bed, sick-to-sick. I bring good news, a smile, a touch, understanding, a flower, empathy. They are glad when I come. We pray. They wave when I leave. But it is not over. They wait and I return. I stay with them, and they with me, while we are apart. You give us this gift of real presence. I am here to be well." ***
*** from Herbert Brokering's "Dog Psalms: Prayers My Dogs Have Taught Me." Augsburg Books, Copyright 2004.
The last photo was taken when he was in his prime in 2004. He is looking up at my mom who died a year later.