Sunday, December 19, 2010


Our next-door neighbors had to put down their beloved 15-year old gentle giant last week. It was a painful loss, especially this time of year.

We'd known Cosmo 10 of those 15 years, and he'd proven himself an exceptional neighbor. He was a reticent dog, but from time to time he'd leap up and rest his paws on the fence between our yards so we could give him a stroke on the muzzle.

John helped build a ramp when he got too infirm to walk down the steps, and we'd watch him periodically out the back window, clicking his paws down that slope like typewriter keys. We'd seen him dodge death a handful of times, including a prediction from his vet he wouldn't live to see the 4th of July . . . 2008.

We paid a visit to our neighbors yesterday, just to give them a squeeze and drop off a bottle of wine and some small gifts for their daughters. I supposed the house would feel empty and stark. But there was fullness there. Life. The tree they'd cut in rural Illinois was fragrant, dripping with handmade ornaments. The girls were almost giddy getting ready for a cookie baking party with friends. There was only one slip into sadness, when Mike came across Cosmo's collar in a pile of scarves. We all spilled over a little.

We invite these creatures into our lives knowing full well we're likely to outlive them. We befriend them and keep them safe and fed. They see us happy, devastated, naked, alive. In what turns out to be the best-case scenario, we decide their very last day, last meal, last moment on the planet. We're with them when they slip away. Aside from what we give to our very own children, there may be no more profound act of love.


tracy said...

Oh good lord, that was beautiful and made me cry.

We announce about once a week how much we dread the eventual death of our ten-year-old mutt, and then immediately proclaim, "But that won't happen. He's immortal." If only.

Christy said...

I know what you mean, Tracy. We dread saying good-bye to Inez and often joke she's actually aging in reverse. That arthritis is just a ruse for more attention.

I have to admit, it helps seeing friends weather this particular storm, knowing it'll be ours someday too. And now, to put my fingers in my ears in denial, singing la la la till it's out of my head altogether.