Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Days end
petals fall
sunrises descend
life and death and up and down 
but you can love forever
ask a dog

Monday, August 29. Hershey won't see the Witch hazel bloom.

She's gone. She left behind just a small pool of blood on a beautiful day while late summer shrub roses bloomed by the mailbox. A new tennis ball was a few feet away.

With a mug of fresh coffee halfway to my lips, I went downstairs where she had stretched out on the floor. She was huffing that morning from discomfort, I thought.

I found her resting in her favorite spot with her sore belly against cool basement tile. Another step and I saw blood around her head. Looking back  at yesterday, I now see how still things were -- I had stepped inside a photograph of something that had come, click, then gone.


I crouched down and rested my head on hers. With a day's perspective I realize that I also saw something unexpected:

Jerry and I were on the patio Tuesday and he was sitting in his spot where he would toss the ball for Hershey.

It's not the same, he said.

Looking at a straggly strawberry plant in a pot, I said, there are strawberries.

She liked to eat them, he said.

You know, maybe this is strange, I said, but yesterday when I found her, I felt peaceful.


She was hurting Monday and for the first time in 11 years, she chose to stay home as I grabbed Lily's leash and laced my hiking boots. I gave her a last glance before leaving. She sat still. Not coming.
She died quietly, maybe while I was out with the other dogs, or maybe she died while listening to feet shuffling overhead after I returned, made coffee, and fed everyone before checking on her. 


I sat petting her, looking at her beautiful brown eyes and wondering how close I was to being with her for her last breath. Reaching up I snagged my coffee off the counter and got back on the floor with Hershey.  I told her little, happy things. 
My coffee is delicious, Hershey; that rose bush bloomed again. 
I just sat for a few minutes before walking next-door where my friend Tim was at work.


Did the dog die?

Struggling to speak, I asked, would you help me move her before Jerry gets home?

I wanted her outside in the breezy, sunny day with life surrounding her. 

I cut some fresh wildflowers and hydrangea blooms. They made a pretty bouquet that I stuffed in an empty wine bottle and placed it next to her.


Driving her body to the vet, Jerry said, she was in her favorite spot.

Yes, and left alone there, with the basement to herself. No Lily there to bully her out of her spot.

I had put my head next to hers and checked her final view through the skylight…drifting clouds, tree shadows, blue sky. A beautiful day to die.

She left that hurting body behind.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Walk In The Woods

A conversation around 6 am, Friday, August 26:

She dropped her pills.

No, she didn’t. I don’t see anything.

On the floor, right there.

There is nothing on the floor.

Why are you being like this?

Jerry’s morning was probably peaceful until I stomped into it. Why was I up after just 4 hours of sleep anyway?

I had stuffed a few pills into a lump of burger meat and fed it to Hershey, who knows by now that I am stuffing pills…

Around 11 am I see a small white pill on the kitchen floor, right where it must have fallen at 6 am. Oh.

She is sore today. She was stretched out on her bed that is now next to where I sleep and can reach her during the night. She wagged as I stepped over her, but stayed on the floor. She is slowing down quickly.

In the woods on our trail an hour later: She loves the cool forest floor and its early autumn leaves. Today I stand on the rise and wait while she sashays along, approaching a grove of Hemlock that opens on a ridge near a vernal pool. One of her favorite places to swim, the pool is filled now with ferns — a hollow that swells with rainwater and runoff from the rocky cliff above. In late autumn and early to mid spring, her tail wags in its shallows, tossing sprays of water left and right.

Hershey likes to sit in the Witch hazel’s thin shade, small branches overhead casting stripes on her face, waiting for the pool to fill.
It's just a cancer dance now as I watch and wait and stuff her burger meat.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Here And Now

Thursday, August 25: I was 20 years old on a bus to Albany that would spit me out into a frigid day. Later as we ducked down to sneak in a window of your apartment – you had no keys yet – I hit my head hard on the window frame. Staring at some ugly yellow fresh paint on walls that would soon be your kitchen, my eyes watered. My forehead stung.

That memory pops into my mind occasionally as one of those things that I’ll just never forget. This thought interrupted my morning coffee today, 24 years later, as I stood in my kitchen looking at my beautiful sick chocolate lab. Hershey woke up wagging, but slow. She barked as I opened the patio door. Up the steps, behind the house, and into the woods…

Wednesday, August 24: She’s asleep on my feet under the dining room table. It’s 3 am and I am flipping pages. Where did I leave off? The last chapter… Fifty pages to go and I wonder if I will get to the end before 4. Normally I read downstairs, keeping the billowing laundry pile company, but Hershey is hurting and wants be near me. She tried coming downstairs but Lily was an asshole about it. I relocated camp to the dining room, gave her some Tramedol, gave myself some wine, and we both enjoyed an hour without Lily licking Hershey’s oozing side.
I read, sip, pet her with my foot. Wag, thump, thump. I stare at my rippling reflection in the imperfect window glass. Darkness outside. Billowing…the word drags my mind away.

Have you ever seen a ship's sails billowing? A lazy wind shaping fabric. A redirection...

I rubbed my foot along her back again. Felt her warmth, and listened to her breathe.  

I have only here and only now -- a tiny dining room with Hershey under the table, my feet warm.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Day By Day

Saturday, August 20: She found a quiet space on the forest floor between shadows. Dropping her tennis ball and looking across our trail, Hershey waited on the stony rise. Around her were gnarled Witch hazel trees that bloom in October -- a surprising yellow grove sprinkling the understory. Maybe she will see it this year. With September just days away, she may walk beneath that bright burst amid otherwise falling leaves, but the cancer is moving faster than the seasons.

Sunday, August 21: Hershey in late August is a gift. Splash, and she is happy in the lake again.

Tuesday evening, August 23. She's slow and uncomfortable, but still wagging.

Wednesday, August 24. A cool morning in the forest through speckled sunlight and yellowed leaves, she shuffles. She sits between cedar trees swishing her tail, panting, ears perked. Hershey likes that spot and always stares down the slope. I don't know what she's looking at, but she's been looking there for years. 

One big pain pill this morning to soften the day. Still wagging, but her sides have weeping sores.

She is slowing down step by step and seeks our comfort -- sleeping on the bedroom floor instead of the plush pillow we bought her. So restless in the small, dark hours, Hershey brushes her snout against a hand that I left dangling off the bed. She catches stray moonlight in her eyes and I find her, sparkling. Hi Hershey! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


It's a beautiful time to die

rose of Sharon and bishop's lace abloom
trees' silhouettes against a raspberry sunset
and a cancer creeping quickly through her

no more incisions and carving it out

no more Tramadol and rest


her stitches are out 
waiting on the patio is a green tennis ball 
and a rippling lake warmed by early August's lazy days is a minute's walk away

be happy for the rest of your short forever Hershey and swim and play and wag your tail at everything
we're with you pretty girlie