Friday, October 2, 2015

Thoughts on a dying dog

This week began with a visit to the vet because I thought my amazing Maisey had perhaps eaten one of her toys. Our house is littered with toys—dog toys—and they are all hers. There's a bin and she carefully chooses which one she wants to play with, sorting through until she finds just the right one. When she is excited such as when I return from a day at work, she comes running, toy in mouth, stump of a tail wagging vigorously. Pure delight in living.

But by Tuesday it was revealed that it was not a toy but a highly aggressive cancer that has eaten away her pelvic area. The vet says it is a miracle that she is walking at all. My girl is a strong girl. Amazing Maisey. She has learned how to compensate, how to move through the pain of bad hips, and how to take on life fully. As she fully embraces life, she fully gives back to others. I like to say that of all my dogs, Maisey is the one who best understands people. Like the good hunting dog she is, she gives total attention to the humans around her. If it is a small baby, she will sit by the stroller and calmly guard. When my father was ill and suffering from dementia, as he sat in his chair she was often at his side within the reach of his gentle, wavering hand.

Maisey's dad was grand champion field Spaniel in Canada and the U.S. One weekend in the spring, my daughter Tegan and I drove up towards Toronto and she picked Maisey out of a bundle of puppies. Ever since Tegan has been her girl. There was many a time when as a single mom of a teenager, we'd find ourselves in the midst of some emotional event or other. The cure was always a good talk on the couch, Tegan on one end, myself on the other and Maisey would cuddle up into Tegan's lap and my other dog Louie in mine. It is impossible to disagree amidst all that nonjudgmental love.

That was kind of what I was hoping would happen to the U.S. when the Pope came to visit. His addresses to Congress and the U.N. were masterful and balanced. He clearly saw how we desperately need to put aside our extremism and find instead our common humanity. This little planet has problems too large for us to be name calling and for parties to act out of raw emotion rather than respectful reason. Our eternal fighting only shortens humanities' limited time on earth.

Maisey's time is limited now. We know that, most likely by the holidays, she'll be gone, hopefully sitting patiently by my father's side. Of course we're doing all I can within reason to keep her happy and hold back the end. Each day I am counting as one of joy, appreciating and embracing what is so very good now. That was not the case this week for those young people who were murdered at a small college in Oregon.  I can only imagine their families—with memories like mine of toys and talks—and I can only imagine the college community much like Champlain's: a place where we try to prepare our students for reasonable thinking; to prepare them to create a better world; and they teach us with their unlimited enthusiasm, wisdom, and hope. A small, closely knit and caring community.

The New York Times reports that "Oregon is one of seven states with provisions, either from state legislation or court rulings, that allow the carrying of concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures." Why as a culture are we so addicted to violence as a solution? Why do we so strongly try to limit the choice of half our species to make decisions impacting their families and yet whole heartedly support the ability of unstable young men to shoot up our youth? Why are we so divisive on these issues that we fail to see and address the larger issues of global warming, poverty, and basic human rights? Why are we so hell-bent—and I mean hell-bent—on insisting that we individually know best, so hell-bent on trying to control the choices of others without thought to how or if they impact the collective whole?

The truth is that like my dear Maisey, our time is limited. Unlike my sweet Maisey we fail to be empathic, to honestly care to—dare I say it?—to love those around us. This week I am in mourning for those unknowing college students, faculty, and their families, for my innocent, unsuspecting dog, and for the state of we the people. Of those three, only one group has the choice to change the future and perhaps sadder yet is that we don't.


  1. Ann, this is so eloquent and so thoughtful. There is no replacing a friend like Maisey. And though we may trust that they are in a better place after they leave, there is still the little indentation next to us where they used to sit. We miss their beautiful unconditional love. I love your big and tender heart. Hugs for you and for Maisey and with you I am remembering the heartbreak of all of those touched by this shooting in Oregon. Judy

  2. Thanks Judy. After I wrote this, I was reflecting on the often heard expression of how in English, God and Dog are mirrored images...unconditional love, why dogs seem blessed with it and why we struggle to achieve it. Perhaps no coincidence that we want to be loved that way and that we find fulfillment (even within the pain) when we do love unconditionally - without limitation on those we love. That is the true story of every religion. It's at that state that we know that it is only found when we can choose it. That perhaps is heaven.

  3. Aching with you, Ann. What a beautiful testament to Maisey and to your family. Our critters teach us so many lessons about trust and loyalty and simple presence--those aspects of love and grace we so sorely need as humans. Hard to let go of those instrumental teachers, especially when their cold noses and wags and soft fur reassure us that all will be well, all manner of thing shall be well...especially when there is news like yesterday when such incomprehensible violence occurs. And yet in your writing and in your teaching, you embody this love. It's out there, it will heal and save us. Hugs, Kel

    1. Its out there...I love this thought Kelly - thank you for your beautiful words and reflection.