Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Good night, my beautiful boy: Losing Dragon

So unexpected it was, this ravenous cancer that within a week had reduced my 8 year old, energy-filled Shih Tzu into a weak, lethargic and shrinking companion. Monday afternoon we went to the vet and after x-rays saw the culprit for what it was, a massive tumor of the spleen that was encroaching on his digestive system, causing him to feel full in his tummy and making him not want to eat. There was also fluid accumulating around his little heart causing pressure on his lungs as well as his heart. Yet he managed a tail wag now and then. Maybe he felt my distress, my anxiety, my worry and perhaps my hope that somehow he would get better.

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.


gartenfische said...

Oh Catherine, I am crying with you.

Prayers and hugs.

Anonymous said...

Dear Catherine,
I am so sorry to hear about Dragon. It is so difficult to lose a beautiful companion, especially when he gave you such unconditional love. Thank you dear Catherine for sharing your loss with us. I was deeply moved reading your letter and hope the pain of your loss will lessen in time. You loved him so much and again I am so sorry for your grief. Take care my dear Catherine, Peace and Love, Carolyn

Anonymous said...

Beautifully expressed. Thank you for sharing your pain and blessing. Blessings to you. Shirley

Anonymous said...

Dear Catherine,

I am so sorry to read your comment at MP's on the loss of Dragon. That leaves a "hole" in your life, I'm sure, and I suppose the only comfort is knowing that he's no longer suffering from the cancer. What dear creatures our dogs are! A part of our heart.

It's something we'll be facing in the not-too-distant future. Josh is now 16 and suffering from a multitude of ailments. But, at 16, he's had a good long life and been a wonderful friend and companion. I hug him every chance I get and tell him how thankful I am that he found me and came into my life... at a time when I sorely needed it. In a very special way, they are God's messengers.

Peace be with you, Catherine.


Anonymous said...

Catherine--thanks very much for sharing this with me. I hurt for your loss.



Anonymous said...

Ah, when to the heart of man (or woman)
was it ever less than a treason,
to go with the drift of things and accept the loss of a love or a season.

Robert Frost roughly quoted from memory. May the loss you are bearing be lightened (somewhat) by memories of a well-loved life. Love, Morgan+

Mark said...

Anytime we lose a pet [a collective loss it is], especially a dog, I am reminded of the apostles, Mary and Mary, and how they must have felt to know that their companion and son of unconditional love was to be taken away, not knowing if or ever they would see him again. How lucky we all are that we can catch glimpses of the Ultimate Love within creation, and even through memories, though fleeting, we can see those no longer with us.

Peace to you.

eileen said...


Songbird said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Catherine.

Saint Pat said...

Catherine, I'm crying too, from reading your entry. May God bless you and comfort you. Stay close to your friends. God bless Dragon, too. I picture him at the feet of Christ, healed, and panting with joy from his latest rolick through the fields.

Sometimes it's so hard to do the right thing, but you did it.

My prayers go with you.

clumber said...

Beautiful post. The dull pain of losing a beloved pet is difficult, and you and Dragon are in my thoughts and prayers...

Rowan The Dog said...

What a good dog guardian you are! I can't imagine what courage it must have taken to comfort your little one knowing all the while that you were in for so much pain. Bless you for loving this little dog so well!

Me and my guardian are crying real big tears right now for you and praying that you will be able to feel better soon.

Diane said...


Anonymous said...

Dear Catherine,
Whenever I hear of a friend's dog who has passed away, and Dragon is the second this week, I think of all my (and our) beautiful companions who have enriched and given comfort to our lives. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, and a loss it is indeed. They really gives their lives for us, both in their living and in their dying. How can we thank them enough?

Anonymous said...

Catherine, dear,
I'm so very sorry about Dragon. I had to wipe a few tears away as I read your account of his illness and release.

We went through a similar experience with our yellow lab, Sunny, several years ago. We were able to have the vet come to the house. Sunny was cremated and we "planted" his ashes in the hole in which we planted a dog wood tree.

It is so hard to lose our beloved pets. They become such an integral part of our lives. I've never been able to be without a dog for very long. It's such a big hole in the family we are left with when they die. My prayers are with you.


Anonymous said...

Catherine - I still have the ashes of 2 of my BFF (best puppy friends) and do not think it is odd at all that you want to hold on..I always thought I would someday scatter the ashes in a special place they loved, but have never been able to. Do whatever brings you comfort, and please let me know if there's anything I can do. I hope he visits you in your dreams.


Ellie Finlay said...

This story is so deeply moving. I'm so, so sorry. I know what it's like to lose an animal and the pain is very, very intense. May you be comforted and may your precious little dog have great happiness in his new life.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for the sudden loss of your little dog, Dragon. Brought tears to my eyes to read. And know the hard but compassionate decision you had to make.

Peace and Love

Alice in Phoenix

Tracie the Red said...

:wipes tears:


Birth to death
Death to rebirth
Eternal child of Mother Earth
What e'er thy spirit's path may be
Our love and prayers shall go with thee

Rest in blessed peace, Dragon. You were/are clearly loved.

:hugs for Catherine:

Lisa Fox said...

Oh, Catherine, I am so terriby sad for you. You know I've just been through the same thing with my cat. That last two hours in the vet's office is still seared in my heart. How terribly hard it is to love and comfort our animal companions while our heart is breaking. Words fail me. I send you my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Dearest who are sooo considerate of others, I'm sooo very sorry that you've lost Dragon, yes, your faithful companion. Do know that he's still with you and probably most frustrated because you can no longer see him..hopefully you still "feel" him around you.
I know that you know you gave him a wonderful home, he was your true companion, honest, faithful, no dishonesty whatsoever and most of all the unconditional love.

Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. Don't leave it too long before you adopt another furry friend who's in desperate need of your love. Dragon would want that, and while you cannot replace Dragon and his personality, you have so much to give and receive from another little creature.

My love, hugs and sympathy to you..xoxLynne

Anonymous said...

Catherine -- I am so terribly sorry for your loss.


Anonymous said...

Wow! What an awesome tribute to Dragon. You really have a way with words. I am so sorry to hear about Dragon's death. I guess I didn't realize he was ill. Sounds like it was sudden. I will definitely keep you in my thoughts and prayers.


Anonymous said...

Oh I am so sorry Catherine, what a huge loss. But a beautiful goodbye for him to be with you and your loving words and arms around him.

Thank you for your post, I am still sobbing, but thank you for teaching the world about saying goodbye to our beloved animal family members and helping the world understand that to me and you and many, it is family that we lose and not "just a dog".
I have a small story in the book "Gods messengers, what animals teach us about the Divine".It is about when my first souldog died and Gods reassurance she was with God. Maybe if you're interested it i'll copy it and send it to you.
Take good care of yourself today and in the weeks to come,


mary piper+

Anonymous said...

Dearest cousin,

My deepest sympathies on the loss of your beloved Dragon. Your heartfelt words of your dear companion brought tears to my eyes.

How lucky we are to have had such loving companions. There are many souls wandering this earth who know neither how to give love nor how to receive it. We have been blessed in the gifts God gave us.

Please know my thoughts of love and support are with you.

Love, Ruthmarie

whiteycat4104 said...

My deepest sympathy on the loss of Dragon. It is so difficult to lose these wonderful companion animals. I cried through your whole tribute to Dragon as it brought back all the memories of Whitey Cat who passed away four years ago. These little creatures are God's special gift to us.

Blessings and prayers are with you.

Jan said...

I'm so sorry. (((Catherine)))

Anonymous said...

Dear Catherine:

I've just read your blog post. I cried through it with you.

I am so very sorry for the empty space left by your dog. The memories of him are still palpable and fresh I am sure, and it must feel awfully wrong that he is not there. I wish I could hug you.

You have lots of love and generosity in your heart for people and animals--it seems like that space only expands. I am grateful to know you just a little bit.


Anonymous said...

Dear Catherine:

I've just read your blog post. I cried through it with you.

I am so very sorry for the empty space left by your dog. The memories of him are still palpable and fresh I am sure, and it must feel awfully wrong that he is not there. I wish I could hug you.

You have lots of love and generosity in your heart for people and animals--it seems like that space only expands. I am grateful to know you just a little bit.


Anonymous said...

Catherine, I hope each day helps heal the grief a little more-and that you can be outside and enjoy the beauty of the world, too.

Blessings, Elizabeth+

Lisa Fox said...

Catherine, I just popped in to see how you are doing. This is the difficult time. When the immediate crisis is past, and you have to find a way forward. You remain very much in my prayers.

Lindy said...

Just clicking in to let you know that I'm still thinking of and praying for you.


eileen said...

Me too, Catherine. Hope you are holding up and remember we are holding you in prayer....

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

God bless you. I still miss my Murph, and he's been gone several months now.

Anonymous said...

Dear Catherine. I am crushed! He was such a great little spirit helper for you. Last thing you needed was another loss. But you ARE strong girl. You'll get through this pain. I KNOW When I put Tiki down for her cancer it was a miserable day. I still miss her so bad. and that's been over 5 years ago. But I am starting to think about getting another puppy . They are the only creatures on Earth that I can truly find unconditional love with. I'm glad the flowers arrived for you on a day you needed them. God bless you Sweetheart.


Catherine + said...

Hello everyone. I have no words to express my thank and gratitude for your lovingkindness during this difficult time. Words don't even begin to describe the balm you all have been to my broken heart and stricken spirit.

I am lifted up by your prayers, words and thoughts in light of Dragon's passing. You are loved and appreciated, near and far, by me.

Blessings be upon you all [sign of the Cross],


Barbi Click said...

tears streaming down my face, memories rushing in, my heart grieves for you.

Anonymous said...

Catherine - so very sorry to hear of Dragon's passing. (I'm just now getting to my email box - sorry this is a bit tardy....hard to bend my knee enough to sit at the desk for long). Just remember to let yourself be in your grief until you're ready to rush. Our beloved pets are family in the truest sense of the word.

Holding you in heart and prayer, Cath

Anonymous said...

Dear Catherine,

I was so sorry to hear of your loss of beautiful Dragon. I have lost two beloved dogs in the last 2years.

These are some thoughts and prayers that comforted me:
"“We take to our hearts those beings who are even shorter lived than we, knowing that we will suffer from their impermanence but learn from it how to savor what they give us---a brief, perfect glimpse into a heart that loves unconditionally.”

"Having the love of a good dog is the closest some of us will ever come to knowing the direct love of a mother, or God..." Anne Lamott.
She continues with a beautiful essay on Dog loss. It can be found in "Plan B Further thought on Faith " chapter 6.

O God, My Master,
should I gain the grace
To see you face to face
when life is ended,
Grant that a little dog,
who once pretended
That I was God,
may see me face to face.