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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  • Alice Hall

    Suzanne, I am so sorry. Tears for Eva’s death and also joy for the gift of her 14 years in your lives… and that you found her and helped her go at the very end.
    Thank you for sharing this. Love to you all.💚🙏🏽

  • Becky

    Such a touching eulogy for your 4-legged family member. Lighting a candle…

  • Kathy Fulk

    I am so sorry about Eva!! What a beautiful eulogy!!! 🙏🙏

  • Randal Romie

    Thank you for bringing us along with this final chapter. From my experience 14 years is quite an achievement for such a bigger-than-life dog like your Eva. There’s a light and silence that remains, as you say, and what I first noticed when our 96lb. Chocolate Labrador left us, was the absence of energy that used to be present. Something I did not realize until he and his energy were gone. When it was time, I sat and held him on me with my arms around him, and I felt his last heartbeat join with mine with my hand on his chest. What a treasured final gift and unexpected blessing for me.
    Maybe you have read this, I have kept this for many years:
    A Dog’s Plea
    Treat me kindly, my beloved friend, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.
    Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I might lick your hand between blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me learn.
    Speak to me often, for your voice is the world’s sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when the sound of your footstep falls upon my waiting ear.
    Please take me inside when it is cold and wet, for I am a domesticated animal, no longer accustomed to bitter elements. I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth.
    Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst.
    Feed me clean food that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life, should your life be in danger.
    And, my friend, when I am very old and I no longer enjoy good health, hearing and sight, do not make heroic efforts to keep me going. I am not having any fun. Please see to it that my life is taken gently. I shall leave this earth knowing with the last breath I draw that my fate was always safest in your hands.
    A Dog’s Friend in Kansas City, MO.
    Sorry for your loss.
    Randal & Kimberly Romie, Greensboro

  • jane cairnes

    A beautiful eulogy Suzanne! <3
    I also found the Dog's plea in the above response to be very moving – I hope many read it.
    Love to you Suzanne and those whose lives Eva touched.
    Sorry for your loss –
    Jane Cairnes

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