"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Saying Goodbye to Muffy with a look at the literature

Memories of Muffy on a better day
Today we will put our dog to "sleep." She has a horrible cancerous growth on her leg. It is time to end her suffering. Since I first talked about this on my Sunday Salon post last week I have heard from many, many friends who have had to face the same situation and can empathize with our pain. We know we are not alone.

I wanted to eulogize Muffy for the good dog that she was but unlike my favorite authors who have been able to put pen to paper to extol the virtues of their dogs or of dogs in general, words seem to be eluding me right now. Therefore I will grab a few of their words. I hope these words will not only bring solace to my soul but will also be a salve to yours, if you are also going through a similar situation with a beloved pet.

I hope there is a pet heaven. If there is, as Cynthia Rylant tells us in her children's book Dog Heaven, there will be fields and fields for running, ponds full of geese for barking, tables to lay under, and lots of biscuits to eat. Biscuits in every shape and flavor. God loves dogs and in heaven all dogs are good. And, at the end of our life, our dog will be waiting for us, as she waited for us to get home from work or school here on earth. Muffy will especially like the dog biscuit part. She is definitely a food-lover.

Enzo, the canine narrator of the book The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, heard that when a dog comes to the end of his life "his soul is released to run until he is ready to be reborn" (316). When it is his time to leave, Enzo sees another world where he is free and he wants his master to know he is OK.
There are no fences. No buildings. No people. There is only me and the grass and the sky and the earth. Only me...I take a few steps into the field and feels so good, so nice to be in the cool air, to smell the smells around me. To feel the sun on my coat...I gather my strength and I start off and it feels good like I have no age at all, like I am timeless. I pick up speed. I run... I bark twice so he knows, so he remembers.
Bailey, another canine narrator, knows she needs to help her master. But she is not sure how. After many incarnations she finds he way back to her original master and is able to assist her master with what he needs most, to find love. It was her purpose in life to be there for him and to teach him this. (A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron.) I'm pretty sure that Muffy's purpose was to fill a void we had in our lives at the moment she entered in. We got her during a very stressful period for our family. Don was deployed to Iraq for a year. When we got Muffy suddenly we all knew we'd be OK. (And we were!)

We learn so much from our dogs if we are willing to pay attention. My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, is quite a dog lover and has written a whole volume of poems, Dog Songs. dedicated to them, She, like all of us who love our pets, talks to her dogs and imagines that they answer back. In this poem she imagines a conversation with her dog Percy:


In another poem written after Percy dies, Mary Oliver eulogizes him in a beautiful poem. One line jumped out at me: "And you loved Anne." Mary's partner's name is Anne. It is my name, too. If I were to write the poem I would say this about Muffy---
"And you loved Anne and Don and Rita and Carly...your people."

Enzo, wise Enzo,  also reminds us---
To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life, as Eve felt the joy of life. To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to. (The Art of Racing in the Rain.)
He also reminds us that we should always try to improve on one thing dogs are really good at---listening. Really listening. Not just hearing and preparing to tell our own story as soon as the person stops speaking. He said, "Learn to listen! I beg of you. Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people rather than steal their stories.” Muffy was a great listener (unless there was a laser pointer in sight.) She would perk up her ears and look right at you, and you could tell she was listening and trying to understand what we were saying. She would also remind us, and did everyday, that we are all wonderful and lovable.

Winn-Dixie, the adorable mutt who changes Opal's life in Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, understood the importance of proximity. "He [Winn-Dixie] sat down next to me and leaned into me the same as I was leaning into my daddy" (182). All the people in the book recognized how special this dog was and in the end, they celebrated his life,
Dunlap cracked his knuckles and said, 'Well, are we gonna sing or what?' 'Yeah,' Stevie echoed, 'are we gonna sing or what?' 'Let's sing,' said Sweetie Pie, opening her eyes and sitting up straight. 'Let's sing for the dog.'
Today, I want to sing for the dog, Muffy, the special dog in our lives. The dog who knew how to listen and loved to sit close to us. The dog with the most amazing, soft, huge ears that we used to tease were "as soft as dog ears." I want to sing out in celebration of a dog who loved us unconditionally and in return modeled how to accept love. My heart is breaking but I am comforted thinking about Muffy running through fields, barking her head off, and eating biscuits whenever she wants. And in the end, I hope she will be there to greet us on the other side.

Muffy, if there is a dog heaven, I hope that there are plenty of things to chase, even if you never catch them. I hope that you always get to the food bowl first and not have to nip at the cat to get out of the way. I hope that there will be long walks full of good, stinky things to smell. I hope there are lots of good hiding places for your bones and lots of stuffy-toys with fake eyes you can pull out and squeakers you can destroy.

Muffy, you have made us laugh more times than I can count. I even chuckled this morning, even though you were feeling so poorly, when you tried to break up Don and I as we kissed goodbye for the day. You also did take your job as PDA police very seriously. With your comedic antics you endeared yourself to us. "It is hard not to fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor" (Because of Winn-Dixie). And fall we did.

And thank you, Muffy, for reminding us that it is wonderful to be alive, even when it hurts because we will miss you so much.

Love, Anne and all your people


May there always be blue balls, green grass and good places to roll around in heaven.

14 comments:

  1. I am so sorry to hear this, my heart goes out to you

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  2. What an incredibly beautiful post, Anne. I loved coming to your house and seeing Muffy, such a sweet, and loving dog. Thinking of your family as you grieve her loss. xoxo

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  3. I'm so sorry to hear about Muffy, Mrs. Bennett. I had to put my dog, Isabel, down last month. She had a seizure that caused brain damage. We had her since she was born, just shy of 11 years ago. Missing her a lot today. You and Muffy are in my thoughts.

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    1. Thanks for your kind thoughts, Kayla. It helps knowing that we are not alone, that others have trod this path before us. We cleaned up all her "stuff" like her toys, food bowl, crate, etc. last night, so the house seems double empty today.

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  4. Thank you, Anne, for sharing this. I only recently had a dog come into my life, never having been 'allowed' one since we were military and moved so often. I now realize what I've missed over the years. The unconditional love you've written of is so apparent on a daily basis.
    You're in my thoughts and prayers as you go through this.

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  5. What a wonderful tribute post! I loved all those dog books and am sending hugs your way!

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  6. A lovely tribute. Muffy sounds like a wonderful and funny dog. I know you'll miss her.

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  7. What a beautiful dog (and love that picture of her in the grass). It's never easy but thank you for sharing your memories and thoughts as well as what you're reading. I recently lost two cats within a year of each other, and a beloved dog when I was younger and it's terrible, Best wishes your way.

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  8. I'm so sorry. The death of a beloved companion is always so tough. This is a lovely tribute.

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  9. What a lovely tribute to your dog. I'm sorry to hear she passed. I don't remember Because of Winn-Dixie very well, but I remember enjoying it!

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  10. This is a great tribute to Muffy. Pretty dog. So sorry for your loss. I really liked Garth Stein's book and I didn't think I would, but it got me! thanks for letting me know about Mary Oliver's poetry book on dogs; I think I will get a copy. I am a dog nut.

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