19 June 2012

Hoover as Wise Sage

Ian and I are both feeling better today than yesterday. In part, the huge outpouring of support from our friends and relatives, many sharing Hoover stories with us, has filled our hearts with sweetness. For another part, though, I think we’re feeling better because of some help I got from "Amelia" last night. I have named my home-processed medication Amelia because it ameliorates all sorts of cancer symptoms, and I can refer to it--her--more openly without running any risk of the wrong person hearing me, which isn't a worry of mine, but is a worry of some of the dispensaries. The laws recognizing the medical benefits of a usually illegal drug are still pretty incomplete. 

One of the things Amelia helps me do, in addition to taking away my chemo-induced anxiety and nausea, is to quiet down my left brain—the short-term memory part, which can be tiresome since I frequently can’t hold onto the thread of a story long enough to tell it—but more importantly, the judging, doubting, problem-creating part that pulls me, ever so easily, out of the moment, and creates troubles for me so subtly that I’m only now, after several months of friendship with Amelia, starting to recognize those troubles as self-created, and therefore entirely within my control. 

Anyway, as my left brain's grip on my reality lessened last night and my right brain kicked it up a notch, the thought came that, instead of seeing Hoover as something I should feel guilty about—
because I insisted we get a puppy when I knew, deep down, that my health
was failing;
because therefore Hoover had a disjointed, rootless, anxious beginning in
our family;
because he needed more exercise than either Ian or I could provide for him in
the city;
because he pissed me off every time he opened his mouth to bark hysterically
at other dogs;
because Spackle felt marginalized and reproachful—wasn’t he enough dog for
because regardless of how he appeared to adjust, I wasn’t able to give Spackle
enough attention, because Hoover demanded so much;
because I couldn’t hug and pet and cuddle them both at the same time;
because I was afraid every time we went out at Jerome Creek that Hoover would get lost in the Idaho woods and we wouldn’t know what had happened to him;
because I wouldn’t be able to save him from himself and he’d be hit by a car
on Orcas—
instead of all that guilt and anxiety that I was carrying around—which added a malignant self-destructive feeling of personal responsibility to my grief—I could see Hoover as a teacher, who was in my life only as long as he needed to be for me to learn the lessons he came to teach.

Presumably every animate thing in our lives has the potential to teach us; presumably we're learning from these things all the time, whether or not we have any awareness of it. In the case of Hoover on the land Saturday evening, less than a minute after I said to Ian "there's nothing I can do," i.e. "I cannot control this dog any more than I can control any other aspect of life, much as I might try," Hoover "coincidentally" leaped right in front of a huge van and disappeared from our lives. I had passed my class. 

EVERYTHING was set up for a quick and easy demise for that dog: our proximity to the Copse, his joyful and complete (read: reckless) abandon, the particular van driver (although Jorgen probably still mourns his role), the cleared patch of ground inside the Copse with the mossy headstone within easy reach, the pick-ax and shovel close by, and the islander to drive Ian while I stayed with the dogs. The shovel handle broke on Ian's last scoop of dirt from the hole, and we covered Hoover up by hand.

Hoover taught me about more than just the illusion of control: he taught me the necessity of making careful decisions, and listening internally to more than just egotistical desire. He taught me how my own angry outbursts--at other drivers, at recalcitrant objects, at hysterically barking dogs--affected the energy of the beings around me. He taught me that one can deeply love something that one has a lot of issues with. He taught me that pretty much everyone has redeeming features. He taught me that all I can do is live to the best of my own abilities.

That dog was a huge benefactor, and we were lucky to have him in our lives. And now, guilt assuaged, I can mourn cleanly the loss of his chin on my knee as I play the piano; the loss of his glossy, silky coat and his chinchilla-soft ears (oh, to pet those ears again! My palms ache!); the loss of my comforter in times of sadness (Spackle comforts by staying calm and collected on his bed; Hoover comforted by resting his head on my body somewhere); the enthusiastic—frequently too enthusiastic (the roof of my mouth DID NOT need to be cleaned by a dog tongue)—kisses; the clarity of his desires: to RUN! to CHASE! to CHEW! to EAT!

Hoover, as Ian says, was a bit like James Dean—beautiful, troubled, talented, loved—and he went out like a bottle rocket.



  1. I loved how he'd howl at ambulance sirens. Such a looooong, deeeeeep hooooowl. Like he was just singing along and enjoying the product of his vocal cords.

  2. Beautiful tribute to a beautiful dog! We think if he had been human, he would have been riding a harley, full speed and loving it! Hang in there! Hugs, Mary and Carl

  3. Oh, I know, he was a champion howler. He made a perfect little "o" with his pursed lips. And such a surprisingly deep voice! Spackle is definitely a tenor howler himself.

  4. I´m in tears. You put into beautiful and true words what animals can teach us. I recently lost my cat who was brave enough to spend his entire 16 years long life with me. I miss him so much. And I sign what you wrote.