May 9, 2007 - Wed @ 1007
I found her at animal rescue, November 26, 1996, and for nearly eleven years she stood as my friend and constant
I had not planned to adopt an animal...I was taking a break after a hard workout, and decided to stop by the dog pound en route to home.
On first acquaintance, she was alone in her cage, long black hair, curled and filthy, patently staring at me...motionless. I passed her by, a soiled and unkempt creature.
Though I was not intending to get an animal that day, I stopped, turned about and returned to look again ... still
motionless, sitting centered in the cage staring at me. I bent down and before I could hear my own words, asked, "Would you like to come home with me."
No movement, no reaction.
I stood, left, walked around the facility then returned once
again. She remained perfectly still, quiet amidst the sea of barking chaos, turmoil, anxiety and the odious aroma typical of rescue facilities. Though I couldn't understand why, I felt
compelled to put a deposit down. All I could think of was if I didn't act quickly, someone else would adopt her...no sooner thought than I became fearful somebody might already be
doing so, grabbed a tech...and thank the gods was able to place a hold.
She was on hold for the time being...at least I had stopped the clock and could think before making a final commitment.
My wife and I had previously raised two dogs together. The shep/lab combo, and the poodle lived full lives with
us, and only passed with the debilitation of old age. It was over 15 years, and the final stages presented so many challenges, we both agreed there would be no more animals.
I returned home and mentioned I had seen a dog at animal rescue. My wife reminded, "No more dogs!"
I agreed...well I mean I agreed that she and I had agreed there would be no more animals...we went through the
whole drill, discussing Nickie (the shep/lab combo) and Poochie (the poodle), and relived, at least in our words, their final years of deterioration, soiling, odor, etc., etc.
I apologized, said I couldn't explain it, then suggested, "Look, there's still time. Just ride to the pound with me and look at the animal. Talk me back to my senses."
And so we did. Into the car, off to the rescue facility, into the kennels, and directly to the cage.
The animal was still sitting, centered in the kennel, still not having moved.
My wife looked at the soiled creature, "Is this the one you were talking about?" Too embarrassed to speak, I nodded in affirmation.
She dropped into a low stance, looked the animal in the eyes for several seconds, then turned to me, "You can have this one."
And that was that!
We paid the adoption fee, got the usual package with some instructions, a starter bag of dog food, a book of coupons, confirmation of vaccinations, and a license.
The attendant accompanied us to the aforementioned kennel. We had nothing with us, the attendant took one of the
facility provided slip-cord leashes, then entered the cage, and placed it around the still motionless neck.
For a moment I fretted, "Maybe she's not well?"
The attendant exited, put the free end of the leash into my hand, and the creature exploded out of her silo. The
attendant noted, "She's fine." I could barely contain her... all the emotion once held and sustained, released.
She drug me to the front desk for checkout, once done, we headed in tow to the car, whereupon she promptly took
my wife's seat in front. I looked to her and said, "If we're going to get along, you'll have to sit in the back." She
read my lips and did just that, calming down instantly, jumping between the front seats onto the rear bench directly behind me, once again a perfect sculpture.
Home...multiple baths, fleas abounding, excitement everywhere. My now deceased mother was living with us, as well as my two daughters. My son worked in San Francisco. Thanksgiving had just passed, but when we all got
together for Christmas, it was going to be a special holiday season. The dog was ostensibly for my kids (and also, in part, for my ailing mother), but that's not how it turned out.
Around the dinner table, everyone picked names...I looked down at her, and said "Misty", I was thinking of the
Jazz tune playing on the radio. Her ears perked, as though she recognized the name. Everyone tried their own
choices, but only "Misty" drew response. Before desert was served, all agreed on the dog's (and my) choice of name. She became Misty thereafter.
She never had to be housebroken, she loved our home from the first, and after a bit of exploration, quickly
established her routines for feeding, evacuating etc. Not long after she moved in, we took her to a groomer, still
not knowing for certain what kind of dog she was. Hidden behind the unkempt and straggly mane, she looked to
be a cross between a poodle and an undersized lab. We told the groomer, "Just cut it short." The groomer studied the animal, then suggested that "A cocker cut might look good on her."
"Fine by me," I answered.
We returned to find that Misty had somehow been transformed into a cocker spaniel, strikingly handsome in
every respect. Even the groomer was impressed, noting how lucky we were to have what was nothing less than a perfect cocker spaniel.
