phynedyning

Saying “Goodbye” to an old friend

In General Information on August 3, 2011 at 8:00 am

Last night, we said “goodbye” to Abe for the last time.

We always thought the historically frail “Jack” would be the next of our original pack of greyhounds to make a last run into the undiscovered country.

But then, Abe had a history of dancing to a tune he made up as it was played.

There is no need for a post-mortem of the hopelessness of his medical condition.  It is enough to say that, although his eyes remained bright right to the end, the effort required for living was becoming a burden for him.  In the end there was one final act of kindness we could do for Abe.

The scene was sad and it is one we have played out many times over our thirty years with our dogs.

Amidst the sadness of the moment, there was the joy in knowing we had given Abe fourteen years of happy living that he may not have otherwise enjoyed.

He was now at the end of his time with us.

We knelt beside him and rubbed his scarred ears.  The scars were medals he earned on a day, many years ago, when he and Jack had a serious disagreement over a matter of pack leadership.

Jack keeps a reminder of that day in a curling scar on his neck, a memento to the fierceness of their dispute.

Over the next ten years, they kept a distant friendship.  They were like the two Koreas, peering suspiciously at each other across miles of barbed wire and minefields.  It was an uneasy, but enduring cease-fire.

The cease-fire became a permanent armistice on Saturday when we discovered Jack lying next to Abe, Abe’s old, white head lying on Jack’s bony back.  Over the next few days, Jack stood vigil next to his old adversary, glancing concernedly if Abe whimpered or seemed uncomfortable.

On wobbly legs, Abe would totter over to take a sniff of Jack’s ears.

A year ago, similar intrusions on canine personal space would have resulted in a muttered warning through grey, and almost toothless, muzzles…geriatric saber rattling.

Then, in the last few days, the original affront to their canine honor became forgotten lore.  Peace was to be pursued before the opportunity to make peace would be lost forever.

At last, it was time for Abe to catch his bus.  Although the moment was bitter, tears would have to come later.  We spoke confidently (I am not sure it was convincingly) to Abe that we would be fine and that it was okay for him to leave us.

As our vet injected the lethal medicine into Abe’s too-prominent veins, we quietly chanted the ha-motzi Blessing as Abe’s eyes began to dim.  Despite the free flowing of dog treats and cookies in our home, getting a bite of Shabbat bread was the high point of the week for Abe.  All of our pack had a Pavlovian response to the opening Brachot for Shabbat.  But Abe actually became part of our Shabbat ritual, dancing around the table like an entranced chasid, tail wagging, and those scarred ears flopping about until he was given a piece of the cherished bread.  Although it was only Tuesday, I doubt G-d would be upset by our usurping of a Shabbat ritual as a mechanism to craft Abe’s final memory.

The original "Three Amigos" (L to R Jack, Adam, & Abe)

I also doubt G-d was offended by our quiet recitation of Kaddish, said in thanks to the Source of a life that, while not human, touched our human lives so deeply.

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