A life Well Lived

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A life well lived.

I’m standing in the front yard in my pajamas.  It’s 18 degrees and everything is frozen hard with that late January freeze that penetrates deep into the earth.  I’m holding Buddy’s emaciated body up to see if maybe he wants to pee.  He’s warm as he leans against me. 

He hangs his head and collapses on weak legs.  I pick him up.  So light now.  Just a warm bag of bones.  Nothing left of that strong dog that would sprint laps in this yard or launch himself 10 feet in the air to grab a frisbee in this yard or steal the soccer ball off my foot in our yard.  His yard. 

I have a photograph that I gifted to my wife one year, many years ago.  It’s an aerial photograph of the yard some outfit was peddling in our neighborhood.  The photo is late summer.  There in the green of the grass sits Buddy, ever watchful, surveying the land from his perch on the hill.  Always at the ready.

I stayed home with him yesterday.  I slept in the chair next to his bed the night before.  It was a long night.  I was woken every hour or so by the grinding of his teeth and the spasming of his body from long, violent seizures.  I put my hands on him and tell him it’s ok as he rides them out. 

Oddly it was a comfort to me.  To be able to spend this time close with him.  I stayed home from work and built a fire in the fireplace.  I sat on the couch and read while he stumbled around or slept. 

It brought back memories of a parallel time when my oldest daughter Katie was born.  I was in transition between jobs and took a couple weeks off to stay home with the newborn.  I quickly discovered that all I could do was hold that warm infant on my chest and read.  And we spent that time together.  And I was grateful for it. 

After this long night I thought this was the day, but he perked up.  He was stumbling around the house.  He was eating some treats.  I figured I’d give him another night.  He earned it.  But today is that day. 

He was doing fine a month ago on his 16th birthday, but something happened.  Some sort of system failure.  He lost 15 pounds in less than a month.  The seizures.  This morning he could not stand.  It happens quickly.  He’s exhausted. 

It’s a difficult puzzle to unravel with a pet.  How much of this is me trying to avoid my own pain and how much of it for them?  How do you make that decision or more importantly, when do you make that decision?  We can’t fathom their thoughts and emotions. As close as they are to us, they are still an alien mind.  Most of the narrative our own egomaniacal anthropomorphizing.

It’s a weighty thing to have to decide the time of death for a friend. 

These last couple days he hasn’t been eating his food, but he has been more than willing to eat our food.  As sick and weak as he is, even when we have to hold him up, he’ll inhale that hamburger and chicken and chees with a pepperoni chaser.  Good for him.  Getting the last laugh.

Most people have many pets in their lives, but there is always that one.  The one that grew up with your kids.  That one that was your best friend.  Buddy was that pet for us. 

He was not without neuroses.  He was irrationally afraid of thunder and fireworks.  He was hard-wired to chase anything that moved, no matter what your opinion on the appropriateness of that chasing was.

But he was the best dog I have ever known.  He was my running partner.  He shared thousands of miles of road a trail at my side, stride for stride.  He was incredibly smart, incredibly athletic and the kindest, gentlest guileless soul to his pack. 

How many spiritual moments did we share in the trails?  Hundreds.  Thousands.  Uncountable.  Truly shared, because he an I had this resonance in the woods, this shared joy of the joyous bounty of nature beneath our feet and around us.  We celebrated together.  We were a pack of two, brothers, and single-minded on the hunt. 

As men and dogs have been for eons.  Filled and vibrating with the perfectness of the forest.  Permeated with that primeval joy. 

I’ll miss that.  But, I’ll also celebrate it.  Because how lucky am I to have intersected with this soul in this time and place?  How much fuller am I?  He gave me more than I can ever give.  He was an example of kindness and joy.  He was my friend and his passing will leave a big hole in all our lives. 

It was a life well lived. 


Direct download: buddy-Eulogy.output.mp3
Category:Running -- posted at: 8:48pm EDT





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