Friday, August 22, 2008

the grand duke of hop canyon


Two o’clock this morning I was awake and afraid to go out of my bedroom because of not knowing whether my dog, Duke, would still be breathing or not. Jimmy was sleeping on the couch in the living room to be near him, just in case. He’s been in and out of the dog hospital the past couple weeks while they tried to figure out what was going on with him and they decided on Monday that a cancerous tumor on his spleen was causing his declining health. Actually, he was in pretty serious condition when he went back to the vet’s office this past Saturday. I’ve been grieving since then and I guess I’m weary of the pain. The pain of grief is odd – it seems to rise to the surface and be multiplied by each loss that is experienced. I think partly because it is simply a reminder of other losses but also each loss has some regrets associated with it and each loss permanently removes a blessing and a joy of some kind from our lives that we must learn to do without. And then once you’ve experienced many losses, you know there will be others, possibly even harder to accept and adjust to than the previous ones. Once it rises to the surface, grief seems to consume your thoughts and gets you centered up on the empty half of the glass and all negatives of life in this world.

I guess Duke represents so much more to me than just a good dog. He somehow reflects all the good in my life – the uncomplicated, non-demanding, un-annoying good in my life. Simple joy and blessing and unconditional love. I feel like I’ve taken him for granted, believing he’d always be here with me but that’s how I felt with every good thing I’ve ever had and lost. There is regret for not appreciating the person (or thing) more and really, consciously taking note of the joy their presence brings into my life. I’m wishing I had taken more note of the pleasure brought to me each day that we’ve had Duke here with us, alive and well. But I suppose it could be exhausting being fully conscious every day of everyone and everything and being extremely conscientious about expressing it to them as well. Maybe it’s better just enjoying our many blessings more naturally and less intensely and obsessively.

Duke has also represented life to me somehow. We got Duke 10.5 years ago during an extremely grief-filled time for our family. We had just experienced a grave loss that week when my niece was killed in a car accident. Her husband and six week old puppy had survived the accident. We had all been together as a family the day before the accident to celebrate Stacie’s birthday and had all marveled over her wonderful new springer spaniel/australian shepherd mix puppy, one of her birthday gifts. She had told us that there was one last puppy available, her puppy’s twin, and she had given us the contact info for the owner. Jimmy and I made the decision to go ahead and get the twin to her puppy the day after she died, mainly to give our children a diversion and a small joy in the midst of all the grief. Duke has been sort of a constant reminder of Stacie to me all these years. Of her death, inescapably yes, but more so of her life because I always associate Duke with that day our family was together enjoying Stacie on her birthday and participating in the joy of her new puppy which caused us to think about obtaining one of our own.

Duke ended up coming down with Parvo two weeks after we got him and miraculously pulled through. I bonded with him during that time. I’d go visit him at the dog hospital where he was all tubed up and sit with him and tell him how much we all needed for him to live and be part of our family. I prayed for him to survive so that our kids would not have the pain of him dieing added to the grief of Stacie’s death that we were all still so acutely experiencing. I probably invested way more emotionally than I should have in a pet because of the circumstances and somehow came to see Duke as a survivor like his brother who had been in the accident.

It’s hard to watch suffering, especially if you are a “fixer” like me. I function much better if I can actually do something to help bring comfort to someone or relieve a burden in some way. It is also so hard to let go, especially when it is a prolonged letting go. Having to remain in an indefinite, suspended state of relinquishment and resignation is almost harder somehow than sudden, unexpected, forced separation.

Usually, goodbye means, I’ll see you again soon or I’ll see you next time but when you’ve already acknowledged the upcoming final separation that will be occurring, each encounter can be more painful than the last. Jimmy says, “Prolonged goodbyes don’t really extend the visit, just the goodbye.” Perhaps that also is part of the pain, the extended goodbye with Duke is causing me to relive all the other final goodbyes in my life and in the lives of others in my family who are dear to me, who have had painful goodbyes or are currently experiencing extended goodbyes of their own. Life does go on and other people and interests or even pets seem to fill in the gaps a bit but never really fully replace those who are no longer with us.

Duke was doing better this morning and so am I. I’m going to enjoy each moment I have with him and try to do the same with all the other things and people in my life that the Lord has blessed me with. He and I went for a short walk and he found a big stick to bring to me like he always does and I smiled and felt joy in the moment. I’m certain there will be more pain but I will delight, with thanksgiving, in each occasion of joy.


Leau said...

Duke is a good dog and I will be sorry when he is not around to fetch big sticks. I love the wild look in his eye in that picture, kinda like, "take it if you dare" when I know he really means again, again, throw it again! That Jimmy is a smart man. smooches

Nicole said...

Mom, I cried and sobbed the entire time I was reading this.... He has been the best dog that I have ever known and to lose him really digs deep into wounds of past losses that we have experienced.... I have been hurting this week because of issues in our family and of Dukey. It is so painful and I am grieving with you mom, for there is NO dog who can take the place of Duke! Not even Brewster or Mocha!

I love you Mommy and you are NOT alone!!! I love Duke too!

Love, Nic!

Laurie said...

The funny thing is Leau, he's always been a bit hard to convince that he should actually give up the stick. He's quite proud of them and has sometimes hauled some of Ivan's wood pile down the hill to our house. :) There even some times when it was like he was looking for bigger and bigger sticks -- he'd come up to us with these four foot branches he'd found.

I know Nic, I didn't mean for the blog to be a tear-jerker -- I just needed to get it all out. I love you!

mk said...

i am so sorry. we lost a wonderful 10 yo to a splenic tumor- teddy's burst and he bled out. we didn't know he had the tumor until that happened. this was 4 months after our other dog was put down at 13 1/2 and one week after we brought the new puppy home. i swear teddy waited for me to have halle.

and i still cry when i think about him- nearly 2 years later.

i try to remember that every day is a gift. not just with the dogs, but with friends and family too. as your story makes clear.

anyway- thoughts with all of you. may duke have an easy transition, and the rest of you hold him in your hearts with joy.

Laurie said...

mk - thank you so much for your kind and understanding comments. It's been tough. Duke died on Tuesday, August 26, just five days after I wrote this blog entry. We had a wonderful weekend together -- he was so improved that I would've sworn he was recovering somehow. I was a mess that first week after he was gone but day by day I'm a little more able to accept it, though like you said about your experience, I'm still crying whenever I think of him. I've thought about getting a puppy but I can't quite believe that I will ever find another dog friend like Duke. He's a hard act to follow. :)

Kylene said...
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