My Mighty Titan
“When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’
And the Woman said,
‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our
friend for always and always and always.”
I hear his panting – heavy and hard. I know why – he fell in his attempt to climb the front steps tonight. I got behind him, swatted his butt and said, “Hey, big boy, you can do it! Let’s try again.” He did try again and finally made it up and back into the house. My mighty Titan. Titan is an unusually large yellow lab and he has experienced problems his whole life. But now his hind legs are so weak that he can’t walk across the hard wood floors without collapsing. He spends most of his days either lying on a blanket in the middle of the living room or lying under my desk with his head on my feet.
Tasha was my first baby – a rescued, “schnoodle,” part poodle, part Schnauzer. When I brought her home, she looked more like a wet mop than anything else, after years of neglect. After her first bath and haircut, we began our journey as a “dog” family and never looked back. Tasha liked to be carried like a baby, with her head on my shoulder. She was not happy when my daughter came along but she protected the family with a fury of a lioness! Years later, when we had to help her across the Rainbow Bridge after several strokes, it broke our hearts.
Sarah, our part black lab, part Border Collie, came home with me from the county shelter when she was three months old. When I first laid eyes on her in the shelter, she was trying to hide in the corner of her cage, petrified at the overwhelming sounds coming from all around her. I put her in the front seat of my car and it was like a switch went on. She jumped into my lap and started licking me furiously, as if to say, “I’m so happy to be coming home with you, Mom!” Sarah was the smartest dog I’ve ever had. We took her to the park and she loved to climb up the ladder to the slide and slide down. Every night, Sarah and I had “love time.” I invited her up on the bed and she would lie with her head on my chest, gazing into my eyes, while I told her all about my joys and sorrows. Sarah heard more about my work day than Chris, my husband, did! She was my angel and I still miss her, more than fifteen years later after her passing.
Miko, our yellow lab/cocker spaniel mix, also came home with us from the shelter. Miko had a truly sad story. She came into the shelter with a litter of puppies, which she could hear but not see in the cage next to hers. When we came upon her, she was emaciated from nursing and inadequate food. She was whining and pacing her cage, in desperation for her puppies. We took her home, only to discover that she had heart worms and was in heat again. It was rough on all of us! Over the next eight years, Miko transformed from a sickly, scared, aggressive dog, to a loving, patient companion to our daughter.
Gaea, which means “earth goddess”, was a black lab/pit bull mix. She came into our lives when my husband could no longer stand my grieving over Sarah. We adopted Gaea from ForeverHome.org, a wonderful rescue organization that specializes in puppies. We picked her out of her litter of six brothers and sisters, because she had four white feet and a star on her chest. Gaea became “Cindy’s dog”, and helped me through my husband’s death, my daughter’s difficulties, and my transition to retirement. She was my best friend when I most needed one. I tried everything to keep her canine diabetes in check but she crossed the rainbow bridge in 2015.
Chuck was my father’s dog and I inherited him in 2014. True to his pedigree as a purebred Welsh Terrier, Chuck is all about fun, fun, fun! He wakes me up in the morning, immediately ready to play “fetch”. I could still be throwing his ball three hours later if I didn’t hide the damn ball where Chuck can’t see it! Yes, Chucky is a bundle of energy but he has his softer side too! He loves to sit in my lap in front of the TV in the evenings. He actually watches TV and will run up to the TV and bark whenever he sees a dog on the screen! We love him dearly and I know my father is smiling.
And now I’m back to Titan. I rescued Titan from the Chesapeake Bay Labrador Retriever Rescue League a few months after both my husband and Miko died. Looking back, I realize that it was a “grief” decision and probably not too wise. Titan was abused as a puppy and had major anxiety issues. He was afraid of men (no longer, thankfully) and has been incontinent all his life. But his unconditional love for the last eight years helped fill a void in my life and along with Gaea, sustained me through my darkest times. Now, he is nearing the time when he will join Gaea and I am aware that he is scared. For the last few days, he has started to whine or bark for no apparent reason. He gets very apprehensive when he can’t stand up or walk without collapsing.
I am trying very hard to be “present” for Titan and to let him know how much I love him. I’ve been through this before and it never gets easier. But, my newfound beliefs in Buddhism and commitment to mindfulness are helping me accept this inevitable sorrow. While there is some controversy about pet euthanasia in Buddhist philosophy, compassion and alleviation of suffering override all other concerns for how I want to take care of Titan in his last days. Mostly, I want to be there for him when he needs me, just as he has been there for me.
Verse For A Certain Dog
by Dorothy Parker
Such glorious faith as fills your limpid eyes,
Dear little friend of mine, I never knew.
All-innocent are you, and yet all-wise.
(For Heaven’s sake, stop worrying that shoe!)
You look about, and all you see is fair;
This mighty globe was made for you alone.
Of all the thunderous ages, you’re the heir.
(Get off the pillow with that dirty bone!)
A skeptic world you face with steady gaze;
High in young pride you hold your noble head,
Gayly you meet the rush of roaring days.
(Must you eat puppy biscuit on the bed?)
Lancelike your courage, gleaming swift and strong,
Yours the white rapture of a winged soul,
Yours is a spirit like a Mayday song.
(God help you, if you break the goldfish bowl!)
“Whatever is, is good” – your gracious creed.
You wear your joy of living like a crown.
Love lights your simplest act, your every deed.
(Drop it, I tell you- put that kitten down!)
You are God’s kindliest gift of all – a friend.
Your shining loyalty unflecked by doubt,
You ask but leave to follow to the end.
(Couldn’t you wait until I took you out?)