When she came to live with us 14 years ago,
Pokey had a difficult time with bare floors.
Raised with her mom and brothers and sisters outside,
Her legs would splay out from under her
when she encountered a smooth surface.
In the last few months before she left us,
she also had a difficult time with bare floors.
Her back legs would sometimes splay out when she was sitting,
leaving her in great pain and unable to get up.
She walked with me for years, every single day.
Four miles on a quiet country road--
Sniffing intently at the ground at wildlife crossings,
running ahead and then stopping to look back,
swimming in the stream most days from March to November.
During the last few months, she slept most of the time.
In her dreams, she was still on the road--
her legs moving vigorously in delighted doggy dreams.
She once was queen of the woods.
There was nowhere she didn't dare to go;
she scaled windfalls with ease and followed her nose
to delicious and exciting places.
When she was done exploring, she would come back to greet me, smiling.
A few weeks ago, she lost her balance at the edge
of a ravine and tumbled to the bottom--
then was completely unable to get up.
She waited quietly until I could crawl down to rescue her,
and she looked frightened and a bit humiliated.
We have struggled for months with how to deal with her
declining ability to be the dog she has
Completely deaf, and increasingly anxious, she would
seem to tell us that although she had no acute
pain or illness, she was no longer herself in her body.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband fell on top of her
at the kitchen steps. The combination of her new habit of
being regularly underfoot and my husband's fragile balance
was beginning to be dangerous to both of them.
Thursday at noon, we fed her three pieces of Hebrew National Salami.
We took her out back for a walk by the pond,
and then took her on a long walk around the neighborhood.
When we got home, we sat with her on a comforter outside under a tree,
The vet and her assistant came and lovingly
and respectfully shaved a spot of fur from her back leg,
and while I was holding her close to me, they injected her with a sedative.
She quickly relaxed completely in my arms,
and within minutes she was gone from us.
It was very moving to experience this relaxation,
especially since she had been so anxious for so long.
That morning, on the Writer's Almanac, Garrison Keillor
read a Thomas Hardy poem that seemed
sent to us for the occasion, as if in Pokey's words:
by Thomas Hardy
It will be much better when
I am under the bough;
I shall be more myself, Dear, then,
Than I am now.
No sign of querulousness
To wear you out
Shall I show there: strivings and stress
Be quite without.
This fleeting life-brief blight
Will have gone past
When I resume my old and right
Place in the Vast.
And when you come to me
To show you true,
Doubt not I shall infallibly
Be waiting you.
We still look for Pokey as we go through the day.
And we miss her sweet and loving self.
We are sure, though, that she is at peace.