She will be gone in the morning. Her bedding will be picked up, washed and put away. Her room cleaned, toys removed, as if she'd never occupied that space at all. I think of this as we walk down a winding dirt road in the middle of nowhere, this old American Bull dog and I. I knew the day we met she was destined to break my heart, even said it out loud, as if by doing so I could prevent the inevitable for both of us. Her death, my grief.
Maybe it was that she reminded me of my own American Bull dog Zeus. Same bark, same mischievous streak, same endearing way of flopping down and showing their bellies as if to say "Aww shucks, I was only kidding," if you spoke to them sternly. Or maybe it was simply the glimmer in her eye. Whatever the reason, from day one I was smitten.
She was the sole survivor of a cruelty case that counted over fifty other dogs among its victims. She'd been in the shelter system ever since, a victim of policies that had nothing to do with her as an individual. She had survived the cruelty and the shelter stay with her spirit and sweet nature intact. She'd made it so far, from hell and back, but the illness came before the forever home and so it was that we walked that dusty dirt road together one last time.
As we walked, she sniffed every little thing, taking it all in. I watched her and cried. Through my tears, I told her that our journey together was reaching an end. I told her she was going to go walk with my friend Thea soon. I promised I'd be there to hold her one last time, to send her on her way. It was the least I could do for this soulful old bull dog. "Thea will love you," I said. "You are her type of dog; smart, spunky and with one heck of a sense of humor." Cancer took Thea, but as a Buddhist she believed she would be going on to another life, had another path to walk. Since she'd died, I have always pictured her walking down a country road, surrounded by a pack of dogs. I knew my sweet girl would be joining them.
She will be gone in the morning. She has a new journey ahead and she is leaving me behind, better for having known her.