A Little Dog
(Written shortly after my dog Watson's passing, the following is, in retrospect, a study in the emotional emptiness of loss. I was 'crazy with grief', and now I understand that term. 30 years ago I lost both of my parents, and I felt something similar, but it lasted for years, and so I've learned that mourning takes many forms.)
After 14 years, you knew him well. You knew that, towards the end, the pain drove him from his little bed in the hours before dawn. You knew if you walked through the darkened room you might stumble over his small black body and cause him terrible distress.
Now that he's crossed over, you still turn on the light out of habit. You still look into the corner where his little bed was, and marvel, dumbly, at its absence. You see traces of him everywhere: in your desk drawers, in your photo albums, in your closet, on your web site. Almost every night you dream of him. Many times you wake up crying, astounded at the depth of pain that this loss has caused you.
You even feel guilty about his death. You killed him. You said, 'Come here, Little Dog' to him as he hid under the piano that last morning, his flanks shaking with cancer pain and the fear of death. He came slowly, trembling, towards you, he followed you to the car that would take him to the vet and to his death. He trusted you even though he knew where he was going, knew he wouldn't be coming home with you, any more, ever. This is one image you know is seared into your visual cortex; it's going to take several forevers to forget that one.
You hold him as he lays there shaking on the vet's table, cradled in his favorite blanket. he's been heavily sedated but he's still a Scottish Terrier, so stubborn and willful that even powerful drugs are nearly useless on him. You whisper over and over in his ear, 'I'm here, Little Dog, I love you, it's OK', and it is NOT OK but it keeps you busy, keeps you partially sentient. His spirit lodges itself in your heart. You expect it to leave but it's lodged there, it's staying for awhile.
And then it's not his body there. It's just a lumpy mass of cancer-ridden tissue and disheveled hair. His body had hurt so bad that you couldn't bear to comb his hair for the last few days.
Now all that's left is the grief. The good memories will come later, you hope. Right now, all you have is your tears and the emptiness in your belly and the burning pain in your heart. You are the guilty one. You should have let go days ago, maybe weeks. How could you be so selfish?
At home in bed, you are totally amazed at the TV news; the lineup of familiar political clowns and celebrities in varying stages of moral disintegration is almost amusing. Michael Jackson's nose looks ridiculous, downright offensive. You think it's amazing that people still follow him around, cheering. George Bush, you notice, does not carry Barney properly. The Scotty's tail is pointed earthward. Scottish Terriers do not like being carried. They are a proud and self-sufficient breed. You observe that Ariel Sharon better lose weight soon or risk the ignoble and embarrassing possibility of exploding in public. You watch in startled amazement as CNN serves up images of an Iraqi man being shot, right there on your TV screen. You are in wonder of man's ability to do violence to others. You are in wonder that there are billions of people still alive. How did they survive this? How did Michael's nose occur, why did it exist at all, what purpose did it serve in the universe? How have you lived long enough to witness this carnival of deformity?
And all of a sudden you're thinking of your Little Dog, the light. Just a blinding light, completely free of agenda and artifice and fakery and duplicity and facade. You dealt today with a number of people, and only one of them was even close to being 'clean'. You yourself feel dirty, unwashed, spoilt. You're part of humanity, part of the scourge, part of the plague. All you can do is cry, because your Little Dog isn't coming home again. You'll only see him on the other side, presuming there is such a thing. You're not sure of anything, except that you miss him like you've never missed anything or anyone, ever. You've lost both parents. It didn't hurt like this.
And somewhere between the sobs, you start to understand.
You miss him because he was the perfect incarnation of all that is good and right and simple and noble and just and clean. Even your parents weren't that. They certainly were not that.
Later you think of the shooting star that you and your mate saw streaming across the sky, the night after the morning he died.
And you think about all that he taught you. You're not the same woman now. You are radically different and yet not many will notice. You will stop speaking to many people, gradually or immediately. You will stop playing silly games. You will not be able to stand playing games. You will not be able to sit through a performance by an egomaniacal musician. You will not be able to look at art that is not art or listen to music that is not music or read literature that is not literature. All of this will now sicken you. It always has but now you will be stricken if you protest your own inner truth. You may vomit.
Your life has changed with the passing of your Little Dog. He taught you more than all the mystical, mythical prophets, gurus, and saints put together. He left you drained of artifice, he left you defenseless, maskless, naked. If you play now, you will play only the truth. You will never play for money again. You will never play to gain attention again. You will never play for people of ill will again. You will play because you want to make the world stop, you want to make the war stop, you want to make the air around you sing with the truth:
There is no value in anything if there is no love.
Who has the most toys, who owns the most houses, who has the newest car, who has the most expensive clothes, who is the youngest, the prettiest, the sexiest, the most desirable... all of this is valueless. There is no value in anything if there is no love.
You've learned this, all of this, from a Little Dog. And yes, there really was a shooting star. - JW 2.16.05