A Dog Story of a Good Death
I am always somewhat amazed that Hospice is a scary word for many people. For those who truly understand the concept of Hospice, they know that the essence of Hospice is a life affirming approach of care as one nears the end of life. Mt. Rose’s goal was to have these blogs embrace and share the life affirming views rather than just the end-of-life issues.
This blog sharing embraces both sides of that equation. It is all about life affirming constructs as well as end of life issues. It is all about my personal experience this past week with the death of our elderly basset hound. The week was filled with joy and sadness; insights and sharing. Rarely, do I ever post anything of a personal nature on Facebook. Karma’s disappearance and journey were an exception. I am going to share the whole story:
This is the strangest, saddest post…. Karma, our beloved elderly rescue basset hound that has feet on almost backwards, has disappeared this morning. She became ill, and even though the vet said he thought it was just an upset tummy, she continued to decline this last week. She has not eaten anything for the last several days and Jon has been giving her water with a syringe. She did not appear to be any distress but became weaker and weaker. Yesterday she was unable to stand, and we made the difficult decision it was time to have her euthanized and we were going to take her to Mesa Vet and then on to Roselawn to be cremated this morning. Last night I loved her and said good-bye as I did not think she would make it to morning.
And here is the strange part: This morning when Jon got up, she was able to stand, and Jon let her out and she was lying on the porch. In just a few minutes he went back, and she was gone!!!! He has been searching for her for the past hour. Frequently, she was an escape artist and would run up to “her” beloved Daigre Reservoir (which is essentially in our backyard). She could not even stand yesterday, so cannot imagine how she could be far away, but she has vanished into thin air. Jon is back out searching again. Maybe the angels came to carry her home…. but that would only have been her sweet soul. She is white with tan patches. And last night looked like a ghost. Please if anyone sees her, our phone number is on her tags. So sad!
KARMA IS HOME! Oh, my goodness what a lesson to whap me up alongside the head, heart, and brain! Arthur Short Bull came over and offered his kindness and wisdom as only a man of great thoughts and few words can do. He then went up to Daigre with his binoculars and spotted her at the water’s edge even though Jon had been up there several times this morning! I looked out and here are two of my favorite human beings slowly leading her back home through the tall grass…Jon carried her the rest of the way. Karma made her statement about a good death, and she was going to die in the place she loved. There is no way we will take her to Pueblo now; she is not suffering, and we will bury her here in the tall grass. For a dog that could not even stand (and now back home and not appearing able to stand) …she made it 200 yards up a hill to a place she loved! Thank you everyone for your kindnesses.
Karma is still with us…. barely.
We were so touched by all the offers, prayers, and kindnesses with the lost dog ordeal. I recently wrote a blog about Love and Survival. I truly believe that her having a couple more pain-free days with the people she loves is because of all the extra love that she felt from our greater community. We are mostly ready and resigned to her passing. A friend with a backhoe dug her a grave in the tall grasses she loved. We have some tobacco to sprinkle for her journey. Jon is planning on tossing her dog tags into her beloved lake! A bit of ceremony is a healing thing.
I do not believe this is anyway an original thought, but I was touched by all the stories that were shared about beloved animals that have “gone on before” and pondered why it is the death of our animals affects us so profoundly….my theory? Our critters love us unconditionally. Even when we are grumpy, or sad or mad or maybe even forgot their dinner. They still love us. Unfortunately, sometimes when our humans pass, we may grieve profoundly, but often there is somewhat of a snare of complicated relationships. Rarely is there that bond of true unconditional love that our animals have provided. Blessings to all the four-leggeds that have joined us on our journey!
Y’all have been so wonderful, kind, and insightful following these last days of Karma’s journey to a home where she can always be by the lake. I need to share that she died peacefully this afternoon. Her final time on this earthwalk was indeed one more poignant chapter in this bittersweet story.
This afternoon we decided that even though she did not appear to be in pain, perhaps not all suffering is painful. We called a retired vet here in La Veta and asked if he would help us with the last steps of Karma’s journey. Being the compassionate man he is, he understood our dilemma and asked if we could bring her to him. Jon carried her poor, emaciated body to the back seat of the car and placed her on her favorite blanket. As we drove up through our beautiful Cuchara Valley, her shallow breaths stopped and there at the foot of the peak before we ever got to the vets, her spirit exited. She was a rescue that came to us as a puppy and had never lived anywhere but in the shadow of our beloved Huajatollas. I choose to believe as we got closer and closer to the mountains, she felt their power and protection and knew it was time to leave. Even though it sounds so strange to be driving with a dead dog in the back seat, it felt like we had helped her get close enough to spirit that she could pass on and it was a bittersweet ride. A lemon bar ride…that zing of bitterness that is surrounded by so much sweetness.
We brought her home and Jon buried her in her favorite blanket with the puppy paw print. We placed an offering of tobacco for safe passage into the spirit world and thanked the creator for allowing us to be part of Karma’s journey.
Blessings to everyone who has been with us during Karma’s final days. You too have been a gift of healing! Thank you.
And dear Karma, thank you for offering the opportunity for so many of us to reflect on the profound contributions critters make in our lives, the joy of unconditional love and the circle of life that is punctuated by death.