Is it serendipity that I euthanize my dog 12 years, almost to the day, that we met each other on that fateful walk around my neighborhood? And the night before my birthday no less. Then he was my birthday present – my first, ever, dog. Now what is it? A lesson on the cycle of life? An exclamation of the impact this 25-pound perpetual puppy has made on my life? An exercise in extreme grief and mourning?
I’ve loved Pogo with an intensity I’ve not felt before and I’m an animal lover, a mom to a couple dozen cats by now, all of whom I’ve exchanged deep bonds and connections with. I’ve buried my fair share of kitties and mourned each one, some more deeply than others. But Pogo … Pogo is different. He’s the love of my life. Part of my heart has been ripped from my body and thrown into the ether. My best little buddy is gone. My greatest fan. My fiercely devoted companion. My tireless cheerleader. I’ve never been loved like that before.
I’d heard that a little brown dog had shown up in our neighborhood 12 years ago. Our wooded peninsula seems to be a magnet to stray or discarded animals who’ve become neighbors’ family members over the years. Though I walked the neighborhood everyday I hadn’t yet spotted him. And then I did! Or rather, he noticed me and decided I was his long-lost mom – I guess that’s what he meant by jumping up and down and smothering me with kisses. He was beside himself with joy, and so life together was never questioned. Pogo and I instantly became family. And for 12 years he’s never wanted to leave my side, always looking up at me with his big cheerful smile and love drenched eyes. Buds forever starting at his estimated age of 2.
Boy did he love the summer we spent in Boston. Every morning I walked and he romped through the Esplanade, bounding into The Charles River to take bites of water. Chasing the geese and making friends with pups and people, alike, because of course they had to say hi to him! He’s Pogo!
He was the little boss of everyone and everything. Anyone coming near me had to pass his inspection. Even in the vet’s office. On our RV trips he owned our camper and was the self-appointed boss of the cat. And, of course, the trail we walked, always trotting ahead of me to make sure that the coast was clear. At campgrounds he was on leash. But at home I never leashed him. Never needed to. He was very familiar with our environment, having lived by his wits for about a month before we met. Truth is, he never wanted to be too far from me and always looked over his shoulder to make sure I was near, even if he had sprinted after a deer.
I’ve often wondered where Pogo came from and how he made his way to our neck of the woods. Perhaps a hunter came looking for game of some kind and Pogo ended up lost. As a Feist Terrier he was a squirrel hunter, very fitting for a dog bred in Tennessee. But as my baby he wasn’t allowed to hunt squirrels, or anything else for that matter. I turned him into a mama’s boy and I’m proud of it!
Things I’ve learned from Pogo …
That loyalty runs hand in hand with unconditional love
Suffering is optional
Simple things in life matter
Tomorrow’s another day to be cheerful
It’s unnecessary to feel sorry for yourself
Deep bonds are not fragile
To live is to love
I always told him he wasn’t allowed to die, that we had to be together forever. Anticipating his eventual demise was not something I could bear to do and yet now I have to. His precious heart was in failure, his only eye blinded by cataract, his legs severely weakened by arthritis and dementia made him fearful, irritable and confused. I’ve wailed myself empty and somehow the grief fills to the top again. I’m drained, I’m hollow, I’m numb. And so deeply, deeply sad to my core.
Goodbye my special, adored, feisty little friend. You’ve taken a piece of my soul with you.
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ” Anatole France