Thursday, May 1, 2008

Saying Goodbye to a Good Dog

Ambrose Bierce in his Devil's Dictionary defines "DOG" this way:
"DOG, n. A kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world's worship."

My sweet dog Mina died a year ago today, and I am ready to say goodbye. She came into my life when I was very sick with an uncontrollable pain condition. She was as important a part of my recovery as was my husband and my doctors. She gave me shelter in her heart -- that is what I felt every day of our time together. And, in the ways of a universe with a sense of irony, she died at age twelve from an enlarged heart. Her breeder had told us about her many gifts and promised that she would only disappoint us once. Mina kept that promise.

Here is the eulogy I shared with her many friends after she died:

As many of you know, Mina has been slowly declining over the past year. She has had a heart condition since she was young and has compensated masterfully for it over the years. Two days ago she went into serious respiratory distress, and last night we brought her into the emergency ward of Angell Memorial Animal Hospital. Despite their tireless efforts, she continued to deteriorate. She lay on her side, breathing rapidly, and was largely unresponsive. I called her name once, and she lifted her head. Our eyes met, and we said good-bye to each other. At 5:30 am on May 1st, just as the sun was rising, we brought her out of the hospital into the cool morning air and laid her down on her blanket under a tree. I held her as Richard knelt by her side. She was one month past her twelfth birthday when she died.

We have been blessed to have had her in our life for seven years. Every moment with her was an invitation to live with joy and equanimity. Her high-held, swishing tail was a signal to relish the day. Her determined sniffing as she hunted down the exact right spot to dig in to excavate some long buried chicken bone was a reminder to pay close attention to the concealed miracles that surround us. Her delight at reuniting with her beloved friends, all of you, called on us to deepen our own commitment to community. Her forbearance of our impatience when we needed to get going and she was still sniffing, was a gentle lesson in magnanimity. And her capacity for empathy while respecting boundaries is a power I will continue to strive to emulate.

One of her vets once said that some dogs are dogs; and others are people. Mina was people. I know that she left her paw mark on each of you. I also know that you share in our deep sadness in her passing. Mina always remembered her friends, no matter how much time passed since the last visit. Know that she loved you, and that your love made her life richer, as it does ours. May her imprint remain in all our hearts, and may all of us take what she gave us and express it in our lives.

Please join me in taking a moment to honor Mina and the animals in your life who give you love and shelter.


Amery Burnham said...

Mina was an extraordinary person. She could come and put a paw on your knee and look up and show you that she fully understood the paradox you were pondering. In those limpid eyes she would hold the entirety of it, and its relationship to you, you to her, her to it. . .

5 minutes later, you might have her on a leash, but she would lead you by the mind and show you the true joie de vivre of a soul completely at one with the universe (and the vision of the squirrel).

One of the great wonders of Mina was this depth of joy in the world.

I feel lucky to have been in her circle. Thank you, Mina.

therapydoc said...

Woman's best friend.

Mark Weissberg said...

Mina was indeed a great, great dog. I love the picture here that captures her winning smile (even if it doesn't show her equally expressive wagging tail and wiggling butt). I wish Archie could have met her. They could have taught each other a thing or two, as they do us.

Deb said...

Wishing you fond memories and healing. It's always so hard to let go and say goodbye to such a loyal pet.

Anonymous said...

I too lost my dog a year ago. Her name was also Mina, and I had her for twelve years. She died from complications after a surgery to remove a tumor from her intestines. I have been thinking of her daily for the past few weeks, knowing that the first year without her has gone by.

Your Mina was lucky to have you.