Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Saying Goodbye

A few weeks ago, we took Paco Sinatra the Wonder Dog up to Mendocino. Rescued from a beach in Mexico, my love's devoted partner for the last several years, a dog who's sailed, crossed borders, chased cats and raccoons as if chasing them was his only purpose in life, this is a dog with his own business cards offering spiritual and emotional solace. When you look at pictures from his human's job sites, Paco's always in at least one or two of them. When I was going through a breakup, my soon-to-be-love offered to lend Paco to me for help in getting through it. And when my love has been out of town, I would sometimes lie in bed with Paco, his head on my shoulder, and we'd miss our man together. Some of my happiest memories from last summer were of lying on the grass with my new sweetie and Paco, in the sun, watching the glittering waves.

Anyway, we took Paco to Mendocino, and stopped for him on hwy 128, in the heart of the redwood forest. He was so happy, running through the ferns, chasing sticks, nosing around like he was in a new candy shop. Later there were beaches, and more sticks, and tennis balls. He's good at letting the waves bring him the stick when we throw it too far into the surf. He's no dummy.

We've known he's been sick for a few weeks now, first I just thought he was fat - too much eating from the barbeques that people around here throw once a weekend. Then we thought he was just constipated, watching his defecations like a mother worried about her baby. Then I thought he had a bowel obstruction and nagged at the man to go see a vet. Worry for him clogged the air around sweetie and I, even when we tried to be cheerful and upbeat. That worry was always there. But on the trip, in that forest, he seemed to perk up, and that perked us up, a bit. Thinking that maybe he would be OK, after all.

After a few doctor visits, we thought he had a tumor on his spleen, and had to have his spleen removed. So, we threw a fundraiser party last weekend for the people who love him, and we raised more money than we ever dreamed we would. The generosity and kindness of the people around Paco - and by extension, us, as his humans - moved us to tears. Still does.

But, two days after that lovefest, we found out that he has a terminal autoimmune disease that's destroying his kidneys and that there's nothing to do for him except make him more comfortable as nature takes its course.

This dog is laid back like no other dog I've ever met, with eyes like a person and crooked ears that always reminded us of the Blue Dog pictures they sell all over the place in New Orleans. We were going to dress him up as Blue Dog for Halloween, but now he won't see Halloween.

I think the best feeling in the world is to have a dog running towards me, tail wagging in greeting, and it's a feeling I haven't had since my childhood dog died when I was 15, until I met Paco.

I am SO glad we brought him to Mendocino.

Go well, sweet Paco.

Friday, April 03, 2009


So my love just came back from 2-1/2 weeks of sailing into the sun and surf of southern Mexico. It was hard for me, very hard. I missed him, I was sad. Although I went out and socialized almost every day, I still felt his absence the way an amputee might feel the absence of a limb. It hurt. I got cranky, sad, depressed. I couldn't sleep. Even in my misery, I knew I was overreacting, that he was on a great adventure, that I was in his heart no matter where he was or what he was doing, and that I was surrounded by good friends and a lot of love. I knew I should be happy for him, and that he would come back to me eventually, with his twinkling eyes and the smile that tells me everything will be alright. I dredged up everything I've ever learned about being in the present moment, sitting in the pain and letting it dissolve into acceptance and joy, and still it didn't help, or would only help for a few minutes. I was anxious, couldn't concentrate, kept resisting the impulse to just go home and curl up in bed until he came back.

The second week, I barely heard from him, and got sadder and crankier as time went on. I kept trying to call but couldn't get through; there aren't a lot of cell phone towers in the ocean. Finally, midweek in the last week, I got through and he answered from the center of town, where he had just bought his plane ticket back. All my pain and sadness sat in my chest and I could barely speak. He asked what was wrong and all I could say, in an angry monotone, was how much I missed him. It was like my pain choked me and eclipsed the love and care that lay beneath it. Afterwards, I felt stupid and pathetic, being like that. What in the hell was wrong with me? I wanted to call back and apologize, but I've apologized so much to this man, that I resisted. Apologies, to my mind, are worthless if you can't promise that it won't happen again. And I knew I couldn't promise that.

So I kept the phone off (mostly) and tried as hard as I could to stay sane and centered. And then he came back, and as we got reacquainted, he told me a story.

That day, the day I called and was cranky and angry, my love saw death - not once, but three times. On the beach, with a crashing 8-foot surf, taking photos of a friend body-surfing, he heard screaming. A man was in the water, drowning, people thought. Lover, good in any emergency, dropped the camera, ran over, pulled him out of the water and gave him CPR amidst a group of screaming tourists and the man's two young, crying children. When the paramedics finally came, the man had been unconscious for over twenty minutes. He was turning blue. The EMT's took him away, and my love never was able to find out what happened to him. Telling me this, he said he could tell the man was dead as he was trying to get him to breathe. Head trauma, he thought.

There was more death, but the details aren't important. What is important is that in my compassion for this stranger, his children, and my love, who tried to save a life and couldn't, was the knowledge that, as I sat being sad to be parted from my man, two children lost a father, people somewhere lost a husband, lover, son, friend. And I was depressed because I wasn't with my man? God.

I'm trying very hard not to beat myself up too much about being so pathetic when vaster, more important things were happening. I'm hoping that this widening of my perspective, this letting go of expectation, and this deep appreciation for what I am lucky enough to have in my life right now, in the moment, will last. I know myself well enough to know it won't, not completely. But maybe I can remember it the next time things get bad in my head. Next time my brain tries to eat itself, maybe I'll see a windswept, desolate beach, and a man trying to save another man's life. And maybe I'll just relax, finally, and be able to appreciate the love and beauty around me, no matter what happens.