Friday, September 04, 2009

Miracles End

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Kahil Gibran

As all miracles must, The Small Miracle of the Carrots (And the Green Beans, too.) came to an end. Kasimu, my little Basenji was dying of kidney failure and since his disease made everything taste awful, he was facing starvation until he decided, out of the blue, to gobble down some raw carrots. That was followed by green beans, then kibble and we began day by day taste trials, sampling any number of foods hoping that one would be palatable enough to sustain him. The kitchen counter soon filled up with bags and cans and treats and biscuits of every sort. But nothing lasted for long and slowly the little guy grew thinner and thinner, despite a ferocious Mr. McCawberian will that surely “something will turn up,” and a determination to stay very much present and engaged with his world.

Until time and strength began to run out and we both entered Dying Time, that strange place where time stands still and rushes by with terrifying speed, all at the same time. A place where hope and despair rise and fall with stomach churning frequency. A time of wasteful worry and muddled prayers. “Please, let him die right now. No, wait, please let him get better. No, wait . . .”

And Kasimu made it hard for me to get into the proper frame of mind at any given time. I would put on my sorrowful, grief face and prepare myself for his passing, so weak had he become, only to watch him hop out of his cuddler and totter around the other dogs as I was readying them for a walk. He, who looked like he could hardly walk across the room, demanded that he be allowed to go along too. “You’re dying,” I’d say. “You can’t possibly be up for a walk.” But he’d insist, getting horribly agitated at the thought of being left behind, being left out, being left alone. So we’d take a “pretend walk” to the end of the driveway. Then he was happy. For him, a walk was a walk, pretend or not, since there were always new smells in the front yard that required his close inspection.

And when he’d refuse food for days, despite being rail thin and running on fumes, and I’d steel myself that the end must surely be near, I’d find him suddenly wandering among the tall dog legs at evening biscuit time, Hoovering for crumbs. He likely wasn’t really hungry by then, but, by gosh, he wasn’t about to be left out of The Ritual of the Night Time Snacks. And so it went, an emotional roller coaster of hope whipsawing with despair that got more awful and more comical as time passed.

The day before he died, I got a call to do some emergency babysitting of his other brother and sister, who lived in Morro Bay. I brought the two visitors into the front door to be greeted by the pack and there was Kasimu, tottering out of his death bed to cross the room for a sniff-fest, greeting siblings that he hadn’t seen in several years – the whole litter together again for the last time.

By the next morning he had slipped into unconsciousness, but was resting and breathing comfortably. I ran some errands and when I returned home I gave him a few drops of Rescue Remedy then washed his face with a damp wash cloth, something that I suspect brought forth memories of puppyhood and the comfort of being licked clean by his mother’s warm tongue. I told him it was O.K. to go. I told him what a good little boy he was. He had a mild seizure and when it ended, my jug-eared, carrot-eating, endlessly optimistic canine Mr. McCawber – Kidogo Hodari Kasimu, my Brave Little Keeper of the Forest –stepped alone and forever into the green darkness.

I buried his ashes under a newly planted sacred white sage plant. Soon his white bones will be part of its pungent silver leaves. And when I sit in the corner of the garden and look at its silvery softness, I will be reminded of what Kasimu’s dying had to teach me about living, lessons that I clearly hadn’t learned yet: Be brave. Don’t assume anything – each moment is brand new so things will always turn out differently than you expected. That’s why you must have the courage to wait and see what will turn up.

And if kibble’s off the menu, try carrots.


Donna said...

i can barely write this, as my tears blind me.
i am actually sobbing.
no words can express how i feel about your story, except that i feel everything you wrote.
nothing can be so beautiful as kasimu in his cuddler.
i love you, ann. thank you for this.

annerallen said...

Such a moving piece. I think we can learn a lot from other species on what contemporary human culture has made a taboo subject--accepting death as part of life.

Cherie said...

Oh Annie... Such a beautiful piece and a wonderful tribute to Kasimu AND all of the special furry angels that you have had the privilege of caring for, for so many years and who's memories are so richly embedded in your heart and ours. Thank you for sharing and your prolific writing, as always - I wish you peace...
Love Cherie

FOGSWAMP said...

Ann .....A great tribute to one of our best friends that give us abundent unconditional love so freely.

I read the following somewhere and thought of it when I read your tribute with tearful eyes.

A Dog's Prayer

Remember me not with tearful eyes...but instead with an abounding heart.

Should you choose to fill my bed, feel no guilt, you have not betrayed me.

Love another as you always loved me...and they too will love you as I always have.

Sewertoons said...

Thank you for writing such a true and lovely tribute to your dear Kasimu which has resonated with each of us who have lost our 4 legged friends.

Alon Perlman said...

I had completely forgotten about Dino Bernardino, the only dog who ever owned me.

When i find myself in that place,
a step away from halfway ,
on the ladder between heaven and hell.
And when on the horizontal axis,
the distance between,
the sorrowful memories,
and those delightfully joyous,
so they swirl around,
and chase each others tails as well.

Then i listen tothat,
reserved for that moment,
and then for that moment,
no other moment exists.
For that moment is now,
and how can there be,
any moment,
other than now.
And then another moment passes,
and then I forget.


Patrick O'Hannigan said...

All your dog pieces are beautiful, Ann. Thank you for sharing them with the rest of us.

Realistic1 said...

Lovely tribute, Ann. My heart is heavy for you.