Saturday, January 2, 2010

The passing of a friend

Those of you who connect with me on facebook may already know that in the first hour of 2010 Central European Time, and the last few hours of 2009 US, I lost my beloved pet, Hope, the Amazing Schnauzer. She went peacefully in my arms, among friends after a short, tough battle with pancreatic cancer and diabetes.


Now I know that many of you will say, "oh, just a dog, loved and all that, but what's the big deal. Get another one and get on with your life." Not inappropriate nor inaccurate advice. But.

I wanted to take a few moments to acknowledge all of you who have lost dear ones this year, animals, humans, and take another to honor the glorious spirit I was able to share for ten years and as many addresses with this magnificent canine whom I named Hope during a period when, for me, there seemed to be little enough of it, and I could use an extra sum.

She was a rescue. From the Atlanta humane society. She had been found running wild with a Vietnamese potbellied pig, a story I may already have told you. But it so impressed me, it was usually the first thing I told curious inquirers. Perhaps whether they wanted to know it or not. To the day she died she never stepped over a wire on the floor or ground because I knew that she had learned that ground wires were dangerous. I have always suspected that it was the pig who taught her about live wires, and who probably saved her life many times over. They're awfully smart those VPB pigs. Not that Hope wasn't, but she was a quick learner.

I never understood who could have abandoned her. She was a perfect purebred, and an extraordinary example of her breed. Outstanding conformation, even temperament. I always suspected it was a tall African American male because that's who she always ran toward whenever she saw one. I would have liked to meet him, not to ask why, or criticise or chastise, but to say thank you for giving me such a bright and gracious companion through the endless cycle of "what's next?"'s and "Where to now?"'s.

Hope lived with me in Atlanta, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Oregon, twice in Virginia and twice in Romania. She crossed the Atlantic ocean with me three times by plane, and the US with me twice and a half by Grand Cherokee ltd., never complaining. Usually on the land treks, she'd lift her head above the window line, peeking at a tree or a mountain, she'd decide that she'd already seen one of those, and return to sleeping most of the way. She discovered snow for the first time in the Rockies going west to Oregon, and she must have liked it because she kept it blizzarding for nearly a week as we prayed our way from one slippery Holiday Inn Express that would take wet pets to the next trying to find our way to Oregon. In Romania, because there was no greenspace near where we lived in Central Bucharest, I had to teach her to take care of her business on the sidewalk or on the street. It was common practice. Then I took her back home to the US and had to teach her not to. Then, to both our surprise, I brought her back to Romania where, well, you know. I know it confused her at first. I don't know if she ever forgave me.

She was a quiet girl, not a snuggly one, but still, she never quite left my feet. She curled most often under the desk when I was where I lived most, which was at the keyboard of this clackety, cantankerous machine. And if I'd move away for more than a few minutes, I always had to look down to make sure I didn't stumble into her as she determined where I was going to light next.


This is the way I will remember her best. My god did she love the ball. The sound of it's twunk on pavement or asphalt would bring her to heal the way obedience class never could. My son, when he was with us for a time after recovering from, ironically, the same two illnesses, would always walk her with her favorite plaything. He called it "ball control" and he was exactly accurate. I was curious once, in a rare idle moment during the first trip to Bucharest, just how long she would chase the ball non-stop. We were staying in the owners' penthouse across from the ad agency where I was Exec CD and the bedroom had a long hallway through to and through the living room. I was on the bed reading when she brought me the ball and I decided to experiment. At the end of an hour and 7 minutes I gave up and said the words she hated most. "Ball gone." I never actually found out her retrieval limit.

And she trained me well with that ball. It was really the only time she would multi-bark in the house. She had a penchant for nosing the ball under somewhere that was irretrievable for her short nose and furry paws. So she would bark for it. I know that she thought that if she barked long enough, the ball would magically appear from it's hiding place. I tried to train her out of it, but, instead, after endless, piercing yapping to make the rubber orb appear, the magic would occur. I'd get up, filled with the noise, and give in to the inevitable retrieval. So, she was right. If she barked long enough, the ball did actually appear.

I won't bore you any more with the thousands of seemingly meaningless anecdotes of pet-human interaction, meaningless except to me and perhaps the hundreds of you who had the privilege of knowing this special fur person. I'm sure you have stories of your own. (If you'd like to take the time to write them to me, any memories, I would be most grateful.)

And, yes, yes, she is over the pain and suffering of the last few weeks and month of agony that the mercifully swift angel wrought on her. and, no, she isn't suffering any longer. But that for me doesn't lessen the loss. She was a magnificent soul who graciously shared her spirit with me, kept me going when I didn't think I had anywhere left to go to. Who added to the celebration when times were stratospheric in the cycle. I still hear her in the creak of the nearby elevator shaft, and the quunch and crackle of every apartment noise, rise automatically to grab the leash and my winter coat, only to rebreathe and wish her well.

Today we will take her broken body to its resting place, and next week I will collect her ashes to take back home with me when I return to America. I will continue to mourn and celebrate her existence and the enormous satisfaction and sanctuary she brought to me. I will keep her close till then, and scatter her ashes in her home country. I know she knows I know she was an American dog.

Good bye, Sweet Girl. I will carry your heart and spirit with me. And miss you to the soles of my shoes and the edges of my winter glove tips every day for a long while. And wait for Spring. And celebrate your spirit, and the peace with which you left us. Bon chance, dear boon companion. Adieu. Addio. La revedere. Dear Hope, ball gone.
_ _ _ _ _

Thanks, for reading this far, if you did. And my life, it will go on. And be magnificent in its own amazing way. And I will be much better in it, dear reader for your company. Thank you for being.



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Susan in HK said...

For all the darling cats I've had to let go of...for all the wonderful pets who are dear to us...thank you for your words, and for sharing that little dog's spirit.