January 2014

As I write this, one of our family dogs is being put down. I will not be there.

Buddy was fifteen years old. For a small dog especially, he’s had a long, long life. He is the second dog we have lost now. It is a gut-wrenching decision no matter what – is it fair? is he happy? are we only making him hang on for us? He brought us such joy. He was welcomed into the first house I ever lived in, which is four houses ago now. And he’s been through a lot with us.

When he was young, he was the local soccer prince – and he acted like it, too. He’d mess with his older brother, Oscar, until Oscar had to make clear who was in charge. I’ll never forget watching them play, and all of a sudden Buddy is on his back and Oscar has his paw resting lightly on his younger brother’s stomach. But they always looked out for each other. They started the family phrase “the dogs are going off,” to mean they were barking together at something or other, whether at a guest or a squirrel never really mattered.

I remember when Buddy pranced. He did, he pranced everywhere. His front legs would go out straight as he walked around (usually with a toy in his mouth) – a true prince. Like so many dogs, he could sense when I was sad and would then tolerate being held. He always knew when I was leaving again, to college or boarding school or camp, and would stay with me all day before I left.

We will miss him terribly. I wish I could give him one last hug, I wish I was there. When Oscar’s time came, we were all together.

Still, I’m reminded of that story that goes around. I didn’t see it until months or more after Oscar died. The gist is that a family makes the decision to put the family dog down. The parents debate bringing their 6 year-old to the vet with them, and ultimately explain and bring him along. As they stand there after, crying and holding each other and lamenting the short lives of dogs and other pets (I know the scene well by now), their 6 year-old surprises them by saying, “I know why.” They turn to him, and he continues, “People are put on the earth to learn to love each other and be nice, right?” They nod. “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

It is a painful night, to be sure. But I try to take comfort in all of the good things, and in that story. Buddy, we miss you so much.

There is a post going ’round on Facebook to share poetry with others, and then have them do the same. I thought it would be fun to try on WordPress (and I owe you all a post anyway). Slightly modified rules, and my poem, are below:

“The notion is to flood WordPress with poetry. Someone assigns you a poet, you post one of his/her poems, and if people comment on your post, you assign poets to them.”

I got Christina Rossetti, and picked

“In An Artist’s Studio”

One face looks out from all his canvases,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,
A saint, an angel — every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.