How beautiful the leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.
4 month old Gracie joined Max in his last year and put a spring in his step and a soft glow of pride in his demeanor. Once proud to escort me for walks, his mobility had become limited, steps and curbs were an increasing challenge but he could enjoy her curious enthusiasm and monitor her energetic play in the backyard….even when being twirled by his tail in a circle. The latter brought a rap on the window and an instant Gracie “sit” pose.
A true gentleman, he more than tolerated her. He clearly delighted in her company and she in his. Often, he encouraged and engaged her in the entertaining battle of mouth wrestling. If she got too rough, he was done. She learned how to be gentle to extend her play time.
I cannot express how much it means to have been given such a wonderful gift as Max. From the day he entered my life, the world took on new meaning. He was a challenge and a teacher. He forced me to try new things, meet new people and to expand my sense of awareness to be attentive to the needs of others, human and animal. Through him, I learned to see for others too. There was never a day that I regretted taking him in. Still unable to sleep on some nights due to a life-threatening encounter in 1989, he took over guard duty when he arrived in 1999 and I finally relaxed.
We spoke about his time to go as I saw him slowly began to deteriorate. The last year with Gracie was beyond his comfort time frame…and even then…it was his choice. He asked for a specific month – true to form – there was an incident where his presence was pivotal. Always on duty. He finally told me he was ready. And when he was, no matter that I kept constant watch and talked myself through it, I was not. However, I honored his wish. He had certain requirements and they were met. His people and his animal companions were all part of the process. I made him promise to please let me know he was okay. My “knowing” of the after-life does not prevent the presence of guilt, grief, hurt, and loss in losing a beautiful life form. No matter what information I have on his condition, he is not here to eat his breakfast or sleep at my feet while I write.
But he has moved on. He checked in with my Mother whom he adored…within 24 hours. She heard a soft bark, thought a neighbor’s dog had gotten lose and went to let her cats back inside the house. They too heard the dog and sat waiting at the door. No dog.
Minutes later, the soft bark (his trademark) sounded again, just outside her bedroom door.
For me, he does things just a bit differently. He has assured me of his presence through the nightlight and had my guides direct me to a poem he wanted me to see. I was told to thoroughly inspect the entryway to my home because there was something he wanted me to find. I carefully examined the space, trying to imagine what he could have left for me. Then I remembered the doorframe he practically ate through while suffering an extreme anxiety attack during a thunderstorm in my absence. Maybe he fixed it? No.
What caught my eye was a bookmark tucked in a decorative key hanger beside the door. It had a poem; and that was what he wanted me to see.
“Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for without being seen, they are present with you.” – St. Francis de Sales
Still teaching, still loving, still guarding … once again an angel. He merely set his wings aside to join me for an all too brief assignment here.
There is never a perfect time for goodbye – but there is a time for a new beginning. Max and I have a different arrangement because of my work with people and their pets. Unlike other pets who have moved on, he will now teach me what it means to have an animal companion in spirit. We are spirit/energy; we do not die, nor do our pets. Energy shifts form and moves on. It doesn’t leave. It expands to become part of us and part of all that is. But we do miss all that we grow accustomed to in the physical while we transition to allowing and accepting the rebirthed energy essence to enfold us in a new embrace.
Max has done and continues to do his best to assure his people and his pet companions that he is just fine.