Milo is a comfort-loving Beagle and is rarely found resting anywhere other than on a soft surface. A dog bed, an armchair if I’ve forgotten to cover it, a lap (best of all). Occasionally he’ll lie in a sunny spot on a rug, but generally only if there’s strong sunlight streaming in or a warm fire crackling nearby.
Last night I was on the couch reading and looked up to see Milo sitting quietly in front of me, patiently waiting for me to notice him. When he saw that I was looking, he met my eyes, then moved his to glance briefly at my lap, then back at my eyes. He repeated his silent request once more, then just held my gaze. I don’t know how anyone could resist such a sweet, clear, polite communication. I certainly can’t, and I smiled, which Milo correctly interpreted as an invitation to leap on my lap and curl up.
I hit my head hard a few days ago and have a concussion and thus have been on the couch most of the time. Sometimes lying with Milo on my chest, sometimes sitting with him on my lap, but mostly just by myself, because I can’t deal with much stimulation of any sort right now, even the slight movements of a warm, snuggly Beagle. I just woke up from a semi-nap and looked down to see my sweet Beagle Boy lying, curled in a tight ball, on the floor beside my head. Not a comfortable spot for him, not anywhere he ordinarily sleeps, but as close to me as he could be. Of course, that earned him another invitation to hop up.
These moments with Milo remind me of similar moments with past dogs. Willow’s eyes– dark brown eyes with black “eyeliner” around them, following me everywhere as I walked around the house. Willow would curl in a tight ball and rest his muzzle across his back, then watch me. I’ll always remember those sweet, dark eyes following my every movement. The last night of Willow’s life, when I knew I’d be taking him for his final trip to the vet the next morning, I slept on the couch and he slept curled up beside me, my hand resting on his back. We both just wanted the comfort of being close, I because I knew what was coming and Willow because his place, as always, was by my side.
I am also remembering Fleeber’s last day, which makes me think back on my years with her. She and I had over fifteen wonderful years together. Years packed full of adventure, learning, change, and connection. Fleeber accompanied me to college classes, ran miles beside my bike before dawn to get to my goat herding job in time for morning milkings (where she helped me herd the goats to the milking parlor), adjusted with me to Steve’s and my marriage, welcomed the children and, in many ways, we grew up together. Perhaps I’ll write another post just about Fleeber, because there is much to reminisce on and tell about her life.
During Fleeber’s last couple of days, she stopped eating and then seemed to sink into a coma. She was entirely unresponsive, but didn’t seem to be suffering in any way, so I kept her warm and comfortable and stayed close.
As Friday afternoon stretched on, Fleeber suddenly lifted her head, then pulled herself to her feet and headed for the door. Astonished, I carried her out to the grass, thinking she had awakened to relieve herself, but no, she headed with faltering but deliberate steps for my car, then collapsed by the door. Did she somehow know that soon we’d be heading out for the children’s soccer practices? We hadn’t even started to prepare, and I had been worrying about leaving Fleeber for that time, but she was clearly stating that she was going with us. I made a soft nest for her on the seat, then went in to help the children get ready.
While the children practiced soccer, I stroked my once more unresponsive dog, who now lay limply curled on the seat of my car. At one point I got out to stretch my legs and clear my head for a minute, then went back. I leaned in and Fleeber opened her eyes, searching till she met mine. As I gazed into my old dog’s familiar eyes, her pupils slowly expanded… then she was gone… a sweet good-bye, a moment I will always hold in my heart.