A Great Heart Goes Silent
On the 26th day of May, in the year of our Lord 2015, my beloved Miss Keeter, Warrior Princess, Queen of the Pack, passed from this life.
How does one put words to something for which there really are no words? This is my pathetic attempt to honor the life and death of my bestest (misspelling is intentional) girl, my Miss Keeter, my friend.
She came to me four years ago, with bones sticking out all over, such a tall and majestic dog, but so skinny. Her toenails were black and soft, and merely striking them against something caused them to fall off and bleed. She lost a few. She had been starved, she had been mistreated, she had been beaten, and we know this because when she first came to us, if you waved your hand, or a kitchen spoon, or moved in any manner that she perceived as threatening, she would crouch low upon the ground and pee.
Despite the terrible background, she was full of a zest for life, and a sure and solid hope that love was possible. Oh how she loved, she would lean in close and groan at the very joy of having her body pressed against yours, and the slightest word of praise caused her to dance with joy, she danced and she leapt and glasses flew from tables, and knickknacks crashed to the floor, and even people stumbled and fell to her great dance.
My task was to foster her, to get her healthy and to teach her manners, for she had no knowledge of anything. The only word she truly understood was no, and this word caused her to crouch low, and tremble. It was a word that she has seldom heard over the course of the last four years, a word not needed, for she lived to please, and teaching her manners was very easy. I obviously failed with the foster part, and could not bear to give her up.
She came to me during hard times. Both my sons were having hard times, times that despite all my prayers and all my attempts to help, just were not changing, sometimes becoming worse, and my husband had been laid off, and was working out of state to make ends meet. I really needed to make a difference for something. And along came Miss Keeter. Saving her was an honor, a privilege and over these past four years she has taught me more than any other dog, more than I ever thought possible of a dog to teach.
Keeter taught me about faith, about hope, about love, about dancing in the rain, about worship, about the joy of a moment, about the power of a simple word of praise, she taught me about tenacity, and that the grit and tenacity required to hold down a 300lb pig can also be useful in other circumstances, and that no matter what, you never give up, you never let go, you keep moving forward, pushing through, and if you knock a few glasses over, or break a favored knickknack, it’s really no big deal. Many journal writings of mine mention “the big white dog” as do several of my blog posts, some just refer to the joy that she brought to me, the feel of her strong head under my hand as we walked, the laughter at her joyful antics, and some detail the profound things that she taught me, about life, about God and about living.
Her heart just cannot be described, it was huge, it was fierce, and it was beautiful. She was my dog, although she loved everyone in the family, she gravitated to me, and there was only one brief period where this was not so. Our soldier son came home from war, came home with the heavy burdens that war can place upon the soul. As a family we labored hard to show him love, to show him grace, to help him come home, but in all outward appearances this was to no avail, we could not break through the barriers that were there. But Miss Keeter did, she gravitated to him, she would sit by his side, at the garage door, him smoking and her just sitting there with him, hanging out, leaning into him. She too had known suffering and violence, of a different kind, but still painful, and I think she sensed the need in him, to just have someone sit, and share the pain, without expectations, without fear and worry and anxiety, but to just sit with him. It is my belief that she is the first of our family to connect with the soul of the warrior who came home. For that act alone she will ever have my gratitude.
I am grateful for the four years we had, and I am trying hard not to be bitter toward those who mistreated her, starved her during formative years causing the very issues that in the end took her life. My youngest son said yesterday that had they not done the things they had done, we would never have had the joy of her in our lives. So I guess that is a lesson for us all in how God can use the awful things and make something beautiful.
My Miss Keeter was brave; she endured the pain of the growing gaps in her spine with grace and tenacity. She never cried, it just kept getting harder and harder for her to get up. She would still charge full speed ahead at any perceived threat, and then stumble and limp back to her bed once the threat had been met. She lived to please, in the good times, just the sound of her name would bring her leaping, entire body wiggling in joy at the summons, but toward the end, her tail would gently thump, I think even that hurt, and she would look at me with sorrow filled eyes, and gradually, with my coaching and my praise, she would slowly rise, taking faltering steps, front legs bearing most of the weight, and she would make her way to me. On top of all this, she lost her sight, and was pretty much blind. I realized that she would never give up entirely, that she would endure the pain for as long as I kept asking her to endure it, and that is when I realized that I could not ask this of her anymore. It was time. The medicine was not working anymore, and it was tearing up her stomach, causing her to vomit blood and messing up her appetite. It was time for me to say enough, it’s okay my girl, you can go in peace.
