Birdsong for Bear …

April 4, 2009 § 18 Comments


Pam sat across from me on the floor. I was stretched out on a rug, had been for nearly 90 minutes. Pam sat on the tile. I told her it wasn’t the cleanest floor at the moment. She shrugged and smiled and said she didn’t care.  There was a freshly laundered floral tablecloth on the table behind her. A candle flickered in the center of the table.   The patio doors were slid open; the screen allowed the spring sounds into the house along with a cool breeze that I thought would be good for Bear who lay between us, his head cushioned on a thick rug he allowed me to tuck there. It was sunset.

“The birds are singing,” Pam said. She smiled. 
“We have a bamboo forest back there. They love it,” I said. I stroked Bear’s head.

Huck the beagle wouldn’t leave the room, wouldn’t go outdoors, wouldn’t go curl up on any one of the couches. He sniffed at Pam and wagged his tail, examined her little black bag, stood next to Bear, sniffed his collar, sniffed his paws, wagged, put his little old muzzle into the bowl of water near Bear’s head. He wagged some more and stood there, in the midst of things. Then he sat.

HM walked around from kitchen to dining room to foyer to kitchen. He stared out the windows.  He stood and listened to the silence. He turned and put something in the sink.  He read the notes and magnet on the fridge. He came back to where we sat. “What’s next?” he asked.

“He’s falling into a deep sleep first,” Pam said.

There were other ministrations in the next 5 minutes or was it 10 minutes or was it hours? I don’t know; I concentrated on smoothing my hand over Bear’s muzzle and ears and chanting to myself that we loved him and beseeching him to go find my father and our last dog, Tuck… go find my father and our last dog, Tuck… go find my father and our last dog, Tuck. We love you we love you we love you.

Then Bear was at last smiling again.
There is little doubt that Pam was an angel.
HM was a rock as I stood and he held me and we cried and then he sent me from the room.  In a few minutes, I heard her ask “Where’s Bear’s mom?” and then she was in the dining room, hugging me, and then she and her tech assistant took what there was of Bear from his good old favorite spot in his good old house where he lived with us as a beloved family member for a good old 13+ years.

That was Thursday evening. It was the culmination of the prior two weeks of  all the crap that makes us say “we’re busy,” there was Bear in all his humility and nobleness, sick, sicker and trying to get around, which he couldn’t, and get in and out of the patio doors, which he couldn’t, and trying to climb the stairs to the master suite and he couldn’t. We took turns sleeping downstairs with him.  We handfed him; he didn’t want to eat from his elevated bowl in the laundry room anymore. We put rugs everywhere for him; he spurned their comfort.  We bought a half dozen of his favroite rawhides; he let Huck have them. We changed our work schedules. We knew what was coming and by a miracle Nory and Irish found a mobile vet who would visit the house.

There should be no fear or alone-ness at the end of any creature’s life. None.
And so there wasn’t.

We got him as a puppy, a mutt in a litter of 11. No idea how big he’ll be, everyone said.  One night as I was ascending the stairs, Bear now about 8 months old, was climbing right next to me, step for step, his head right there under my hand and I thought, “This dog is big. This is the dog I’ve always wanted.”   I didn’t have to lean or stoop to pet Bear. He was always right there.

I started to run with him.  Some people coming in our direction were not afraid, didn’t veer away, said what a handsome animal he was. Others would see us coming and quickly cross the street.

And so Bear was my wall, keeping people just distant enough so that we both had time to check them out before allowing them closer.

I swore that I would celebrate Bear, and I do, and I will.

I suspect he finds it amusing that I removed the elegant little red and gold “beware of dog”  tag from the front door this morning. A tiny chip of paint came off with it. I’ll leave it that way. I’ll scrub floors, do laundry, flap tablecloths free of crumbs in the early morning spring sun and sing about him.  Last night the family began retelling Bear stories.

And so the celebrating  of a great dog begins. The love is forever.


Daffodils from RWick and Tagger; Gerber daisies from Irish


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§ 18 Responses to Birdsong for Bear …

  • jeanie says:

    Oh, my dear friend. There are tears in my eyes, recalling how it feels to say goodbye and knowing the sadness in your heart at this time. What a beautiful, eloquent tribute to a dear friend for oh, so many years.

    I suppose if one has to deal with this — and all of us who love our animals and people do — then Bear’s farewell was so beautiful, so peaceful and so loving. To be together, to be home and quiet, even to have Huck right there with you — Bear was a lucky boy.

    I’ve always believed there are angels on earth and we probably encounter them every day — but we never know until they do their angel thing, whatever it may be. And then it’s clear. Pam is an angel.

