November 04, 2015

#365 Quote, I Love You Something Fierce

November 3, 2015

Sad news to report from around here today. The dog was hit by a car in the road and died. As far as I can tell it was quick, and every ounce of me hopes that her pain did not last long. A neighbor called me to let me know. I rushed home from work, knowing that the rushing wasn't for any purpose other than to get to her body as soon as I could, for my own sake.

The farm was quiet quiet when I got here.

A neighbor was kind enough to carry her out of the road upon seeing her. I draped a blanket over her sweet, shiny black body. The tips of her back paws and tail hanging out from underneath. With just that view, I could pretend for moments that everything was going to be okay. Or, at least, it reminded me of every wonderful thing that I loved about her so much. And there was so much to love, because there is nothing to do but love your best friend.

I gathered supplies. The wheelbarrow, shovels - and lifted her in and we walked across the road. I had a quick chat with the big person in the sky. I told him I know I don't believe in the resurrection. But if you want to try again right now, I promise I will believe you. After which I realized that there was nothing to be done, no way to bring her back. I rested her under the shady eaves of the barn, while scrubbing and rinsing the blood off the street in front of the house.

There was only one place for us to go, and my only thought was whether we would cross the little, dry bed of the ravine to our favorite sitting spot, or if I would bury her on the nearer side. I left her in the cool shade of the tall tree, because today was unseasonably warm for November. The only right thing to do was dedicate every focused ounce of energy toward any of her giant dog spirit that was still stuck inside that dog body of hers. To honor her. I dug her the best hole I have ever set out to dig. Although not graceful, her body was easy to lift. I rubbed her belly, and we talked for a while. There was a lot of gratitude from my mouth to her ears, and a lot of apologies - not just for today, but for everything. I scratched the tips of her ears, and squeezed the grey and black and white and brown pads of her paws. She always let me sit next to her and squeeze her paws. Maybe it was like our secret handshake, our secret code. I told her all the things I loved about her, and all my favorite memories. That she is not only my best friend, but the rock (the boulder) for me to lean on for every major life transition and joy these past eight and a half years we have been together. It is hard to believe that anyone canine or human will ever be able to measure up to her.

I wrote her a letter, which I rolled and tied with the red ribbon knotted to her collar these past years. I slipped it between her black fur and the soil, along with half of her tags. I wrote a letter to me. I made her a lot of promises. About living a life with integrity, made in the way that only a dog can keep you accountable. I covered the lower half of her body with the crumbly, damp brown soil. And stopped. Because I wasn't ready to say goodbye. I read Mary Oliver poems to her out loud. It was mostly crying, but the poems got through. I started with the title, as if I were reading story time to a kindergarten class. These are poems by Mary Oliver. This poem is called Her Grave, When Death Comes, Hawks, White Night, A Meeting, Happiness, Bone Poem, Last Days, Farm Country, Going to Walden. I read Wild Geese, but that was more for me than for her. I am never ready to say goodbye to this dog. I would never be ready to not see her face one last time, the white patch on her chest, the softness of her ears and how they never quite laid flat or perked up. I shoveled in the remainder of the dirt. Saying goodbye to each beloved inch of what I knew her to look like. Packing the remembering all up in suitcases, to carry with me, to remember like goodness and grace and sweetness and gratitude. I scraped the soil far flung from the edge of the hole toward the center. Everything important to me was now in one place. I nestled in daffodil bulbs, and if they know how important this is they will take root even though it's November. I un-rolled the large chunks of pasture-grass sod - back out over the loose dirt mound. Four heavy carpets, four heavy blankets to tuck her in.

I tucked her in.

I sat on top of the dirt and sod pile. Patting the ground as if it were her tummy. All I had to do was say show me your tummy, and she would roll upside down, exposing that white patch and letting me scratch every inch of her underside.

I can see where she is buried from almost every inch of the farm. Beyond seeing, I know. I walked to the neighbor's house to drop off a note of gratitude, for the hard phone call she had to make to me this morning. On the walk home, my heart felt lighter just as soon as the far pasture and final resting spot came into view.

She has always been a part of the cycle of this place. Now she always will be, just in a different way.

On our walk this morning, we heard a pack of coyotes up in the distance. Even though it was 7:30, and very light out. Her ears perked a bit, and we looked at each other as if to say something that doesn't have words to it. When we hit our customary turn-around spot, she customarily grabbed for the leash with her mouth, and began to yank and wrestle with is as she does every morning when we reach our turn-around spot. I think she was always saying I don't want to go home yet, I just want to keep walking. But she always smiled and was so playful in asking.

Today is the day when I tug on that leash and wrestle with it. I don't want to go home yet, I just want to keep walking.

Her Grave  [Mary Oliver]

She would come back, dripping thick water, from the green bog.
She would fall at my feet, she would draw the black skin
from her gums, in a hideous and wonderful smile-----
and I would rub my hands over her pricked ears and her
cunning elbows,
and I would hug the barrel of her body, amazed at the unassuming
perfect arch of her neck.

It took four of us to carry her into the woods.
We did not think of music,
but, anyway, it began to rain

Her wolfish, invitational, half-pounce.

Her great and lordly satisfaction at having chased something.

My great and lordly satisfaction at her splash
of happiness as she barged
through the pitch pines swiping my face with her
wild, slightly mossy tongue.

Does the hummingbird think he himself invented his crimson throat?
He is wiser than that, I think.

A dog lives fifteen years, if you're lucky.

Do the cranes crying out in the high clouds
think it is all their own music?

A dog comes to you and lives with you in your own house, but you
do not therefore own her, as you do not own the rain, or the
trees, or the laws which pertain to them.

Does the bear wandering in the autumn up the side of the hill
think all by herself she has imagined the refuge and the refreshment
of her long slumber?

A dog can never tell you what she knows from the
smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know
almost nothing.

Does the water snake with his backbone of diamonds think
the black tunnel on the bank of the pond is a palace
of his own making?

She roved ahead of me through the fields, yet would come back, or
wait for me, or be somewhere.

Now she is buried under the pines.

Nor will I argue it, or pray for anything but modesty, and
not to be angry.

Through the trees is the sound of the wind, palavering

The smell of the pine needles, what is it but a taste
of the infallible energies?

How strong was her dark body!

How apt is her grave place.

How beautiful is her unshakable sleep.

the slick mountains of love break
over us.

-Mary Oliver

- - - - -
Go hug your cat, your dog, your pet mouse, your kid, your partner, your parent, your patch of the planet.
Hugs without fear of losing,
- - - - -
From the archives, so they don't get lonely...
August 21, 2015
The truth isn't always pretty. But it is always real. Maybe my next promise should be truth-talking without regard for how it may make other people feel.
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