For her last day, I gave her extra pain pills, and we loaded her up in the car, it was hard for her to get in the car, but once again with coaching she did as I asked and heaved herself in, with as much assistance as I could offer her 100 lb. body. At first my intention was to take her to a park, where there is a peaceful fountain, a place where I sat many times, but then I realized that this was my place, where was her place? What was her joy? So we went out on the mesa, and we walked, she rooted for the kangaroo rats and prairie dogs, flushed the quail and the jackrabbits. I wished for her sight back, as I watched huge jackrabbits running before her, she could smell them, but she could not see them. Even so, you could see some of the old Keeter come back, her drive to hunt, her joy in the smells, her tenacity as she crashed through the cactus and the thorns, oblivious to the pain. She took joy in crashing through the middle of a giant puddle, and it was good to see her with mud spattered legs again.
We sat at the car for a bit, and I gazed at the beautiful view, and scratched her head and ears. We had some water and we headed down the hill to the vet’s office. We were early for our appointment, so we sat under a beautiful tree, in the thick green grass, and we rested and enjoyed each other’s company. I praised her and loved her, scratched her ears and kissed her and fed her lots of cheese and fatty bacon. She would try and sit, but you could tell sitting was painful but she was able to lie down and rest. Too soon it was time, and we walked inside. Tears filled my eyes as I looked into one of the rooms, with door slightly ajar, and saw the blanket on the floor. I knew that was for us. Sure enough we were escorted to that room, and my brave Miss Keeter went straight to that blanket, plopped herself down and stretched out her legs. I sat with her, and told her how incredibly awesome she was. I fed her bacon and cheese as they made their preparations. She passed with her great head in my lap, as I scratched her ears, and fed her cheese. She passed in peace.
On 5/26/15, at approximately 3:30 PM. A great heart went still and I was left with silence.
“There are various places within which a dog may be buried. We are thinking now of a Dogo Argentino named Keeter, whose coat was as white as snow, and who, so far as we are aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought, despite the mistreatment she received at the hands of humans. She will be laid to rest in our back yard, by a flowering bush, overlooking her domain.
Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or any flowering shrub of the garden, is an excellent place to bury a good dog. Beneath such trees, such shrubs, she slept in the drowsy summer, or gnawed at a flavorous bone, or lifted head to challenge some strange intruder. These are good places, in life or in death. Yet it is a small matter, and it touches sentiment more than anything else.
For if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes she leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, questing, asking, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps at long and at last. On a hill where the wind is unrebuked and the trees are bent to its force, or beside a stream she knew in puppyhood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture land, where most exhilarating cattle graze. It is all one to the dog, and all one to you, and nothing is gained, and nothing lost -- if memory lives. But there is one best place to bury a dog. One place that is best of all.
If you bury her in this spot, the secret of which you must already have, she will come to you when you call -- come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again. And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel they should not growl at her, nor resent her coming, for she is yours and she belongs there.
People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by her footfall, who hear no whimper pitched too fine for mere audition, people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them then, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.
The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of her person.
(Original poem by Ben Hur Lampman, edited for our dear Miss Keeter)
One of my blog posts about the things she taught me:
And here is a beautiful video telling all of what a dog can be to it's human, if the human will only allow it to take place.
So God Made a Dog
1/2/2016 This morning I watched a video of my Keeter girl as she danced around the living room, every fiber of her being expressing joy in the moment. I miss her a lot.
I also wanted to add this one photo to her memorial. It was sent to me by a dear friend. Living here in Albuquerque we often have hot air balloons flying over our house and they are almost always visible in the sky over the city. My Keeter girl HATED the balloons. She saw this as a threat and before she lost her sight she would spot them floating in the sky and she would shout out her defiance to them. This beautiful photo shows hot air balloons floating above the clouds, and one of the clouds to the left of the photo looks like a large white dog. Get em Keeter girl!