When I was 21, I stripped all of my beliefs and definitions down to their barest bones. I was a shattered reputation and a broken heart and lost somewhere between learning to trust my instincts and believing my instincts would always, only betray me. I was a blank slate, and facing a lonely and daunting future, and so I did what all sane humans do when they are craving love and companionship – I got a dog.
I got a dog. This is a eulogy.
I’m not sure what I believe about dogs and their souls and heaven, but I believe there is a well, or a current, of love that exists beyond what I understand. We touch it occasionally- the first moments after the birth of a child, meeting a stranger who seems so familiar, a glance across a room that speaks a thousand words in a few seconds time, the faces and voices that appear in our deepest dreams- I like to believe a good dog is something borrowed from that holy place. A bit of that perfect love given temporary limbs, that we might understand something new about what it means to love wholly, selflessly- that we may feel seen and held and cherished.
Caper was my safe place this side of heaven. Through the most unsteady, sleepless years of my life, he anchored me to something unmovable and holy and true. Where I was, he wanted to be, and whoever I became, he adored. The hundreds of nights I came home defeated to an empty room, empty apartment, lost-gone on wanting things I could never have, he greeted me tail wagging, caught tears, and slept by my side.
It sounds silly, but it simply is – Cape was the way I was loved, and he helped me rebuild.
He loved who I loved. He hated kids. He lived for table scraps and couch snuggles. He was the least dog-like dog I’ve ever known. He’d raise a cynical eyebrow across the room at you one minute and be huddled up in your lap the next. He made space for a toddler who climbed and tugged and adored him, because she was mine, and so his also. He waited in the living room every night, always, until I went in to bed. We were always the last two souls awake in this place. My nights feel still.
Caper died this week, his head in my hands as I whispered “You’re a good boy, buddy,” again and again and again. On that last ride to the vet, he lifted his tired head to rest it on my arm, and we drove as we’d driven for the last decade, and I rolled down the windows and sang him made up songs. He knew where we were going. I knew it was time.
I’d be wrong not to tell you that I feel a bit untethered – he was the keeper of all of my secrets, and now he is gone.
So I’m sad, friends. But here is what I believe about joy- open all the windows, and it comes in to find you. Unexpected doorstep offerings from lovely friends, sweet baby kisses, good food, long walks- joy finds its way through the cracks in the sidewalk, takes your sadness by the hand like an old lover and sits by silently, stirring up gratitude, settling your soul. Water and fire. The bread and the wine.
I will think of him having returned there, to that well beyond my understanding. I will think of that love now reborn in first smiles and deep kisses and soulmates and old friends. Because all things made of love are eternal, and isn’t that everything?
Goodbye, old friend.