Saying Goodbye

11873734_10153259138319877_880496385833480022_nI said goodbye to my girl yesterday, eight years after we met in the Missoula pound. She was three years old then, and huge. Her papers listed her as a lab/husky/shepherd/pointer, which is pound-speak for “giant mutt.” I’m convinced she was part wolf.

She tried to get in the shower with me the first night she came home, unclear on the concept that once in a while she actually had to let me out of her sight. She never voluntarily left my side since.

I learned in the spring that she had cancer, a tumor on her liver slowly eating away at her lifespan. I’ve known since March that we were on borrowed time, every day with her an extra one to be thankful for—but I still wasn’t ready for this.

2272_51301744876_5541_nMy dog was not just a dog. Some of us have dogs that are just dogs, and the rest of you know what I’m talking about: the ones that are smart, empathetic, like an extension of you. The ones that know every twist and turn of your days, that you tell your secrets to, that know you.

I read a book once that said that we’re born into the same circle of souls throughout time, and once in a great while those souls find their way into the bodies of animals. We don’t always find the souls in our circle with the right timing in a given lifetime, but sometimes we get lucky.

I called my dog my canine soulmate.

I find myself chronicling the lasts. The last time we went backcountry skiing. Our last float. Our last backpacking trip. Our last walk to the creek.

13466394_10153529767302015_3124012544567873059_nI can’t imagine getting in my truck for a road trip without her sprawled across the back seat. I can’t imagine sleeping in my two-person tent without her filling the other spot. I can’t even think about waking up without her good morning snuggle, or coming home to the thundering absence of her wagging tail and excited little dance. I can’t even remember what it feels like without her company.

She kept loneliness at bay for me, just the two of us on long nights at home with the music on low. She was my adventure buddy, and I did so many more solo trips because she was with me—because I wasn’t really solo then.

I said goodbye to her in the same house I brought her home to all those years ago, a beautiful closing of the loop of the four other houses in between, my time abroad when she waited patiently for me to come back to her, and all our myriad adventures. My sister and I used to have two armchairs in the living room of that house, and she would lie between them and talk to us. She passed with my sister’s hand on her head, my parents on either side, looking into my eyes.

A close friend told me that when our dogs get old and we have to think about the unthinkable, it helps us come to terms with mortality and understand how to grant death with dignity, compassion, and empathy. And above all, it teaches us how to value life on a grander scale.

And to channel Ben Moon, our dogs teach us that every time someone you love walks through the door, to go totally insane with joy. I’ll miss that the most.

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18 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye

  1. Oh Cass – I’m so sorry to hear this. Ol’ Alta girl was certainly a special lady and loved you like no other. She will be missed by so many and my heart goes out to you. 😦 I can picture her running free and saying “I WUV YOU” up in doggie heaven! Love to you sweetheart.

    Katie

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  2. Dear dear Cassie—

    I am so sorry for your loss, and also so inspired by your story of her life. Am reminded of what I heard your grandpa say many times at memorial services here in Chula Vista: as we mature, we experience more and more of our soul friends populating that place beyond the veil, so it isn’t so foreign and frightening as perhaps once it was. Rather, we increasingly feel at home both here and there, and find comfort from both. His spirit is strong, still, in this place. I hope he visits you, too! May you find comfort in your stories and love-filled memories…

    Much love, Sharon

    >

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  3. Oh, Cass. I’m in tears reading this post. My heart is so with you….we lost our feline girl, Merkin, this past July, and the loss still hurts. Your words totally capture how we felt about her being so much more than just a cat…she was our best friend, the sweetest, most loving soul. I felt like she gave us a gift even in her departure…pure love in that grief, with no regrets.

    I have a beautiful, vivid image of you and Alta on one of our post-WVE board/ staff retreat outings, paddling along together. It made my heart happy then, and the memory of it still does. They will always be with us, those souls in our circle.

    Much love to you, my dear. Miss you!

    Ann

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  4. Dear Ms. Randall, I just read your post about Alta. I received it through the Elephant Journal that I get each day. I too am a dog lover and I empathize with what you went through. I’m so sorry for your loss. In your story you referenced a book that you had once read: “I read a book once that said that we’re born into the same circle of souls throughout time, and once in a great while those souls find their way into the bodies of animals. We don’t always find the souls in our circle with the right timing in a given lifetime, but sometimes we get lucky.” Can I please find out what that book was? I love the concept and would like to also read it. I’m so glad that you have all the wonderful photos and memories to hold you until you see her again . . .
    Thank you for the lovely story.

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  5. thank you so much for this- i first read your article on Elephant Journal about your pup, then came here to your website just so I could say thank you for writing this. I had my own sweet girl for 15 years and when she died last year, I too felt like I was missing a part of my own body. It has gotten easier, as grief does, but she taught me so much about love and loss. Best to you.

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