My friend Cathi recently put her down her 15-year-old Labrador retriever. The following guest post is Cathi's tribute to her beloved Maggie. As for me, I'll hug my Harry a little tighter tonight, and make sure to appreciate his sweet brown eyes and wagging tail on this day, and on all days forward. KMY
Goodnight, Sweet Princess
By Cathleen Hoefler
Age and disease have ravaged you beyond what I had seen. Either my eyes have been unwilling or your accepting nature has belied the deterioration. Today we can all see. The life in your body is slipping away as surely as the tufts of fur that drop to the floor with every movement. You respond to my voice when I enter, catch my scent, though who knows what your eyes can tell you now. You tremble at my touch and your legs threaten to buckle under the weight of my arms draped across your body, so I lighten my embrace.
What else can I do for you now but stop this suffering?
There is little left of your outward beauty and yet you are beautiful. You remain as valiant as a knight, mortally wounded, stoic and dignified to the end. I wish to have been more present to you here at the end. I have satisfied myself with reports of lazy, sleep-filled days and satisfying meals. I can only hope there is truth in them.
Now is my time to act; to serve you as you have so patiently served me.
The activity around us begins to recede as we enter into that space of transition. It is a place reserved for those who must cross the river and for those who will assist them at the form. Others too dull to appreciate the sacred intimacy of this place make clumsy efforts to communicate and are quickly dismissed.
She who has the skill to guide you arrives, hearing even those words I do not speak aloud. Likewise, she answers, audibly for some, but as much with her eyes for me. We move to a quiet chamber. The door closes behind us and the outside world disappears completely. It is meaningless.
Someone must take you from me to place an IV, allowing them to gently push you across the water. You hesitate to leave my side, but obey, as you always do. When you return, you lower yourself painfully one last time onto the blanket they have provided. Your head comes to rest easily in my arms, and there is no more cancer, no foul odor of decay. You are regal and by my side, where you have been so many times before.
The first sedation enters your bloodstream and you exhale deeply, as pain and anxiety fade away. I feel your broken body relax. We stay like that for awhile, your two young charges sitting behind us. I sense their sadness and uncertainty in watching this tragedy play out. It is right that they are here. They too have loved you and laughed with you, but I do not look at them now. This time is between you and me to wander the paths of our life together...
You arrived abused, no doubt discouraged by the ignorance and cruel capacity of those from whom you deserved neither. Patiently you gave your heart, without bitterness and with unwavering trust.
There you are, bounding across a snowy yard.
There you are, stretched before the fire, content next to me in the winter moonlight.
Now you are sitting upright and proud in the driver's seat waiting for me to return to the car -- my chauffeur, mildly offended I think by my laughter.
Now you look up innocently, even while the loaf of bread you have stolen lies open on the floor nearby.
Can we count how many times I paused at my desk, moving my legs ever so gently, smiling to find you patiently curled at my feet, though I never saw you enter the room? So many nights I slept curled like a pretzel, preferring your presence to the ability to straighten myself, or woke sensing your absence, hanging an arm over the edge, seeking the reassuring touch of your fur. You would always raise your head, ever present, ever watchful, surprised, perhaps, that I would question your whereabouts.
You take with you now a piece of my heart and reminders of a unique time in my life. A time filled with dreams, some satisfied beyond expectation, some left broken along the way. A time remembered in part as more than I had hoped for and yet, increasingly, as less than it may have appeared. In any case, the years and memories will always pay tribute to the continuity of your love and devotion...
She enters again. I stroke your ear with one hand while the other holds your head closer to me. I bend and whisper, "Do not be afraid," although I know it is you offering that silent guidance to me.
After your noble heart ceases to beat, after everyone else has departed, I stretch out full length beside you in silence, taking comfort from you even now. Longing, for a moment, to join you and leave behind the chaos beyond this room.
You are on the far shore, free at last from the confines of this body. Your eyes are bright and your spirit is swift on the wind. Say hello to all who await you...to Grandpa, and Molly. And visit me now and again, Sweet Princess, on a snowy day or quiet night.
Goodbye, my Maggie. I will always love you.