Our Last Walk: A Walk Through the End of Life

In this article I am remembering something deeply sad–the loss of a beloved animal. If you choose to read, I hope it offers something of value to you.

Last year life force-fed itself to me. My beautiful, black 14-year-old, half-Chow Chow, half-Labrador who had completely stopped eating, then rallied to accompany me through the two months of my father’s illness and subsequent death. A month later, his job done, Druid–still alert and interested throughout all of this–stopped eating once again. This was to be our last walk–a walk through the end of his life.

With the coming anniversary of his death this December, powerful grief has renewed itself. When I step back to see the larger picture, however, my heart feels the lifetime of gifts I received in caring for my dog and allowing others to care for me.

There were so many who helped–Anne, Suzi, Pat, Judy, Bill and more—but I’ll write about just a few. Luis and his wife Niki, experienced dog owners, educated me, helped me care for my weakening dog and cared for me. Jan came to sit with us bringing a calming sense of spirituality. Geri brought home-made soup and dog treats that sadly, didn’t tempt him. Yvonne, who’d known him for 13 years, came. Perhaps in deference to that long-time friendship, he ate some of the crackers she brought. He never ate again.
One morning Druid had withdrawn, his spirit ready to go. Niki held my hand as I sobbed making the appointment to have him euthanized. He was ready and I wasn’t. Fourteen years of life together about to end. Dave, steadfast and kindhearted, as always, helped me through the next hardest parts. That evening, the flowers and cards started arriving.

During his last week, I remember one winter evening so clearly: Druid standing, me supporting him with a harness. He lifted his head looking out over the field sniffing the breeze. He seemed to drink in every part of his experience. It was a beautiful moment–watching this animal so present, soaking up life even as his life was about to end.

With a year having just passed, I see where I too am drinking in more of my experience: receiving more fully the nurturing of family and friends, and receiving the gift of another’s death–the opportunity to prioritize life. I am more attuned to my own vulnerability. In turn, I am able to offer something more to others personally and professionally from a deeper place.

I am still immensely sad. But, it is with the deepest of gratitude I look back at our last walk and to the many who accompanied us along the way.

U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240

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