We drive up to the tiny cottage house, solemn, quiet, amidst a pale soft ray of full moon light. The glow turned everything gray, with small whisps of black and white here and there. The small open front door cast a bright warm inviting luminescence that made one forget about the cold crisp summer air. It beckoned, enveloped in the type of sorrow that only resignation to the inevitable can conjure. Apprehensively, I go through the chain link gate and make my way inside, my husband in tow.
Caught off guard by the short notice, we showed up empty handed. The beacons of Gondor had been lit and there was no time to stop and get canapés. I was taken aback by the amount of people, food and drink that greated us. Quickly, I was reminded of how well beloved my sister is, of the many banners are pledged to her allegiance. All hands were needed on deck, expeditiously. Across the room, one of my BFFs – el Primo – offers us a cold beer. For Puerto Ricans, even bad moments are celebrated in “full swing”. Every excuse is a good one to party.
The guest of honor raises his head as I pass by the couch, and I automatically reach out to touch him before accepting the beverage. I can feel a sense of relief emanating from the furry head as I scratch his beautiful white snout and golden brown mane. Dasher Fred. Furnephew. Protector. Curmudgeonly friend. Older dog sibling to Dexter, the oreo pitlab mix that convinced me to seek out Zach, and Jiji, the gorgeous black kitty. He knows his watch is coming to an end. In a few hours, only his love will remain.
The long, tall, skinny German Shepherd mix sits quietly on his favorite spot on the sofa. Labored breaths curled into a tight ball. His brother tucks himself neatly into his side, resting his face on his hind quarters and falling into a deep sleep. D&D, the two amigos, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis; my sister’s entire world. She fought hard to keep both boys after the divorce, to find a place that would take them both in despite BSL and discrimating pet policies. She persevered. There wasn’t a life worth living without them. Feels like a lifetime ago. The difference five years can make!
Dash slides off the couch and scurries away to the king sized bed in the adjacent master bedroom, landing neatly in the middle with one lanky jump. The dark room is colder and less crowded, perfect for napping. There’s too much left to dream, to explore, but not enough daylight left to do so. From the safety of his abode, he scans the familiar faces, enjoying the smiles and kisses thrown his way. What he really wants though is a pizza slice, I can tell by the smell emanating from the kitchen, yet he bides his time. All he needs to do is flash those big brown puppy eyes to call each one of us closer, aloofly, and demand his prize, as well as bacon, ham, pets and attention. He knows how to capitalize on the moment. Smart cookie!
Nothing but the best for our bestest boy.
Friends and family embrace tightly as my sister’s sobs and lamentations suddenly pierce the otherwise festive atmosphere. Despair is setting in. There’s nothing to be done but say goodbye. Life, love, and circumstance have betrayed her. Mom should have been here to comfort her grieving child, to hold her hand as Dash slipped into eternal slumber. Cancer had taken this away from her too. Tears ran down our husband’s faces as they felt powerless to ease the pain. I made my way to my sister and hugged her tight, letting her know she was doing the right thing. That’s all that mattered.
As D makes his way through the Rainbow Bridge, a wayward thought crosses my mind. What events led us to this moment? Who do we have to thank for sending us Dasher? It all traced back to the miscarriage, to my sister’s desire to fly the nest now that my home had become a battlefield. She got married, moved to New Mexico and adopted the black and tan puppy we are sending off today. Without that event, we would have nevee known a love so pure. This sudden loss stings, painting every future moment with a deeper kind of sadness. Our list of departures grows.
What has lived will be remembered.
What is dead can never die.