    I’m sad that today represents the “Oh Life” part of your blog title. But it’s clear you are celebrating big old wonderful Bear this very moment. And we are celebrating Bear, too.

    Hugs to you. My heart is full. I wish you all peace.

  • qugrainne says:

    Oh, I was so very sad to read that you lost your Bear this week. I am so, so sorry. Our pets are really and truly part of our family, and I know how your heart aches right now. Animals are so innocent and deserve only the best that we can give them. I am glad you were able to be with him when he slipped away to that great big dog park where Tuck and your Dad were waiting for him.

    Sending you hugs with love, and an extra hug to Huck, who must be missing his buddy very much.
    I hope you will share some Bear stories with us some time. xxoo

  • Snarl says:

    I haven’t cried like this in a long time. I knew it would happen when Bear died.

    It’s OK for men to cry…it’s OK.

  • I am sorry for your loss and I mourn your beloved Bear with you. Our Ellie is thirteen and we know this time is coming for us as well. Beautifully written post. I wept.


  • ds says:

    “There should be no fear or alone-ness at the end of any creature’s life.” Absolutely true. I am sorry for the loss of Bear, but happy that he lived, and lived with you and your family; sometimes the fit of people with ‘pet’ (i.e., nonhuman family member) is perfect.
    Thank you for sharing this. I’m crying, and it is not only for Bear…

  • laylou says:

    It’s so hard to type when one is crying so hard they can’t quite see the keyboard… I miss Bear, too. You won’t see me show it as much since I’m trying to be a good shoulder for you and Dad, but I do. Jack does also. He was a great, strong dog and now he will continue to be a great strong presence in our hearts and memories.

  • Oh dear, my heart just sunk when I saw his collar in your picture. I send my most sincere condolances for the loss of your friend. He sounded like a wonderful friend to have.

  • oh says:

    Dear All – i will stop by your blogs to say hi (and likely natter on about one thing and another) but thank you, deeply, for your support and all your hugs and tears and warm thoughts. I wasn’t going to write about this at all but we have to celebrate “all creatures great and small”, so thanks for listening, for being here.

  • nova says:

    I cried so hard reading this. I know how precious our animals are in our lives, and the loss of them is just devastating.

    I posted a poem on Nory’s site about losing a special pet.

    I hope it can give you all a bit of comfort in this difficult time.

  • Becca says:

    Oh, my heart is breaking for you. You have honored your Bear so well with this tribute…I know he felt a lifetime of love.

  • Kim L says:

    Oh I am so sorry to hear about your loss! There is almost nothing as hard as saying goodbye to a faithful fried. {{hugs}}

  • I’m so, so sorry to hear of your loss. Bear sounds like he was a great dog and that you were all lucky to have each other.

    This is a beautiful post and tribute. I hope he’s on that rainbow bridge, seeking out your dad and Tuck.

  • shoreacres says:

    I just couldn’t write a word to you about this for a bit. I’ve only been through such an experience once, and that was with a stray kitty I’d known only six months and which never had been inside my house. The thought of what it was like to let Bear go just breaks my heart. How wonderful that you had your angel to help you in the person of that vet.

    Bear was your wall, and you were his fortress.

  • Alesia says:

    I’m so sorry. It’s hard even when it ends their suffering. It sounds like a peaceful leaving.

  • oh says:

    Snarl – I meant to tell you; yes, of course it’s good to cry when you lose your dog. “Man’s best friend” is a phrase written with depth.

    Nova – so good to hear from you! I did read your poem on Laylou’s blog. And typed a copy. Thanks.

    Becca – thanks; you’re always there.

    Kim – thanks for the hugs…”bear” hugs!

    Hi, Jen – love the rainbow bridge. Also enjoyed your 4/7 blog entry. perfectly perfect.

    Shoreacres – you got me with the “wall” and the “fortress” line. hearfelt thanks. (tissue, please!)

    Hi, Alesia – it was peaceful, I think, which ole Bear surely deserved. thanks for writing.

  • Care says:

    My heart goes out to you! A beautiful tribute to Bear.

  • MarleyToo says:

    So many heartfelt comments. What you wrote brought back the night that Tonka left us. I never thought I could grieve, cry, wail over a “furry four-legged,” but I did, and I still miss him. His little bear face in a totally black body. Part husky, part chow, he could scare people out of their pants. Once, he brought home a chicken from the neighbor’s yard – who has chickens in West County??? Anyway, hold Bear close to your heart and know that you are richer for having had him.

  • oh says:

    thanks, Care.

    you’re right, MarleyToo. Ole Bear enriched our lives in many ways.

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