IN MEMORY OF HONEY

DSCN0758My sweet mini-poodle died peacefully the early morning of April 8th, cuddled next to me in bed. I’m so grateful she wasn’t alone in her last moments. Honey was my beloved companion for 12 years, but her diabetes, diagnosed a year ago, was worsening. I know losing a dog may seem trivial to some, but Honey was part of my family. And how often does one get to be the leader of a pack, as she’d decided I was — even one with only two members?

Last time I’d looked at the clock it was 3 AM. She was making distressed mewling sounds off and on, but I petted, soothed and sang lullabies till she finally fell asleep. Morning seemed so far off — the vet had told me to bring her in early. When I woke at 7 AM she didn’t move. Most days she was awake and alert, watching me patiently, waiting for me to open my eyes. Her loving heart had stopped beating.

I gently wrapped Honey in her plaid blanket, drove to Greenbier Vet, then weeped as Dr. Boles wrapped her arms around me.  Mary Ann, a woman there with her cat,  saw my distress and hugged me, too.  Then I dried my eyes and went to Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast. Didn’t want to go home alone yet. Even enjoyed a jelly donut with my coffee — relieved to be so calm and collected.

But opening the April 8th New York Times I cried again reading David Brooks’s   column: “What Suffering Does” — ordeals reveal our true selves and deepen our  capacity for empathy  —  and Jane Brody’s “Well” essay: “My Life as a Dog Owner” — her  Havanese puppy Max has brightened her life after some lonely years as a widow.  Both could have been written for me that day.

Honey wouldn’t eat anything the day before.  I couldn’t tempt her with favorite foods —  even turkey bacon, a former treat — so couldn’t give her insulin. That evening she let me hold her close like a baby for over and hour, resting her head on my shoulder. She usually squirmed out of my arms in a few minutes, prefering to sit on my lap or next to me on the sofa, nuzzling me, often licking my hand.

I knew it wasn’t fair to let her go on this way — we’d had a reprieve since January after her appetite returned.  Honey also had urinary problems and was wearing doggie diapers  — pink ones for my ladylike pet — she was upset after peeing accidents. And she had increasing trouble walking. When I took her out in the mornings, she’d wobble on her back legs, often sitting down. But she still took her time, sniffing and exploring till she found a suitable spot, even in snow. “Poor little chicken,” I’d say as I carried her inside.

Sometimes she’d be more agile for a time.  Sunday, two days before, was a warm spring day, and we took a long drive in the beginning to green countryside, ending up at our favorite Bynum Run Park where we walked a while, then sat together on a bench watching geese and ducks paddling on the pond, kids fishing, people and dogs enjoying the sunshine.

I’ve been feeling less sad than I thought I’d be these past ten days — seeing her so sick, I was getting ready to let her go, mourning in advance. I was afraid I’d become depressed again without her —  hadn’t had a serious episode in all the time she we were together, only a few brief down times.  And, somehow, her spirit still seems close.

After my husband died twenty years ago I felt his presence for a while, too.  He’d been enduring cancer treatments for over a year and was gaunt and emaciated at the end. This strong, loving man never complained, never gave up hope.  My son and I hurt seeing him suffer — and during his long illness finally became resigned to  his leaving us.

The day after Honey died, I went to the Harford County Humane Society and filled out an application for a small dog — one that will fit in Honey’s airplane carrier bag and sit cosily in her car seat. She was a compatible travel companion when we flew to Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and, most memorably,  Ireland — and on many car trips to pet-friendly Bed and Breakfasts where we both made friends.

I’ve also searched the Internet and found some appealing mini-poodle rescues — one named Scruffy, a two-year-old black and white male who’s in a foster home till ready for adoption. Another, Flower, a one-year-old white female with pelvic injuries that need to heal. No hurry, though. There was only one Honey. I need more time.

I’m so glad I live near  my wonderful son, daughter-in-law and grandson — with another baby coming in July. My grandson didn’t notice Honey wasn’t with me when I came to mind him yesterday. He was always excited to see her, delighted as he touched her soft hair. Later, I asked him: “Where’s Gramma’s doggie?” He looked up surprised, then began to look all around the room, so I quickly said: “Doggie went bye-bye.” Looking thoughtful, he repeated “Doggie byebye,” and went back to playing with his toy cars.

Dr. Boles, always kind and caring,  and Bethany who made her even prettier at Bon Bon Groomer, wrote comforting notes, and friends and neighbors sent sympathy cards I’ve arranged around the little box holding Honey’s ashes, her name on a bronze placque. My neighbor Monty — always cheerfully patient with her multiple maladies — brought me a peace lily “to be named Honey,” she said.  It’s thriving on the spot  where Honey sat when I worked at the computer. Monty cherishes her spunky little dog Sparky.

I usually wear a silver Celtic cross, but for now am wearing a gold heart locket that had belonged to my mother. It’s long held a wisp of my son’s baby hair, and after Honey’s last animal hospital stay, I added one of her faded apricot curls, asking my son if he’d mind his DNA being mixed with hers. “Of course not,” he said, laughing. After all, she was his foster sister.

Today is Good Friday, the day Jesus died on the Cross. Easter Sunday is only two days away, a joyful Feast with a tinge of sorrow for me. My husband died on a Holy Saturday evening. We hope to be reunited with those who’ve gone before us. My Honey was surely an angel in a dog’s body, so I like to think she’s back with God, and we’ll be together again when I come home.

But until then, I’ll miss her dear face, her joyfully wagging tail, her big heart in her warm little body.

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5 Comments »

  1. Patty said

    OMG…in tears. I am lost for words. I know how much you loved her. I remember the first time I met you both like it was last week. I am so very sorry. I too lost my Betty Boop my little white poodle about 6 weeks ago. She was always with me – work and home. R.I.P. Honey and Boop 😪🐾🐩💔

    • Thank you, dear Patty. We’re both better people after having Honey and Betty Boop with us! Love, Eileen

  2. I am so sorry for your loss, Eileen. I am glad I got to meet Honey when I met you and we chatted at Boyd and Fulford’s. She was a wonderful dog and you gave her a blessed and happy life. I am glad that you immediately honored Honey by seeking out another dog who will only live if it finds a loving home, who is praying for you to come and gather it into your arms and give it a home. It tells me you know that little dog will be the best medicine you can have to help you heal your loss and cherish Honey’s memory. In addition to the Harford Humane Society, also check out Fallston Animal Rescue Movement (FARM).

  3. I am so sorry for your loss, Eileen. I am glad I got to meet Honey when I met you and we chatted at Boyd and Fulford’s. She was a wonderful dog and you gave her a blessed and happy life. I am glad that you immediately honored Honey by seeking out another dog who will only live if it finds a loving home, who is praying for you to come and gather it into your arms and give it a home. It tells me you know that little dog will be the best medicine you can have to help you heal your loss and cherish Honey’s memory. In addition to the Harford Humane Society, also check out Fallston Animal Rescue Movement (FARM).

  4. Your kind, sensitive words touched me, Cynthia. Yes, I’ll adopt another little dog. But I need to process Honey’s death for a while more. Have got enough room in my heart — it seems Honey stretched it! But I feel amazingly peaceful for now. Eileen

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