Select Page

APRIL 24, 2017

Not sure where to start this. My heart is so heavy, yet in a way I was prepared for this day. How does one prepare for the unthinkable? Time & awareness were my tools for this preparation. We knew our Red dog was suffering and we were fighting for his life to continue, yet it didn’t. He died on Earth Day.

It’s taken me a few days to settle into this reality, even though I was right there when he died. Just me and a few strangers were witness to his simply falling over and dying.

Death is so final in this physical reality. The core of physical life depends on the heart to pump and the breath of life to course through the little body, or the heart of that life leaves. The soul ascends into non-physical and all that’s left is the shell of the body. A beloved body, but it’s no longer alive.

Just a few years ago, our other Saluki, Mahina died suddenly. Her heart stopped while she was sleeping. My husband woke up with her in his arms, but she was gone. Her warm little body had gone cold. We thought that was enough suffering for one family, until we stumbled onto more when we found out that Red’s heart was double the size it should be this past February. We did all the medical and nutritional protocols to keep him alive, but we had only two more months with him. Still, we felt like he was going to survive for a while longer, even though the prognosis was grim. Dogs are experts at hiding their maladies. Unlike us humans who revel in our weaknesses and wear them like a badge of honor, animals do the opposite.

It’s normal to go through the “could’a, should’a, would’a” scenario of his last moments. For me it’s been, “If I’d only turned left and gone home, but no… I had to stop and walk him around at the Ghost Ranch.” Or, if he’d just stayed home and I remained on the road with our little Madeline, who had gone into heat. His instincts would naturally force a boy into a frenzy of love for her & put unwarranted strain on his already compromised thumper.

But, no… it was his time to go.

My consolation prize is that he went out smiling. He was looking up at me, expectant and loving… walking around the little museum at that ranch where Georgia O’Keefe had lived years ago. He wanted to hump me and I snuggled him, rather than allow for that activity. Took his head in my hands and kissed him between the eyes, then turned away for a moment and he fell over, right there and died. I held him in those moments, disbelieving what was obvious, hoping he’d return and it was just a seizure he was having. Still, in those suspended moments, I knew it was his death I was witnessing. That image is etched in my heart and haunts me now.

Rob & Red, a few days after our Mahina died

Just moments before, he was warm and vital, being my boy, my boy dog. He had this way of prancing next to you, while he looked up at your face. He had just done that with me outside the museum. So full of life and even though we both knew he was compromised, he was totally happy.

When Mahina died, Red’s heart took a terrible hit. She was his girl, his companion, his everything. Much like Rob and his relationship with Mahina. Our ranch is named after her; Mahina O’hana U’i, or “Beautiful Moon Family” … Now, maybe I should name it the Red Moon Family… but I digress. Red is now with her, running after celestial hares. Running like the wind.

Over the past several months, his ability to be himself disappeared. His days were spent lolling on the bed, struggling to breathe some days. He was often listless and quiet; not himself. Not the strong, capable athlete he’d always been, but we fought for him to live with daily medicine, herbs, special food, (literally shoved down his throat) and plenty of filtered water… And of course, constant love. One or the other of us would just hang out with him, while he rested.

Obviously — for the long term, that wasn’t a way for him to live. Our efforts gave Red and both of us, just a few more weeks together. God, we soaked it up! Every walk was meaningful. Every good day was celebrated. Every time he seemed more himself, we were joyous and so hopeful that he would live a few more years.

Red & Mahina in the Sierras 2015

My efforts at making money waned. While projects at home got done, as that kept us grounded. Rob’s family came for several weeks and they witnessed how much these dogs mean to us; that they are like our children and never thought of as “pets”. The eat with us, they sleep with us and the rhythm of our lives centers around what’s ideal for them.

Today, I know that if Red wanted to remain here, compromised as he was, he would’ve. I’m sure of that. He loved us more than anything and gave us a new life. Single handedly, this boy gave us the desire (& willingness) to move to a place where he could run without bounds. We are here now, but without our boy running next to us. Strange how that happens. You listen to what you’re guided to do, only to find that the object of your initiative dies.

It’s my greatest struggle to continue to have faith right now. Lately, I’ve been struggling to believe that there is some order while the world is becoming more and more unrecognizable. The bombing, bigotry, hatred, the complete dismantling of this country’s legacy of fairness… All the checks and balances that are there to conserve our dignity as a country — not to mention the stability of our world — being ignored and discounted. How is it possible to keep faith in the invisible, when things I care deeply about are being taken away?

