Thursday, January 3, 2008

The things that silence the muse. . .

That dirty little face belongs to our baby Murphy. We got him right after we were married. No, we didn't need another dog, we already had three. Jim got it in his head that we needed a Frenchie though and before long we were ensconced in a cozy little interspecies six-pack. Right from the start Murphy was a troublemaker. He dedicated himself to antagonizing the other dogs into defending themselves with bared teeth and bristling hair. Always the clown, there wasn't anything that happened in the house without Murphy being smack dab in the middle of it. He also urinated EVERYWHERE! I don't think there is a single corner, piece of furniture, cabinet, rug, or square foot of flooring here that wasn't christened by his generous little bladder. He even peed on me a few times. Fortunately for him, he was also adorable and snuggly and funny and completely without shame. He was the baby of our little family and he died in my arms on Christmas Eve as we were driving him from the emergency clinic to a surgical specialist for spinal surgery. It turned out that there wouldn't have been any way to save him, even if he'd had the surgery months before when his seemingly minor disc problem was first diagnosed. We had all continued on, playing and snuggling and running as both ascending and descending myelomalacia crept in and slowly began to steal him away from us. It's a rare and unstoppable condition that I know more about now than I wish I had to. But the details don't really matter anymore. Murphy is gone and while I should be making good use of all the extra time I have now that I'm not cleaning up rivers of dog pee every day. . .I just feel cold and sad and helpless. I've lost other beloved dogs before. . . it isn't a new experience, but it always manages to *feel* new. I guess it makes sense, since each one is different, that we should mourn them in their own way. God help me though, how each one drags up memories of the ones that have gone before. The cumulative effect must be staggering when one is old and has known many wonderful animals. I hope I will always be able to have them though, one after the other, until I have reached an age when finally one of them will outlive me. Without my animals I am incomplete.
I know everyone loves that Rainbow Bridge poem for these occasions, but I prefer to look to Rudyard Kipling for the right words. . .

The Power of the Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters,
I bid you beware
Of giving your hearts to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie -
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk you heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years that nature permits,
Are closing in asthma, or tumor, or fits,
And the Vet's unspoken prescription runs
to lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find - it's your own affair
But - you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent
At compound interest of cent per cent,
For when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short time loan is as bad as a long -
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

When the body that lived at your single will,
When the whimper of welcome is stilled
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone - wherever it goes - for good,
You soon discover how much you care,
And give your heart to a NEW dog to tear.

Fare thee well Murphy, have fun playing with Chester, Laddie, Caesar, Prima, Abbie, Ricky, Buddy, Sherman, Tucker, and all the others until we finally come home.

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