Monday, February 24, 2014

Barkley

 Barkley
July 12, 2003 - February 24, 2014

There is no easy way to write this, but Barkley is gone.  It was bone cancer, advanced, and the best of care and all the ramps in the world couldn't keep him free from pain any longer, a feeling that was articulated in his eyes, and not just his movements as he tried to play and could not. 

No more pain, no regrets  Everything I give him, he gave me back ten fold, listening to me chat away about my day, things that by my oath of duty, I couldn't tell anyone else.  He was my black knight with wagging tail, the fur covered Kleenex when I cried. He was the finder of slippers and the keeper of hearts.

He was a dog, but he was much more than a dog. 

He was  support, he was patience. He was the promise that even with the worst mistakes, he still loved me. He was that fire that cauterized me against loneliness and fear, the thump of his tail like the sound of a heart in the womb, creature comfort there in the dark and unknown.  He became the unevictable place in a heart so bruised, it had pushed everyone harshly away that got too close, teaching me to trust again. With that trust, I found my heart's twin, who happily became his family as well.
As family, we take care of each other.   Having a pet is a commitment just as is any bond, either visible or invisible with another living creature, is. It's not just being a good friend during the good times, it's being a friend during surgery, explosive doggrhea, and that pile of vomit in the corner on the one square of carpet that wasn't protected by a cheap throw rug.

You do what you can to help them during those scary, shadowed times, with tender, soothing words. You don't  lay your hand upon them with forceful curse and belittlement. They look at you to be the strong one, the better one, even if it's difficult to do. They trust you to act from your heart and not from the infinite, internal voices of human fear and angst.
They pay it back in ways that can't be captured, but by the measured beat of a tail.  On those nights when you come home really, really late from work, your soul weary, the house dark, they will quietly come up to you, leaning into you, drawn from their slumber to your side like steel and magnet.  At that moment, there as both your hearts beat in the silence, you realize that every measure of sickness and health was worth it.

For there is  great measure of trust and love contained in that warm web of bone and fur, the eyes that can commandeer your pancakes and the tail that wags for you as if you were the only person on the planet for them, and maybe you are.
Their time is so short, indeed, but that doesn't mean you should not love. In "people" years, Barkley was probably sixty something.  But they were years condensed down into their core elements, as if a simple ordinary succession of days were not enough, as if the love and all of that faithfulness, the freedom of the field, and the tug of a leash towards the horizon were compressed down into something as hard and brilliant as diamond. Everything, every single element of so many long days is there in that short span of time, compounded into that one leap, one surge, towards the lights of a vehicle in the drive, one joyous bark that contains within it simply "My person is home!"
He cared nothing about what kind of house we had, how I looked or how much money was in the bank.  All he cared about was how to bequeath that for which sustained him,  in his too short life, his faith and his love, as he patiently waited for my return.

When he greeted me, he seemed to know when I just needed to sit in the quiet.  He seemed to know when I wanted to play.  And play he would.  If there was a ball to be thrown, he would abandon all restraint and gave every fiber of himself, to reach that for which was before, only a dream; unmitigated glory.  His life was not deadlines, or deals or caring about the things that in all reality, will not matter at the end of a life.  His life was simply a joyous run ahead of that avalanche of time that would be his enemy had he any concept of it.

But time caught up with him, forcing a decision that I hoped wouldn't have to be made. But meds couldn't keep the pain at bay and amputation and chemo were only going to buy a  short, short amount of time, at the expense of his comfort. I could not in good conscious make him go through that, for there was no cure, only a continuation of pain. So I was there, by his side, not passing on the burden solely to someone in a white lab coat, loving and caring, but not his "Mom".  Although he never formally took an oath, paw placed upon a revered document, flag on the wall, an oath was taken.  When he came home with me as a  puppy, he swore his life to serve and protect.  That was his duty, as it is mine.

He had medication to take the pain away, a big bowl of  food that wasn't kibble, and all the treats he could happily gobble down. There was no fear in him, no pain, no anxiety.  Dad and Mom said goodbye as I placed my cool hand on his warm flank and talked to him down at floor level, in all those murmured words that meant something only to us. Where else could I be but to just be there as the needle quietly slipped in and he was free from all burden, one surge, one leap towards the light so easily and joyously, so as to lose all sense of restraint, weightless upon the warm, invisible air.  He was free, the pain of bone and flesh departed, only one long, joyous, soundless bark as he went Home to wait by the Rainbow Bridge until we can catch up.
He was more than a dog.  He was love that crept in on four paws and remains, as long as  memory lasts.
- Brigid