So unexpected it was, this ravenous cancer that within a week had reduced
my 8 year old, energy-filled Shih Tzu into a weak, lethargic and shrinking
companion. Monday afternoon we went to the vet and after x-rays saw the
culprit for what it was, a massive tumor of the spleen that was encroaching
on his digestive system, causing him to feel full in his tummy and making
him not want to eat. There was also fluid accumulating around his little
heart causing pressure on his lungs as well as his heart. Yet he managed a
tail wag now and then. Maybe he felt my distress, my anxiety, my worry and
perhaps my hope that somehow he would get better.
It was not to be. Tuesday morning brought the blood test results. With a
white cell count of 42K, his body full of lymphocytes, a host of smaller
tumors appearing overnight, the vet and I knew that his quality of life had
diminished considerably and that there was no recovering it. With my heart
breaking, I made Dragon's final appointment, an hour and a half after the
phone call that had revealed the awful truth: my golden boy's time had come
to depart and return to his Maker.
I spent my time on the carpet, laying next to him, massaging paw pads and
gently scratching ears, murmuring word offerings to him in the voice he had
come to count on for comfort and love. He would look at me with a sort of
gratitude that seared my very being. And patiently he waited with me in the
silence of an overcast morning.
I was numb with the reality of the coming hour and what it would mean to me:
sorrow, loneliness, grief, the tearing of the fabric of my soul to lose this
precious life that had given so much to me, that had decided to love me
back, and be the most faithful of companions.
I then thought of what the coming hour would mean to Dragon: healing,
newness of life apart from this world and its frailties, eternal life with
God, meeting my mom and our other dogs in a place of eternal summer, this
place where they will wait for me and one day greet me by saying "What took
you so long?"
But now, in this moment I only know loss and the silence of a home once
shared and played in together, where a greeting awaited me, full of prancing
paws and wagging tail...little yips of "hello!" and grunts of "Take me
As he left this world I held him close, partly wrapped in a little faux
sheepskin, in my arms. I told him how beautiful he was; I thanked him for
loving me; I said I love you more times than I can remember, and then I
wished him good night and that one morning I would greet him again. In spite
all I have written here, there are truly no words to express the devastation
such a death of such an innocent brings.
After he died, I was left alone with him. I arranged him on the sheepskin,
perhaps for my comfort more than anything. Alone with him I found myself
bent over him, my face buried in the soft fur of his still and quiet chest,
weeping and moaning into him, holding little feet and precious head for I
don't know how long but after a while a knock came and I knew it was time to
let him go, body and soul. My dog-child was gone. The technician tenderly
cradled him in her arms and crying, asked me if I was ready to let her take
him. I said yes and kissed his head one last time, the scent of holy oil
filling my nostrils along with his own unique scent. She assured me that his
body would be treated gently as if he were only asleep. I thanked her as she
left, and I turned and rolled up the sheepskin that had held and comforted
him, and then I left to go home without him who had been my constant
companion, through good times and sorrowful times.
I have decided to have him cremated for purely selfish reasons. When I am
ready I will let him go, but honestly, I'm not prepared to do that yet, nor
anytime in the near future. It's about faithfulness, fidelity, honoring the
memory of a creature sent to you for reasons known only to God. Dragon
taught me much, but then all dogs do. They have ways of being Zen masters,
true disciples of their Creator, and also the comedian who makes us laugh
when nothing nor anyone else can.
And so I write this memorial to my dog, my most trusted confidante and
companion in life. I love you, Dragon, my beautiful boy. Good night, my lion
dog. I long to see you one bright morning....