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 companion.
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
In our years together, I don't recall her ever showing
anger, pettiness or jealousy, she was confident in her
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.