A Legend Moves On
Today, September 5, 2014, my sweet beloved retired guide dog, Bianca went on to her next great adventure.
I know it’s become tradition to refer to the time when an animal dies as crossing the “rainbow bridge”, but I’ve always hated the very concept of it. It’s frilly and frothy. It’s schmaltzy. There’s nothing frilly, frothy or sappy about death. It’s miserable. It’s disgusting and hateful. It tears your heart to pieces, rips something in you to shreds. It has nothing to do with rainbows. My feelings are more in tune with Edna Saint-Vincent Millay’s poem, I am not Resigned. And though I may be resigned to the choice I’ve had to make for the good of Bianca, as the poet said, I do not approve.
But Bianca is nearly fourteen years old, around 100 in human terms and it’s time for her to go on. Can anyone who ever knew Bianca think of her and rainbows? No, for Bianca, she’s moving on to the next great adventure, and that’s absolutely what I want for her.
When Bianca retired, I wrote a poem called Dancing, because to me, she always seemed to be dancing. She wiggled and wagged and danced through her every moment, full of joy and spirit. I can imagine her dancing over green fields, chasing everything she was taught not to chase in her life, scavenging, eating, sniffing, running and leaping with joy. That’s what I want for her now.
Because now she’s old, she’s ill. She can’t dance. She can’t scrounge and get into mischief. She can’t jump on the bed and cuddle up. She can’t climb into my lap and smother my face in kisses. But still I feel her love surround me, as she spends these last moments lying at my feet.
Ever since she came into my life, back in January of 2003, Bianca has brought so much into my life. I’ve done things, been places, taken chances, I never would have done without her. She knew when I was sad, forgave me when I yelled at her escapades. She made me laugh during the worst of times, when my life was shattered and my confidence broken. She made me laugh every single day. She gave me constant unconditional love. Can I do less for her?
Her passing was gentle, peaceful. I stroked her head and soft ears, petted her back, and told her all the wonderful things about our life together. I sang her song one more time. P rayed a blessing over her. I told her she’d wake up in a field of green green grass, where chocolate plants would grow tall, and friendly cats would play games with her. I told her to find Granny and Dad, and to meet me when my time comes along.
I imagine her, leaping eating, dancing. I see her curled up by a fireplace next to Granny. Or maybe lying at the throne with her head on Jesus’ foot. I see her happy, no longer in pain, no longer tired, no longer old.
The home is quiet, too quiet. There’s an emptiness that can never be filled again. But there’s a sweet young golden retriever, asleep in the corner. She’ll cuddle up to me tonight. She’ll make my heart hurt a tiny bit less.
Bianca was not my first or even my second guide dog, but she has been my soul mate dog, in ways deep and indefinable. Now, with heart heavy and aching, with spirit sad and lonely, I send her on to whatever comes next for her. I pray that she has a blast, that she fills the hearts of those around her with joy, and that when my turn comes, she will be there to meet me, wagging, wiggling and dancing for joy again.
to the tune of Black and white by Three dog Night
“The dog is black; her name means white,
She guides by day and sleeps at night,
The dog is black; her name means white,
With her by my side, my world is right,
A beautiful sight.”
Go Bianca, fly away into your new adventure. I love you and will never forget you.
I AM NOT RESIGNED
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be,
for so it has been, time out of mind.
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.
Crowned With lilies and with laurel they go;
but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew, A formula,
A phrase remains,-but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,-
They are gone.
They are gone to feed the roses.
Elegant and curled Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom.
I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave Gently they go,
the beautiful, the tender, the kind.
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve.
And I am not resigned.
Edna Saint-Vincent Millay, “Dirge Without Music”