The jury remains out on all that today. It will be enough to live another day a cry just a little bit less. My eyes & head are sore.

Red – 4 months old

It’s quiet here right now, but I expect the wind to pick up here soon. Lately it’s been relentless and I’m hating it. The feeling of desolation is strong, so the wind makes it feel enormous. These days have been long and difficult and I imagine they will continue. Even though I’m not prone to self medication, I would like to drink a lot of alcohol… and I wish I could. God, it would be wonderful to escape my reality right now.

But that’s not happening. Escape, that is. I’m very present for the loss this morning and my heart feels broken — again.

My daughter said the other day that we all choose our time to go. It’s conscious, even if it doesn’t seem to be. She would know, as she has made that choice a few times. She remembers one time, while in the hospital after another diabetic emergency, her decision to stay put. When my youngest son, Tyler, was born I had the same choice. Either go into the void, where there was no pain, no suffering, no human reality or stay. She and I both chose to stay. Red didn’t.

He looked at me, after saying good bye to Rob and Madeline a few hours before, pranced and snuggled and then he just left. No fanfare, no trumpets, no streaming light of God filtered down on us. He just left me sitting there on the floor of a random museum, pleading with him to stay with me… Stuck in place in the middle of nowhere with only strangers around… Loving strangers, but people who will never have ongoing meaning in my life, other than they witnessed the end of my boy dog’s life.

Then I began my long drive home, completely alone.

A few miles up the road, I stopped, opened the back of the car and sat on the tail gate. The flood gates opened and I just cried and cried. Right there, with cars zooming past me I wept for a long time, while holding my dear boy’s still warm head. There’s an un-reality I felt, like I was watching myself from above and not connecting completely with the image. Maybe I was seeing the scene from Red’s place, as I feel him everywhere still.

Red and I, 2010

It’s possible that people will continue to accuse us of being ridiculous about our dogs. That they get too much attention. “For God’s sake, they’re only pets!” has been muttered behind my back numerous times. Unlike when a person dies and you get a few “passes” to manage life. Not so when you lose “just a dog”. You just keep feeling the sorrow and move through it as time passes.

The same devotion was delivered into my kids’ lives and I have zero regrets. No one paid me to love my kids the way I did, or show up the way I did… No one gave Rob anything to be a solid presence for them, either. That was just the way to be with beings who are loved in our minds… and the pay back is impossible to measure.

My children were the people I reached out when Red died. Tyler first… as he brought Red home. Then the rest of my kids were called, one by one and each of them felt like divine anchors; human witnesses to my unthinkable sorrow… None of them flinched or judged. They cried and expressed their love for Rob and I, as well as their own sadness. Red touched all our lives.

Tyler Quinn & Red – each other’s favorites

All the years of giving them all I knew how to give was returned to me the other day in a few hours. Few people will ever show up in your life so completely… and in my mind, they are worthy of all my attention. Red did and that’s what he received.

My husband saw a golden eagle a little while before Red died. He was dropping into a huge valley when he saw it and watched, in wonder, while it flew next to him for a time. One of those moments in life where something magical is present. Was it a portend or some mystical happening or just a big bird having some fun racing with a car? Who knows, but there will be other signs of communication from Red in his non-physical position. At least I sincerely hope that’s the case.

People rarely give me a sense of comfort, unless of course, they refrain from pitying remarks. The one friend I did call made jokes about the absurdity of driving with my dead dog in the back of my car. “Who does that?!”, she said and then went on to tell me about the time she had her dead kitten in the front seat of her car, while she drove around delivering burritos in New Mexico and I was driving in New Mexico when she made me laugh that day.

Life goes on, doesn’t it? Today I’ll have work and figure out how to navigate my day without my Red Dog. Tomorrow it will be much the same, until I don’t wake up feeling him so strong — and consequently missing his solid form, soulful eyes and remarkable presence.

Until I’m free from the pain, I’ll live with it. Then one day I’ll have his memory and only smiles. This is the way of grieving and although it’s one of the hardest things we seem to do as humans, we all do it and most of us keep on going.

For Red’s memory, that’s what I’ll do. Starting today.

Peace my boy… Love you so much. Mama

Get Regular Updates From Kyle...

News, specials, course alerts and more!

You have Successfully Subscribed!