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