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And Words Are All I Have

The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.

~~ Mark Twain


Douglas snow paws
Douglas McCallum
April 22, 2009 to November 22, 2021

Douglas left us on Monday morning, after several months of declining health. We knew what we were facing and that we had to do the merciful thing for him but being on an out island and it being a Sunday, the options were severely curtailed. A friend suggested a vet on a tiny island north of us; fortune smiled and he agreed to see us.

We travelled north first thing Monday morning, with the heaviest of hearts, knowing what lay ahead. Because of the compassionate and gentle elderly vet who euthanized our wee Douglas, the experience was made more bearable.

For 12 and a half years Douglas shared our lives. A friend described him as "dignified and inquisitive." It is the perfect characterization. Despite being diagnosed with diabetes six years ago and his resulting loss of vision he soldiered on with the help of twice daily insulin injections, a controlled diet, and a litany of medications. He travelled with us, on foot, in cars and planes and trains, frolicked with us and his wee sister Gracie, our other terrier, and slept at the foot of our bed faithfully every night. Eye surgeries, several in succession, ultimately restored and maintained his vision. Who even knew there were dog opthalmologists?

Over the years his smallest health problem was increasingly magnified due to his compromised immune system and, especially of late, there seemed an endless line of skirmishes for the little guy, all of which he braved splendidly. In the last month on island I noticed a mental decline, noticing how he was turning in the opposite direction when I called him, and was growing more confused in his reactions and demeanor. Because of a wretched eye problem that cropped up and resisted all treatment over several months we were no longer sure if Douglas was free of pain and knew this was the watershed we had dreaded.

Another friend, when she heard the news of Douglas' death, said: "It is a blessing and a curse to love deeply."

It is both of those things. And despite the roller coaster of grief I am on now, erupting randomly in tears unbidden, sprinkling Grace's neck fur with them, I would do it all again in a New Yoerk minute.

I cannot find the author of this poem; it was sent to me years ago. It is glorious and have personalized it for my wee Douglas.

Rest easy, sweet boy. I loved you well.

Now rest your head upon me at the ebb.
Let me go with you to the gate of death
Like friends, as always, speaking our regrets,
As well as eyes and sound and touch can speak them.

Your leash and collar have been set aside
For this dread journey.
We cannot call you back, Douglas.
This time it is us who cannot come, –
Who have been sent home alone.
How bitter is the chasm barring us from speech
When I would tell you from my brimming heart
How much your life has meant to me.

So has the moment come. –
Across the quiet patience of your eyes
The awful shadow passes.
I weep for your joyous feet and perky tail.
No more scattering the golden sparkle
Of dew in the morning:
You are gone!
Beyond our hands, our voices,– beyond
The reach of spirit but not memory.

Mark this one – God of all animals
Large and small, wild and tame,
Unlatch your door;
Make free your hearth rug.
Give Douglas your greeting.
He was one among many
But he was my one.

Douglas and me Spanish Wells
for Douglas tribute
This is where Douglas now rests, here on our property on the island, under a mid-sized Buccaneer Palm tree, sure to offer more even more generous shade over the years to come.

"Old dogs don't die; they can't. They've merely run up ahead; they're waiting for us just out of sight. Close your eyes late at night and you may smell his musky odor, or perhaps hear his snuffle from the next room. Pay attention and you may feel his nose on your hand or the back of your calf. When your final day comes, you can go on to meet him; he's never left you and never will, and when you close your eyes for the last time, you'll open them again to be met with his bright eyes and wagging tail.

Old dogs don't die, at least, not those dogs who take the biggest chunks of our hearts with them when they leave us. Those dogs are inextricably part of our souls, and they go with us wherever we are. Though we may not see them, we know they're there because our heart is still beating; we still breathe, and those of us who have been truly touched by a good dog know our lives really started the day we met them.

Magnificent dogs don't die. They shepherd our dreams and only allow the good ones through the gates of our consciousness. They watch over us much as they did in life, and that moment when we step just barely outside of death or disaster, it's because they moved our feet or they stopped short in front of us as they did in life.

You see, a good dog is something only given to a few people. They are a gift from the universe and, though they're with us only a short time, they never really leave us. They are loyalty and love perfected, and once we are graced with that sort of love we can never lose it. We merely lose sight of it for a time, and that is our fault; for how can love like that ever go away?

It can't. It can't, and it never will. For these brave souls trade their hearts for ours, and they beat together beyond sickness, beyond death. They are ours, and we are theirs, for every sunrise and every sunset, until the sun blazes its last and we once again join the stars."

~~Leigh Curtis


Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent.
To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden,
where doing nothing was not boring -- it was peace.

~ Milan Kundera

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I am here, listening. Share your own stories with me, gentle reader.

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