April 12, 2007 – October 7, 2021
I’m beginning this memoriam in Angus’ last hours. He’s lying at my feet and seems to be at peace. Six months ago, he had a series of small strokes and his kidneys started to fail and so his passing has long been on my mind. As he lost weight and mobility, I was keenly aware of the contract we make with the animals we bring into our lives: that we will know when their suffering is too much and act accordingly. With Angus, it was a simple test, wagging tail and smiling eyes. And he has passed that test every day until today.
He was endowed with such joy and peace! Even as his kidneys failed and he was getting up many times a night to pee, he always took the opportunity to patrol the place at least once. I might miss one of the guests coming into the cabin but Angus, despite being almost totally deaf, would greet them. Even yesterday when we were at Veigh’s for lunch, he had to sniff around the yard and sniff his pal Izzy’s butt before I lifted him back into the car.
They say the best we can hope for is a good life with compressed morbidity. He certainly has had a good life and brought joy to all he encountered. The pains of old age didn’t stop him from feeling joy. He would hobble around the place, eyes smiling and tail wagging. Until today. I hoped he would go gently into that good night on his own. He was better in the morning—a brief wag of the tail—but it was clear he wasn’t the same. “Never too soon and only a minute too late,” is what an old friend told me. I think I can say I found that balance. Huge thanks to Dr. Eric Putman who took time out from his surgery day to console us both before sedating Angus and giving us some last time together.
My life is divided into my four dogs. All have lived to be 14 and all have been fine teachers. Angus came into my life 14 years ago as a gift from my dear friends, Sandy and Louis Maine. Angus’ full name is “Angus, Retriever of Love” and was born of “Daisy Loves a Lot.” He has lived up to his name and lineage. Despite not being neutered, he was an incredibly gentle dog and was never in a serious fight. He seemed to be able to approach people and know quickly whether his advances were welcome.
He loved to play and would get down as low as he could go to encourage smaller dogs to not be intimidated so they would be comfortable playing with him.
He always reminded me, by example, that the true joy in life is giving…although that did not extend to sharing his dinner.
He arrived in my life just as I was moving into the new house. Having had dogs that have been wanderers, I installed an invisible fence around 10 acres of the place and a dog door. It was, if I don’t say so myself, a perfect place for dogs! And Angus had many friends to came to visit for the day, the night or the week. His sister, Mieta, and later his niece, Penny, were often here (and he at their place, too); Juneau, his best friend; Ely and Gogol; Toby, Sophie, Thomas, a cat who thought he was a dog, and Frank, a cat who was very much a cat; Chip, Isla, and Snow; Sidka; Obie; and lots of others who came with their people or just on their own. It was very much a doggy day camp.
A new chapter in my life will begin. I won’t have to worry about whether he’ll be too hot or too cold in the car. I will be able to travel and spend a night away from home, something I haven’t done this year. I will take advantage of the freedom but it will always be bittersweet.
A light has gone out of the world but his presence and the lessons he brought will remain. I will smile while I cry for his loss, but I will cry rivers. Here’s to you, fine friend, may the light you brought to world remain in memory and inspire good in all creatures.