A Small Dog’s Death

Yesterday Moppet died. Linda cried all day and fell asleep crying. So much grief, such a small dog. Today the page is blurred by my tears. I’m slower to respond than Linda; perhaps only one of us can be crazy at a time.

Moppet could no longer stand upright when we took her to the vet the last time, wrapped in a blanket that will forever belong to her. Linda washed her beforehand. She lay in the tub without lifting her head. She was hardly more than bones and beautiful hair. She never weighed more than four pounds when most substantial. She was little more than a whispered breath at the end.

After so many years life becomes welded to life, even the life of disparate species. Sixteen years is a lifetime for a dog and no small part of a human lifetime. The shared times and places form a web of connections that are sundered by death like a storm wind scattering the strands of a spider’s web.

She was a stubborn little dog who consistently failed to recognize her proper size, intimidating much larger dogs that could have ended any debate with a single bite. Four pounds isn’t much weight to throw into a dog fight. It was as if she cast a virtual presence, a shadow much larger than herself. She was most like a Bouncing Betty, a disagreeable little anti-personnel mine made popular during the Vietnam War. Step on one and they would leap from ground level to detonate in your face.

For a lap dog she was surprisingly disdainful of laps nor did she care to be coddled. Perhaps she was true to her genetic coding. Dogs bred to follow rats down their holes shouldn’t be humiliated by cloying familiarity. It takes more bravado than brains to beard a rat in its own den.

She died with her eyes open but unseeing. She seemed incredibly small on the vet’s examination table, diminished by death, her consciousness collapsing into itself like a dark star.

Sixteen years is a long time for a small dog. Near the end she was crippled, blind, deaf, incontinent…and unrepentant. That seems to me a worthy ambition, to be whatever you are without excuse, without apology, and without repentance.

6 thoughts on “A Small Dog’s Death”

  1. We’re very sorry to hear about Moppet, Charles. Our condolences to you and Linda. Our previous cat, Kelly, lived with us for seventeen years, so we can understand the hole that Moppet’s death will leave for you.

  2. Very touchingly written. I’m sorry for your loss. My girlfriend is a vet and putting animals to sleep is hard on the doctors, too. At least the suffering is ended.
    Best wishes.

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    Linda, thanks for your kind comment.
    Charles

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