05 September, 2009

West River Nathaniel No Fear

Nate's last portrait. A good Scottish Collie with
fine Scottish Harebells behind him.
"Ruadh Gu Brath!"

*~ In Memoriam ~*

b. 4 June 1997
d. 3 Sept. 2009

Nate grew progressively weaker and weaker over the summer. He was losing weight. The docs thought it was because of an auto-immune problem effecting his thyroid. A couple of weeks ago, he began developing symptoms of Lupus, another immune system problem. His back legs and hips have been giving him trouble for nearly a year. When we awoke last Thursday, the 3rd, he was hardly able to rise and walk, listing strongly to Port. Deborah was concerned that he might have had a stroke, or some kind of seizure. It was clear that he was not well. He was loosing control over his bowels and bladder. As the day warmed, the flies were swarming, biting his ears and nose, worrying his hind end.

One of our neighbors, a massage therapist and alternative vet practitioner gave us the name of a vet who specializes in geriatric care, acupuncture and does house calls. (Yes, he does house calls!) I phoned Dr. Jeff and explained the constellation of symptoms and set up a time for him to come by on Saturday.

By 5:00 P.M. it was clear to me that Nate's condition was worsening almost exponentially. I called Dr. Jeff and asked if he could come over that evening. He agreed to do so. Meanwhile Nate was losing all ability to move without help, he was growing disoriented, unable to find a comfortable position. I sat with him in the waning afternoon, kept him hydrated and brushed the flies away.

Right at dusk, as my old friend lay next to me on the southwest corner of the yard, Dr. Jeff drove up and immediately began running diagnostics on Nate. His prognoses was not good. Ms. D arrived and we consulted together and with the vet. All the while, Sprocket kept pacing back and forth, just out of way of the humans surrounding "his" big canine brother.

It was time. I could not stand to watch him suffer any longer. Both Dr. Jeff and Ms. D agreed. It was time to say goodbye.


How do you say goodbye to a wonderful companion, protector, guardian, neighborhood ambassador and friend who has graced our lives and the lives of all our neighbors for just over twelve years? How do you say goodbye to the dog that slept between us, kept us warm as an early June snow storm raged across the Delaney Buttes lakes, while we huddled in a cold, cold camp? How do you say goodbye to a dog that would run back and forth along the river bank, yipping while we two fished, knee deep in frigid waters of Bear Creek? How do you say goodbye to a grand dog who made a point of placing himself between the street and any child who wandered by with his parents, who made it a point to make a gentle peace with every canine that came into "his" territory? How do you say goodbye?


Dr. Jeff went to his car, came back with a plaid blanket. He laid it out on the ground along Nate's back. As he did, he explained what he was going to do. First, he would give Nate a sedative to allow him to relax, feel more comfortable. Then he would leave us all together for a few minutes while the sedative did its work. He gave us choices on how we wanted to handle the remains. We could bury him ourselves or we could have him cremated. We could have his ashes or not.


Ms. D and I sat and wept, holding the old guy, saying our pathos ridden, empty goodbyes. Dr. Jeff then shaved Nate's fore arm, found a vein and injected the lethal dose, the drug that would shut down his cardio-pulmonary function. After the allotted time, he check his heart. It was still beating. He shaved his rear leg, found a vein and injected another dose. He looked at us incredulous, saying: "He has a strong heart. I have given him enough dosage to kill a 200 pound animal."

Dammit...a strong and faltering heart... And then beloved, Nate died.

How do you say goodbye? It is the long, long goodbye. Everyday for some period of time there will be a reminder, a hole in the universe where Nate stood, or lay, or in some way filled with his presence. A year, six months, forever...I suspect a bit of it all. The grieving process is interwoven in humankind's psyche. It belongs to the realm of Kairos. Its God's time, not mine, not yours...not some collective mind.

The day after, neighbors began asking: "Where's Nate?" Ms. D printed out epitaph pages and taped them to Nate's Run. Almost immediately, flowers and cards began to appear. The memorial is still growing. Grown men, tough and strong, come by walking their own canine companions. They learn that Nate has passed... And their shoulders slump, heads drop and hot tears well up. Grief overtakes them.

Dammit!!! -- That, beloved, is how you say good-bye.

Nate and I on New Year's Day, 2009.

Nate enjoying one of his favorite treats:
a new snow fall, wet and cool, late October, 2008

The old Ambassador walking the early Autumn
riparian paths along Clear Creek last September.

I leave you with a recollection brought to us yesterday by one of those burly, strong men:

Big Nate, The Mayor of 42nd and Quitman, loved very much and never to be forgotten by all who knew him:

(In memory of beloved pets who are gone, but not forgotten.)

I stood by your bed last night, I came to have a peep.
I could see that you were crying, You found it hard to sleep

I whined to you softly as you brushed away a tear,
"Its me, I haven't left you. I'm well, I'm fine, I'm here."

I was close to you at breakfast, I watched you pour your tea,
You were thinking of the many times your hands reached down to me.

I was with you at the shops today. Your arms were getting sore.
I long to take your parcels, I wished I could do more.

I was with you at my grave today. You tend it with such care.
I want to reassure you, that I'm not lying there.

I walked with you towards the house as you fumbled for your key.
I gently put my paw on your, I smiled and said: "Its me."

You looked so very tired and sank into the chair.
I tried so hard to let you know, that I was standing there.

Its possible fro me to so near you everyday.
To say to you with certainty: "I never went away."

You sat there very quietly, then smiled, I think you knew...
in the stillness of that evening, I was very close to you.

The day is over... I smile and watch you yawning
And say: "Goodnight, God Bless, I see you in the morning."

And when the time is right for you to cross this brief divide,
I'll rush across to greet you, we'll stand together, side by side.

I have so many things to show you, there's so much for you to see.
Be patient, live your journey out...then come home and be with me.

- author unknown