From the first, she was attentive to our every nuance, every command, every gesture. Anything we did, she would clearly work to
understand, so as to get it right the first time, which of course she usually did. In a typical exchange, her brow would furl, her head might tilt, and she would carefully scrutinize your
entire person until the message crossed over. By the end of the first year, she had a command vocabulary of nearly 100 words, and for all practical purposes, she and I talked
to each other, with thoughts, glances, motions, sounds, all amazingly three dimensional.
She had many remarkable talents, most
dazzling was her sense of smell and her determination in finding hidden objects. Before long I was taking her to
open fields, having her sit while I hid a recognized object, or toy (usually a tennis ball) somewhere in the surrounds. Depending on how much time we had, I could set it anywhere, even cover or bury it. When told to get
it, she would sprint away enthusiastically, instinctively moving down wind and sniffing for traces of identifiable
scent, then maneuvering wide arcs or even circles as she zeroed in. In all our years, she rarely failed to locate the prize.
Though somewhat stocky, (Cocker Spaniels are what they are), she nevertheless loved to run, and had
commendable endurance. She was not so fond of running with other dogs, most were faster than she and she took no joy in measuring herself against others. Intelligence, not speed, was her great endowment.
Running with me was a different matter entirely.
Though I'm older now, and somewhat wearing down myself, in those days, I typically ran 5 miles a day. In the
beginning, she reveled in joining me for the runs, just as she did the multiple alpine climbs to Mount Si, Goat
Creek Wilderness, Olympic National Forest, Rainbow falls, and Little Si. Whether in the heat of summer, cool of fall and spring, or the harshness of winter, nothing dulled her interest and determination.
I was 47 that first year we came together. During the decade which followed, my own body aged and deteriorated. I understand she was two when she came to us. In many ways, a man's body between ages 47 and
60 changes dramatically, not unlike the way a dog might age over the course of its limited lifespan. We think of 1
human year equals 7 dog years. I propose to you the ratio is much tighter if the human starts at 47. As each year
drew to a close, I could see we had both aged, both become more gray, both, a step slower ... for each of us the easy things were becoming hard, the hearing lessened, vision became more challenging. Eventually her aging
overcame my own, and it was then I came to realize we would not always share the surface world. She could no
longer do the extended runs that were once our norm. Rather than circling the track, she began to cut diagonals,
then waited for my approach on the opposite corner. Within several years, I too had to abandon the extended runs, the lower back and knees could no longer tolerate the pounding. Though aging, she continued to relish
climbing, and our ongoing excursions into the high alpine continued. Without letting her know, I began to scale back the intensity and height of our ascents, possibly for my sake as much as hers.
This we shared until her final year, when at the end of
excursions, I had to carry her the final steps to the car.
It wasn't long though before my own stamina diminished further (with age), and I shared in what she had lost of
those things she, or should I say we, enjoyed. Toward the end, we spent most of our time with me playing guitar, and her lazing at my feet, absorbed.
Except for her, no one ever listened to my music, nor
understood how important it was to me they do so.
For the 11 years culminating in 2007, we were inseparable. We shared food, walks, rainstorms, blizzards, health,
illness, drives, climbs, swims, runs, surgeries, holidays, joys, and tragedies.
She was never boarded, always at home.
There were the occasional crises, a ligament reconstruction on her left hind leg, a frightening tumor (safely removed) from her underbody.
In 2006-7, though she slowed dramatically, her enthusiasm never diminished, nor did her love of life, or her
complete fulfillment in being a member of our family, and my companion.
During those 11 years, I had my share of troubles, setbacks and even downfalls.
Only one thing remained certain. No matter how heavy the weight of life, I knew she was somewhere waiting for
me, patiently holding her love until my return. She was a constant source of unremitting, unfathomable loyalty ... which would shower upon me whenever I crossed the threshold.
In our years together, I don't recall her ever showing anger, pettiness or jealousy, she was confident in her devoted role.
For me, she is the great master from whom I learned patience, compassion, diligence, loyalty, discipline, love, devotion, selflessness, determination, humility, trust and hope.
These are the core attributes of humanity, all too easily lost when we succumb to the strictures of modern life.
It is for that reason this website is dedicated to her, a
beacon in the darkness, reminding us of who we are and what we have the potential to be.
