January 20th, 2007


Et caelum sicut stellae illuminant.

Just got word that a Golden Retriever who had been part of my extended family from puppyhood has finally gone to her rest, after a bad battle with cancer. I'm no stranger to losing them, the furry four footed ones who have been part of my childhood, my growing up, my life.

My first dog, a prebred German Shepherd whom we named Areta, was an exceptional animal - the kind of dog who is afraid of nothing, who reacted to thunderstorms by racing around on the lawn getting soaked and barking furiously up at the sky and at the God Thor who was making so much noise, who was known by visiting tradesmen or workers as "the lion" and shown much respect to - because she was in charge, her home was HERS to defend, and she made that plain to anyone who was not family or not introduced to the family circle by one of us. She died when she was far too young, perhaps from cancer, the vet simply put her to sleep when he attempted surgery and realised that there was nothing more to be done to save her life. She was buried in our garden back in Cape Town, behind a bank of flowers where she loved to lie in life... flowers which never bloomed again after she was laid to rest.

My last dog, a Rottweiler-German Shepherd cross, died of cancer not too long ago, back in New Zealand. He was an incredible dog, one whom I loved unconditionally and who fiercely and utterly loved me, even after I abandoned him and left him with my parents when I got married and moved to America. He "talked" to me, these basso profundo rumbles from deep in his throat, and he would do that with nobody else, not even my parents, who were just as beloved by him - but I, *I*, was the one who took him into my arms when we first took the scrap of a puppy that he was from the petshop where he was being offered for sale; it was I in whose arms he trembled when we gave him his first bath; I in whose lap he continued to love to lie, even when he grew into his full stature and it became PAINFULLY obvious that this was no lapdog.

The second dog of my life, taken into our hearts after "the lion" passed away, after we swore that we could not bear to get another dog to replace her, after we realised that our best tribute to her was to love another soul in her name. This was another purebred German Shepherd, an elegant and somewhat neurotic dog who took the "shepherd" part of her breed very seriously and who did not like it in the least when members of her human "flock" scattered beyond her ability to herd them together. She was almost fully human. you could have entire conversations with her which she gave a full impression of being able to completely comprehend, and she was special. Very special. She was the true tragedy of my life with animals, because I continue to bear a degree of responsibility - guilt, even - for the way that she passed from us.

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I believe in the Rainbow Bridge. I know, I *KNOW*, that one day I will come there to cross over on my own pasage into eternity, and they will be there to meet me. All of them. Waiting with tails a-wagging, waiting to take me home.