My dog is gone. I don’t know how to write about this. My dog is gone.
She died Saturday night, March 6th, 2010, around 10 p.m., while the kids were sleeping.
I can’t write about this. I couldn’t bury her. I can’t let her go. I laid myself on top of her. I put my face on her head. I cried a lot, made a sound of some sort: a whine, a moan, a wail, I don’t know. I looked into her eyes as she was dying. I watched the way the tip of her tongue kept poking out of her mouth and how she kept swallowing, like there was something stuck in her throat she wanted to dislodge.
I had known for days that her body was shutting down. I tried to simply commit myself to being present for her through the whole process of dying. To just be present for her and for death. But at the end, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
She had been chronically constipated: trying to shit in the yard, unable to put the weight on her leg, resting in the wet grass with her head held high as if she were just sunning herself in the shade. She rarely got out of bed, stopped eating, and, as I put it, had one paw out the door already. I talked to the vet who said, “What if she’s simply uncomfortable and refusing food because she’s constipated?” Wouldn’t that be a bitch? No pun intended. She’s not dying she’s just constipated. I agreed to take her in again. The vet was very kind. She persuaded me to leave her there and gave her four enemas, an anti-vomiting drug, and a bag of fluids through her back.
After the vet, I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t pulling through. I kept telling her she’d feel better tomorrow. She’d be a new girl. Then I saw it pass through her eyes just briefly. I was sitting on her bed alone with her and I saw it-the same thing I saw that New Year’s Eve, trying to help that horse laying in the mud in the rain. It had such big eyes so I saw clearly–death walk through and take her, her eyes still open and watching me. And maybe that was the moment she left. Not after the last breath drawn, but hours before as I watched.
Her death was like labor, like giving birth, with different stages of leaving-or arriving depending on how you look at it. And in her dying, I realized how time is a magician’s trick. We think we have time. We don’t have time. There is no time. There are only moments. I kept telling her how tomorrow you’ll feel much better, ‘buki, tomorrow. But we did not have tomorrow together-not like that. We had death together. We had that moment on her bed and it was in these moments as she was leaving that I felt timelessness. And in the lack of linear time, I was able to clearly see a light or essence that is Abuki.
That light was always there. In puppyhood as she bunny hopped through ivy plants, refused to get out of the pool, lunged for things behind glass breaking my mother’s french doors-it was always there, and it was always unscathed by time. This light that is Abuki. And in old age in her incessant wandering off, seeking out and eating of shit, moving too slow as I dragged her down the street so I could catch up with Naima on her bicycle. It was there too. But I ignored it at that moment, and that is my loss.
I realize that it is the same with my kids too. And I don’t mean that I want to live with the fear or even the thought that they could die tomorrow. That is inconsequential. I’d rather live with the consciousness that every moment is an opportunity to acknowledge that light or essence that exists in them even as they are raging against socks and the insanity of this world and its people or singing me their new song.
For awhile I felt so stupid for having brought her to the vet that last time. I knew she was dying. I had already told myself that I would let her go. That I would be present for her and to her and with her throughout the process. That I would honor her and respect the process of death. But I let hope sway me. “What if she’s just constipated, and that’s all?”
Never give a 98-year old four enemas. Just don’t do it. At that age, just let them keep their shit. I knew: No more meds. I knew that if I left her at the vets like I did that morning, it would shorten her life. Yet, I did it. I mourned after leaving her there and felt a little silly for mourning because maybe this is all she needed: a colonic. I knew better, but I did it, and she died.
I don’t blame myself for her death, but I blame myself for failing, for not following through with my commitment to being present for her and to death every step of the way. We don’t have time. There is no time. Just this moment, and in this moment we have decisions-always: to honor this moment and be present in it. Open to every little thing-pleasure, discomfort, death. Or to shut down to it looking forward to the next thing that might save us from this moment. I mean, I forgive myself. Who can blame me for hoping, for fearing, for attachment and love? But I still get angry with myself.
Burying her was hard. I liked having her around still. Or like Naima said, “Abuki died but you can still pet her.” I left her on her bed till Monday and everytime I turned around I’d see her, startled by death all over again. And somehow I liked that. It was a comfort. A reminder perhaps that yes, death is here; pain is here; she was here, Is here. I kept wanting to feed her things: carrot tops, milk, chicken skin. Then I’d remember all over again crying to myself: my dog is gone.
Digging the ditch was hard work. This business of death is hard work. It’s hard to watch, to stay even physically present by her side for an indefinite amount of time. And then digging the ditch, the dirt gets heavier as you get deep. But there’s something helpful about that too. There are steps to death and mourning, concrete steps. The death, the digging, the carrying of the body. And even in the transportation of her body, life is still released: trapped gas, blood from the nose and mouth, blood bright red and fuming with life.
But the burying. The burying is hard. I left her head for last. The kids threw bouquets of sour grass, green and yellow flowers upon her. Sora cried, ” I want to see my doggie,” with each shovel full of dirt that fell on her face: white and tan. Green and yellow. Red and brown.
And then just grief with random arrows spearing me. I kept thinking she was there. I’d turn around-no bed, no dog-yet I had just felt her. I swear, I heard her lick her lips. She was just there. She sighed.
I think what helped me move on was Dylan telling me that she is still there. “If you want to engage with Abuki now, you have to do it from where she is, which is not in physical form,” he said. It’s in the mind, in the spirit, in the hairs on the back of the neck, in my fingertips, her fur on my cheek. Yet she’s still here. She is. Whenever I want her to be.
When she was dying, I was so mad because she was leaving me. She was finally leaving me. I mean, I had left her many times, once even for two months to go to Korea, her jumping up to the window everytime a Honda civic drove by. But, she never left me. Not even that time my boyfriend got so drunk and kicked my car window in and she fled out the window disappearing into a city she did not know. He and I atop a pile of safety glass, me holding him in a headlock wondering whether or not I should make him pass out, as someone yells, “Let her go, I called the police.” I thought she was gone forever. He in handcuffs in the headlights and I answering questions hastily, annoyed by this detention in my search for Abuki. And then returning to his apartment, heartbroken and bleeding, worried out of my mind about her-not him, not me-but her. Abuki stepping out of the shadows. She never left me. And even now, she never leaves me still.