Yesterday, on a chilly November Sunday in New Jersey, Mu, our family’s latest beloved dog, had to die. She was assisted on her journey by a benevolent veterinarian who sent her on her journey peacefully and without pushing for yet more intervention. Enough was enough. It was over and whatever the disease that destroyed her, there was to be no cure. The suffering was over. She shall be sorely missed.
She loved us all. Deeply and profoundly. Some even more than others. There’s her “boy” who is now a man, a university student . These two grew up together and spoke a language only they knew. There are the two younger kids, now both teenagers, who grew up without ever knowing a house without the buoyant barking of their playmate, who also had time and energy for fun. And there is the older sister, now abroad in Israel, who always managed to ignore the rambunctious puppy who grew into the job of family protector and dog. This loss will surely test her cool.
And there are the parents…..parents of the kids and of the dog. Of course one has different aspirations for a dog. She was not expected to go to a fine university or become a serious Jew. She was expected to extend a paw for a “shabbat shalom” but, somehow, that was never one of the tricks she learned; of which she had very very few. But nonetheless she was living in a house where the adults present showered her with love and care, earning her respect always, and obeying their commands only sometimes. Towards the end they were perhaps even too responsible, paying enormous amounts of money for medical care that was unsuccessful. They did not want to let her go.
And neither did we. She was our “granddogger.” We, at the outset, had been the doubters, my husband and I, when she was first brought home from the breeder. She was terrified of all people and would run from us and everyone else. We couldn’t bond with her, a rarity for us, lifelong dog lovers. We were rejected and so we rejected in turn. Loving this dog was a very slow process in coming. We surmised that she had had some abuse in her early life…..human abuse. She had to learn to trust her new family, and she did. And love followed. In both directions.
Our house was her second home. She had her own dish for food and another for water and her own big blue pillow in the living room. It lies there still with her tennis ball, a monument to puppy days and playfulness, awaiting her return. Soon I will throw away the ball and the pillow. We no longer need them.
I can hear you my friends and readers. What’s all this about a dog when there is so much human sorrow on this planet we share? True. Very true of course. But does that mean that when we lose a source of joy we should merely shrug our shoulders? Can’t we acknowledge that Mu brought love, laughter and happiness to our lives? Yes, even when she was very sneaky! Like when we were arriving back home and she would jump off the couch, which was forbidden to her, just before we entered the door. She just wasn’t smart enough to straighten up the throw pillows and I’m sure she couldn’t ever figure out how we knew.
I once attended a lecture that started with a question: if your dog was drowning, along with a stranger, a human being you didn’t know, whom would you save? Of course I would save the human, but Mu would save me, at risk to her own life for sure. It is said, and it is true, that the dog you love will always love you back…..in spades. .
Good-bye Mu. You will always be remembered. I hope you are romping and playing with all of those who came before you. We remember Laila, Toto, Major, Buddy, Bubba, Barak, Yogi, and of course, the first and most distinguished, Phoebe.