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Live until you die

“This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” ~George Bernard Shaw

Our grand dame Great Pyrenees Eva was laid to rest yesterday. She was 14yo. Two nights before, she ran off the porch and chased something that went bump in the night and did her nightly rounds. The next night, Vivian and I went on a walk to feed our old horse, Shauna, and Eva wanted to come, as always. We’ve been restricting her walking some because her arthritis didn’t allow her to complete them without great effort, but she had finally gotten into the habit of cutting herself off at the end of the yard, and turning around and going back. But this night she wasn’t home when we got back. We looked for her for quite a bit. Nothing.

There was no woofing that night. When she first retired to the yard, the woofing used to keep us awake. In the past year, it has been a nightly lullaby. This night was peacefully, and not eerily, quiet. Yet, her absence was deafening. When Hue went into the yard to look for her again before bed, on the spot she always watched over her kingdom in the late evenings, there was instead a light on the ground. Hue at first thought it was her big, white self. But it wasn’t her, and it wasn’t coming from the house, and it wasn’t the moon.

After searching for her for quite a while early the next morning, still no Eva. Connor said he would look for her, and Connor has a history of being quietly persistent enough to find the toughest cases. Sure enough, he found her in the creek, cold but alive, in a place we’d checked at night and again in the morning. Pops, Hue and Connor gave her a warm bath in the milkhouse, and we put her in the sun to get warm. The smart old girl was smart enough to hobble her now-paralyzed back legs such that her still cool and wet body could dry in the sun while her head could be in the shade. She seemed comfortable enough, but I could tell the light was going out from her eyes.

She let me work all day, letting me believe she was sleeping peacefully after whatever she had endured the previous night. When I finally took a break around 4p, Hue noticed that she was now whimpering in pain. It was clear that she wasn’t going to come around this time. It was time to help her along, just as I always promised I would when she told me it was time. I’ve provided hospice to dogs as they have died naturally and peacefully over several days, and it’s a transformative experience that I wouldn’t trade, but I knew somehow it wasn’t going to be that way with her, as much as I wished it. The pain in her legs had been worsening for a few weeks.

Yet still, she carried on with tremendous and demonstrative joy. Always, always joy. I’ve never known an animal as pure of heart, as clear of purpose or as mighty and gentle a warrior as this dog. She left her light behind. May we all live so well, and to the edges of our lives. Rest in peace, girl. The world is empty without you in it, but I know you left your light behind. Knowing you was an honor. Spending two years of your retirement in our yard was an absolute gift. Every single day I cherished, knowing that it was all borrowed time.

Wherever you go, leave your light behind.

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