I wrote this 2 years ago - the first of the stories from the park that I wrote about Donovan. The update to the story is that last year, I met this lovely woman in the park once again, while walking Cosette. She was with her two sisters - still laughing, still wildly alive with joy and gusto. And still in love with Donovan. As am I, of course...
One of the wonderful things about having a dog, is the routine of having to get up and get out each and every morning. Even on those cold, snowy, rainy days when the idea of staying in seems kind of tempting - there's something about the routine that is calming and reassuring. And there is a community you join of other walkers and their dogs that brings a certain lovely sense of belonging, too. Even if you're not necessarily saying hello each day, or getting to know these walkers (some with dogs, and some without) - it's always nice to see the same faces by the ocean every morn.
Yesterday, as I almost always do, I saw 'silver-haired woman with the quick step and hot pink North Face jacket lady' walking towards us. Usually, we pass and share a 'good morning' or 'hello' and just keep going. Donovan has never really paid much mind (usually whatever he is sniffing is more interesting than meeting new friends). But today, as she approached, he raised his head, wagged his tail, and pulled me towards her - looking back at me as if to say 'come on, we need to say hello'. So, we approached and she instantly bent down to accept his greeting, pet his head, and absorb his joy.
As we talked, I introduced myself, and more importantly of course, my dog. He was already in that mode he finds sometimes, when he seems to know when someone needs him. And I asked the question that I always do when he seems to pick a human friend he wants to meet: Do you have dogs?
She smiled, and sighed.
And then said, "Yes...I do. But this morning, I have to have her put to sleep. She's 12, and she's in pain, and I just...well...it's just time.".
Absorbing the punch in the stomach that her news delivered, watching as she kept stroking his head and he looked up at her with his sweet, dark, eyes, I marveled at this moment that my dear dog somehow found, and watched as he gave her his entire focus and attention, and just let her love on him for a moment.
I told her how sorry I was, and that my thoughts would be with her and I wished her solace and peace. She said thank you, and stood up. D, as he does, moved on and forward (why are dogs so good at that?) turned back to me, grabbed his leash in his mouth and looked at me as if to say 'come on lady - we got stuff to sniff!'.
This morning, we saw her again. Funny, because we ended up in the park a little later than normal, so I didn't think we would. But apparently, she was a little later to the park as well this day. It felt destined, somehow.
This morning, when he saw her (remember, until yesterday - though he'd seen her many times - he'd never made any attempt to approach her) he picked up his head, wagged his tail with gusto and started running straight to her side. She laughed. We talked. I asked how she was, how yesterday had gone. And she explained, she was doing okay....she knew it was the right thing to do...it was as good as it could have been....it was gentle, and kind, and filled with as much love from everyone involved as it could possibly be.
Her girl (a chocolate lab) was no longer in pain, no longer having to fight. The vet had asked her, she told me, if she wanted to keep her ashes. And she said, emphatically, NO....I don't need her ashes....I don't need those things....I have her right here (and she tapped upper left portion of her chest). She laughed saying "I'm 77 - my girl and I were pretty much the same age - I can't help but wonder if pretty soon someone will be asking somebody if they want my ashes!".
We laughed. We talked about how having a sense of humor is life-saving as you get older (and always, really, I suppose). And she told me how many people she told about meeting D in the park yesterday morning.
How wonderful he was.
How she'd never met an Irish Water Spaniel before.
And now she'd never forget him.
Amazing, right? I think so.
Grateful for my incredible dog. Thinking of her sweet dog, and for the grace of life, community and that absolutely lovely woman (who will, I assured her, always have a curly brown dog with springs in his feet and a huge heart in his chest, ready and waiting in her corner who will bound over with a hug if she ever needs it).