When any of my pets have passed on I make a piece of artwork to remember them by. Though I love photographs, my personal interpretation of their spirit provides more meaning and facilitates closure. Sometimes it’s a clay sculpture, a tile, a ceramic mask. This time in remembrance of Dougie, my sweet 14-year-old Golden Retriever we had to put down last week, I made this collage.
This piece pretty much summarizes his personality- colorful, happy-go-lucky, playful and a little goofy. The painted paper I used for his face, tail, and the spirals are from a failed print that came from a printmaking workshop. These so-called mistakes are torn up and placed in my collage box for a future reincarnation- a lemonade out of lemons kind of thing. To be able to repurpose these disappointments into other forms that are pleasing to me is very gratifying and highly symbolic.
Out of the ashes we can find beauty. We passed the Spring Equinox. Winter is behind us. The daffodils are blooming in the yard.
Last week was difficult. I had to put down my almost 14-year-old Golden Retriever, and the little stray cat, Lizzie that adopted us last year died due to complications due to feline leukemia. Dougie was a devoted companion for years, Lizzie a bright spot in our lives her sweet face peaking in our screen door requesting a meal.
It got me to thinking that these creatures we love are just borrowed souls- and I do believe animals have souls. Our pets connect us to our best selves. Their lives are far briefer than ours but add so much. Theirs is a language of the eyes, of touch actions and acceptance. Now the grief has subsided, I am filled with gratitude I had the privilege of borrowing their sweet souls on their short stays on planet earth.
The following poem speaks to all the dogs that have shared my life’s journey…..
IN MY GOOD DEATH
by Dalia Sheven
I will find myself waist deep in hight summer grass. The humming
shock of the golden light. And I will hear them before I see
them and know right away who is bounding across the field to meet
me. All my good dogs will come then, their wet noses
bumping against my palms, their hot panting, their rough faithful
tongues. Their eyes young and shiny again. The wiry scruff of
their fur, the unspeakable softness of their bellies, their velvet ears
against my cheeks. I will bend to them, my face covered with
their kisses, my hands full of them. In the grass I will let them knock
Every Friday I head over to the Newberg Animal Shelter for my standing date with cats from 4-6PM. This is not glamorous work by any means. Basically, I do the afternoon feeding and cleaning of all the kitties in the shelter except the ones in the quarantine room. I volunteered as I wanted to do something for the community and all things furry and four-legged who do not have a voice.
In the cacophony of barking, I say hello to the other shelter volunteers, then I greet the dogs in their kennels to see new arrivals and who has gotten adopted. In the storeroom, I don a grey Newberg Animal Shelter T-shirt and then proceed to the lobby and cat areas to get a count so I know how much food is needed. I grab a rolling cart and am off to the kitchen to prepare the cat food, get a pitcher of water and pick up cleaning supplies.
Dougan was adopted into our household when he was 8 months old. He was a hyper golden retriever – too much dog for a professional woman and her 10-year-old daughter that owned him before. There was no fenced yard at their house so he spent his days in a travel kennel waiting for his people to return from work and school.
Dogs raised like this are typically neurotic as adults and can never get enough attention and affection. I know because I have had them before. They live good lives out in my fenced yard in the country with plenty of attention. He has been kept company by Bandit, an adorable 9 year old Red Heeler that also has had a questionable past. We are kindred spirits as I too had some rough years in my youth.
Dougie is now over 12, old for a golden retriever. A few weeks ago I thought he was failing as he was refusing food and limping badly. I thought it was the end. Luckily the vet just pulled a few bad teeth and gave him meds his joints and for an injured ligament. We are happy he is back being his silly self. I see myself mirrored in him as I age.