On a walk, Elmo was always on auto-pilot. Go to the garden! He loved sitting in the pathway between gardens, soaking up the sunshine, keeping the rabbits at bay, and generally keeping an eye on things, except of course when he gave in to his drowsy sun-drenched feeling and napped. I'd leash him, with a really long blue tether so that he could move around. His big bowl of water nearby, he'd follow the shade around on hot days.
So , Elmo, and I woke before the sunrise, and after a quick stop for a cup of decaf to warm my hands, we nestled into the garden. He laid on a special mat to keep him off the cold ground, and I cocooned him in a blanket.
I had decided that on Elmo's last day, that he should not be tethered, instead enjoying his freedom, so the blue leash lay untouched.
I worked furiously in the garden that day, shoveling and weeding my heart out. Looking over to see him cozy, bending into my work, to bring order to at least one area of my life, as I saw my time with Elmo careening to an end.
It was only 10:00 a.m. and I wondered how I would last the day. I had mixed in so many of my salty tears into the soil, that I worried if anything would grow next year. So, it was Elmo and me, together all day in this sweet, salty sadness. I'd stop for a while, and just sit next to him, to imprint in my mind, the color, softness of his fur. I'd bury my nose in his ruff, just to gather more his puppy dog smell.
Elmo was no puppy, rather 12 years old, and feeling his age, but as I sat there, Elmo got up, and tottered slowly, stiff step by stiff step to the end of the lane, and then turned the corner and plopped. I supposed he'd plopped, because I didn't see his ears over the top of the neighboring plots' foliage. Sure enough, when I snuck to the end of the lane to see him, his head was up and he was smiling. After a while, I scooped him up and return him to his mat and blanket cocoon. Later in the day, he repeated this small journey, and just left me wondering how he was able to do it, since the evening before he couldn't take a step.
I thought about how sad and lonely the garden would be next year, without Elmo's quiet company. So, I planted the first bed with garlic, spelling out I LOVELMO. Love and Elmo running together seemed a fitting expression for the way I was feeling.
So, the first garden bed, come spring will be my reminder of that sweet puppy love. The sun was about to set, and so we headed home from the garden together, for the last time.
When you know death is imminent, every moment, every turn is sweet, sweet, sweet. The feeling is so softly sad, sometimes giving over to a riot of tears and uncontrollable sobbing, but mostly soft, sweet and sad.
My son Sean and I went to dinner, ordered prime rib, to bring home to Elmo, and when we returned I had my first taste of the days ahead. There was no puppy to greet me at the front door. Elmo had left his post, for the first time, and was confused and lying in the bedroom.
I made him comfortable on the bed, and tucked myself in beside him with my arms around him, and holding his paw. I remembered my mother holding my father's hand while he slept the night before he died. This was in my mind.
When we woke in the morning, Elmo had several back-to-back strokes, where everything would stop and he'd stare with his mouth hanging open, then return to sleepy puppy. I knew that the time was coming and was concerned that he was suffering.
So, my eldest son, Amir, came over and after some last goodbyes from others who loved and would miss him dearly, we took him to the vet's office for the last time.
Now that my dear companion is gone, the house doesn't feel like my house anymore. Walking in the door, I knew that my time there was limited. I'd have to find another place to live, and I'd have to make sure I didn't work so much.
Elmo had done his best to get me away from the desk everyday at home, and often I'd put him off, with a "we'll go out in a couple of minutes" to see another hour or two slip away until his next attempt. I don't like that I did that now, and the me on the other side of his death, would stop typing, grab the leash and a coat and go walking - to the garden of course.
The sharpness of my sadness is fading a bit, and I got a notion that Elmo had been trying to tell me something on his last day at the garden.
Here's his messages:
1. Take a break
2. Sit down and enjoy the stars
3. Love someone with all your heart.
4. Take the long route.
5. Don't be in a hurry to go home.
6. Go to the garden, go to the garden, go to the garden.
What a master of simple happiness he was, and he kept trying to nudge and nuzzle me into more relaxation and timelessness, but I was pretty stubbornly bent on working, working and more working.
So, I'm listening to his messages now, and found yet one more parting message in his totter and plop at the end of the lane.
Elmo is gone from my sight, but he's still with me, just around the corner - out of sight.
What if in this wonderful world, our loved ones, were just around the corner, out of sight...but with us still? This thought gives me great peace and happiness. I now imagine him walking by my side and licking my face. When I'm happy I can feel his presence so easily. Perhaps he is still, just round the corner. Light and life bending in a parallel life, so close, but so far.
I think, Elmo is teaching me about how to pierce the veil of death, and feel the love without the benefit of being able to touch and see him. He was, and is some kind of dog.
January 20, 1995 - November 3, 2008