After several years of living with this remarkable creature, I
would sometimes pick her up and stare into her eyes, almost getting lost in what I could swear were reflections of swirling constellations in the Milky Way.
Pulling back, I would resist the temptation to ask "Are you there, Shiva?" Almost expecting a deity to reach out and say, "Shucks, ya got me....what gave it away?"
Alas, Shiva or no Shiva, whoever this eternal creature proves to be, she was mine only in the sense of a material
manifestation, and with that, subject to the rules of this creation, that entropy increases over time, that with age all things come undone from the inside out, whether living creatures, or simply fruit on the vine.
This was so with my beloved companion. In 2007 she slowed very considerably. We maintained the normal
activities of life, the walks, even some climbs, and though she lost her senses of smell and hearing, she still liked
to sit where I played guitar, if only to feel the vibration; and though the complexity of searches diminished she
still enjoyed looking for hidden treasures, now mostly treats, albeit, I would occasionally have to drop hints to help her along.
On Friday May 4, 2007 I found some very significant lumps had formed in her throat, we got into the Vet
immediately. It was clear that after her tumor removal, there had been an onset of cancer, which was now running throughout her system.
Her time was short, really no treatment would help, the only question was whether we would euthanize.
The final days contain stories of incontinence, soiling and diminishment of faculties.
Saturday, fern picking, we were in the wilderness harvesting "fiddleheads", young ferns which we dry and eat
throughout the year. It was a perfect day, warm, with a breeze. Though her gait was labored, Misty would sit as
we picked, lifting her head into the wind. Her ears lifted like wings. It was her way of savoring the moment. As we moved from spot to spot, she walked maybe 50 yards, then had to rest. I carried her frequently that day.
I knew this might well be our last excursion together.
Returning home, grief struck my heart, which to this day remains flooded by the shadow of her absence, though I
carefully mask it from the scrutiny of others.
Saturday evening, photos during our evening walk, she couldn't complete even a portion of what had been our
normal walk. I carried her part way, and could see she was enjoying it. The day remained spectacular, warm, comforting, with a light breeze, perhaps resurrecting memories of better places.
Sunday, I decided to video our evening stroll. Not long after leaving the car, she
stopped and could go no further. She sat and waited. I filmed, she rolled about, absorbing the scent of spring grass.
Until then there had not been overt suffering. With continued deterioration
throughout Sunday, by Monday, her breathing was labored and she slept most of the day.
Monday, our final walk. I carried her the whole time.
Another tough evening, her body temperature elevated considerable, difficulty for all of us trying to sleep.
Tuesday. Called the Vet to euthanize, the sooner the better. I had hoped she would be able to pass at home, but
Monday evening the suffering was evident. I feared I had waited too long. I told my wife I had made the decision, I would not allow my friend to suffer further. What was I thinking? Why had I delayed?
We couldn't get her in until Wednesday morning.
Neighbor Jim took final photos of me and her.
Wednesday early morning, 2:00 am, a strange scraping sound woke me. I found her crawling to our front door to
go to the bathroom outside, rather than soil the inside and displease us. I lifted her and took her into the evening
darkness, she could not stand on her own, I held her upright as she went, she was looking over her shoulder into
my eyes. I affirmed, "You are the best, Misty, even now, in the midst of all this, you didn't let us down." I washed her thoroughly, then returned her inside.
Wednesday morning, a brief video of her resting on a blanket, ... then off to the Vet to be euthanized.
Misty passed on her own as they were prepping the IV.
I was there when she passed, benefitting from one final lesson. Even in her death moments, Misty was the most
beautiful creature I had ever known. I held her gaze until I knew she could no longer see me, our final moment of
farewell. In seconds, the beautiful spirit within the shell had left. What moments before was radiant and full of
infinite devotion, was empty, no different than roadkill. I knew she had departed. And I also knew from the
emptiness of what remained that in every life there is a glimpse of the divine, appreciated fully (for most) only when it has left.
So like "Wind in His Hair" in the closing moments of
Dances with Wolves, I proclaim from my unworthy pedestal:
"This site is dedicated to my beloved friend, and teacher.
I holler for the world to look here and see that Bill Mc Cabe cries to the far horizon that Misty is my friend and
companion, and that Misty will always be with me ... and for all who know us, henceforth, Bill and Misty are one word, in one breath."
Somewhere, on the other side of creation, an elfin spirit sits on the edge of the crescent moon. Patiently waiting.