In early May, two friends and I flew to Japan, boarded a cruise ship and sailed back across the Pacific to Vancouver. Another 3 weeks away from home. I like cruising, and riding on trains, for great places to write.
Those are my alibis. I got home Monday and on Thursday, May 29, my God-dog died. Max Sholars was my friend Teresa's soul-mate. For 15 years, they shared a bond stronger than any I have ever known. They were probably apart, in total, less than a full month in all those years.
I'm posting this, with Teresa's permission, because, if you have loved an animal deeply, you know how she is suffering. I'm not going to write about how exceptional Max was--his total devotion to her; her total devotion to him. This is about all our dogs and cats and birds. The purest love many of us will ever know will come from a non-human soul-mate.
Along with grieving for the dog that I have also loved for the last 15 years, I've been remembering the other special beings in my life. It's a comfort--kind of. It reminds me that I got past losing them. Even when I didn't think I could take that kind of pain again, I did and I have. If reading this brings similar memories, then you have, too. And Teresa will. We all heal, only the scars stay.
This morning I was also thinking about how we each handle sharing this most personal of losses--reaching out to some, holding others at bay. At the same time we so desperately need to be alone with our grief, we also need people, but only those close enough to understand what a catastrophic loss we are experiencing.
Through each of my non-human losses, it has been the memory of that love, and then the love of friends and family that has set the healing in motion. There's a certain irony in that, isn't there? Love heals the loss of a loved one.
A friend sent Teresa this poem; she sent it to me. I'm sending it to you.
The House Dog's Grave by Robinson Jeffers
I've changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you, if you dream a moment,
You see me there.
So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you'd soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.
I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no, all the night through
I lie alone.
But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read--and I fear often grieving for me--
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.
You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope than when you are lying
Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.
No, dear, that's too much hope: you are not so well cared for
As I have been.
And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided. . . .
But to me you were true.
You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.