Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Return of the Little Dog Post- Happy Halloween!

My dear Sister died in 2008 after a years-long fight with cancer. She was determined, valiant and tiger-hearted. She taught kindergarten until practically her last day. I can't do her justice here, but you need to know or the rest seems more unlikely. I was lucky, lucky to be close (after a career collapse, but who knows what is good and what is bad, ultimately) so I could be with her every day. Her struggle was mine. I could never be part of her pain and physical struggle but I would have taken it on if I could.
When she died, I lost the mainstay of my life and went through a grief that left me on the "blasted heath" with King Lear, buffeted by winds and weather. She was such a part of my emotional life but also my everyday.  And everyday life is what propels you forward.
A year later my little dog Cleo passed away, she was sweet and completely devoted to me. She would follow me from room to room laying on the rug in the bathroom when I showered or under the table when I sewed. No beauty, a little snaggled toothed with cropped pointed ears and a touch of gargoyle around the eyes. She hated riding in the car but on the rare occasions I took her out people would ask "What kind of dog IS she?" I loved her.
So when both my parents fell ill at almost the same time, I was just starting to feel the cascades of grief had started to ebb. My Mother in the hospital after cancer surgery, my Father getting a pace maker for a faulty ticker and Cleo starting to make an appearance in the kitchen or under the table.
This stressed me even more. I would see her out of the corner of my eye all the time. Under the table where she loved to hide but still keep an eye on the world or in the kitchen by the water dish that was out for my mother's dog.  I would tell her I had nothing for her, she was beyond my reach. It felt like another needy soul and I was tapped out. I started to have the stabbing feeling under my left shoulder blade like I had when my sister was sick.
I kept this mostly to myself, knowing it made me sound crazy. I was very aware that the level of stress I was under could very well be the cause. Super natural experience or hallucinations of a disordered mind- it's a toss up.
After my Mother came home from the hospital she wanted a little company and asked her friend Elizabeth to dinner on Sunday. After a few hours when dinner was over she asked me "Where's  your little dog?"  I told her, reluctantly, that Cleo had died the year before, she said "I saw her under the table when I walked in the house" I said it was my Mother's little dog, Amorsito. She said "No, he was on the sofa".
 The jig was up.
I told her I saw her all the time. She gave me such a look of incredulity and said the hair on her arms stood on end. I told her it was fine, she was just keeping me company. And you know after that I felt comforted by her. I realized she didn't want anything from me, just to keep me company. After that I saw her less and less, and then not at all.
My Father died two months later, my Mother is fine. Cleo stays wherever she lives now.
I do wonder if our bias for words is what keeps us from understanding the depths of attachment and emotion of the animals who share our lives. Are they self-aware vis-a-vis our relationship with them or on their own? It's a little arrogant to think so, I know.

Happy Halloween from me and Cleo, wherever she is!
Spectral image to the right of her is an actual spot on the Polaroid, don't be alarmed
Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine


  1. Who could have known that 'fraidy little Cleo was such a hero! <3 to you always, my dear friend.

  2. What a wonderfully sweet and mysterious story. I like to think of all the long lost pets frocking together somewhere and our dear departed ones enjoying their company. <3 and Happy Halloween to you my friend!