Thursday, May 28, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Mabel

"For, nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of the nymphs, is overspread with melancholy today. Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. To a man laboring under calamity, the heat of his own fire hath sadness in it. Then, there is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by him who has just lost by death a dear friend. The sky is less grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population." 
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

We said goodbye to an old, dear friend yesterday, the day it rained in Kiambu.  She was 50% Corgi, 50% Beagle, and 100% "I don't give a damn because I know I'm so fabulous."  We adopted her in Nashville in 2002.  She would have been 15 years old this August.  

She came with me to college and lived with me on and off while I was in Austin.  Since I knew I'd be leaving the country, my brother took her to my mom's house in Denver back in January.  I knew I probably wouldn't see her again since we all agreed that we'd put her down before she developed any serious medical issues, but I had no idea saying goodbye to her would be this hard.  Maybe I'm using her as an excuse to finally cry and grieve over everyone and everything I've loved and said goodbye to in the past two weeks.  Maybe I'm in denial that she was that old.  Maybe it's just because she's been a huge source of love and comfort in my life for the past 13 years, and she won't be there when I come home.

Enough about me, she would have hated hearing about my feelings (booooring!).  Let's talk about her.

She was smart.  When we adopted her, she came pre-programmed with the standard "Sit. Stay. Come. Don't pee in the house."  So I taught her how to roll over.  And then I taught her how to die a dramatic death on her back when I formed my fingers into a gun and pointed them at her and said "BANG!"  She really was quite dramatic about it.  Not because she grasped the existential meaning of being shot and facing her final moments, but because she never wanted to do the trick yet still felt obligated to comply.  She looked pathetic.

When she was a bit older, I taught her how to bark on command.  I highly recommend teaching this to your dog because as they reach their senior years, they automatically sneeze a few times before they can let out a bark.  I tried to teach her to catch a frisbee by smearing peanut butter on the inside rim and then throwing it to her, but she would just close her eyes and wince, bracing herself for the impact of the frisbee (not that it was anywhere near her), wait for it to land, and then trot over to it and lick all the peanut butter off.  I don't think Corgi legs are very conducive to frisbee-catching; I might have been asking too much on that one.

She was more popular in our student organization than me.  I'd let her loose in the building when I arrived for meetings and would lose track of her for a few hours while she wandered into different rooms full of people.  During our all-member meetings, she somehow knew to sit still and pay attention.  She'd pick an empty chair next to someone and hop up and sit for a while, until the thought of licking the kitchen floor became more interesting than the speaker.  One of my friends even found a dog sweater that matched our organization's jersey, and Mabel always wore it with pride.

She was the undergraduate social debutante I never was.  When I took her on walks around campus, people I had never seen before cheerfully greeted her by name.  She would deign to let them scratch her head for a few moments and would then trot on with her nose up in the air, not caring to explain anything to elevate my obvious confusion.  She had sleepovers at my friends' houses.  That I wasn't invited to.  She would sit in an auditorium chair next to me in the music school while we listened to friends rehearse.  When the music got too loud or scary, she would jump from her own seat onto my lap and resume her attentive listening.

She shed.  A LOT.  After college, my friend and I shared a room in an old house that had a window A/C unit.  At night, it would circulate the air around in such a way that if you sat up on your elbows in bed, you would get a face-full of dog hair within seconds.  Mabel also snored like a grown man.  But she also was great with kids.  In fact, she was great with all people; she'd go home and live happily ever after with anyone if she could.  One morning in college, I didn't keep a close enough eye on her and she wandered off.  A few minutes later, a large, burly, bearded man in a hoodie came stumbling sleepily towards my apartment.  He was cradling Mabel in his arms like a baby and Mabel was looking quite smug and satisfied with herself.  She sauntered back into my apartment without so much as a "thank you" to the nice man.

Here are a few of her other hobbies:

Playing in the Snow
Terrorizing snowmen
Pretending not to notice french fries
Long walks on the beach
Pink things
But she got tired.  Her face got gray, her eyes slowly became cloudy.  Stairs got harder, her hearing went, she slept more.  And it was time to say goodbye before she was in any more pain. 

Mabel, I hope you know how well-loved you were, and still are, by all of us.  I'm so glad we got thirteen wonderful years together.  The world, which had seemed at my fingertips just a week ago, seems a little less grand now that I know you're not in it anymore.

I'll miss you.  You were a very good dog.


  1. Well said old chum. That dog is prancing through fields of Mabel hair in puppy heaven #glorious #newadventure

  2. Just opened a letter that Caroline I. sent a gift in memory of Mabel to the place that helped us say good bye to her. Sweet. Very thoughtful, very comforting. Thank you from Joice Boice!!!!!