As I write, it was just 24 hours ago that I said goodbye to my sweet friend, Finnegan and the realization is coming down hard. My memories of him are so visual, so tactile. For a brief time, I was given charge of the care of this beautiful little creature, and at the end, he was wiser than me and taught me much more than I ever taught him. In his frailty, I am reminded of my own place in the circle of life. A most fleeting one, in fact. I am deeply aware of our relation to one another and to all living things.
I don’t want to, can’t let him go yet, and so I sit in my big red chair where I have spent many hours side by side with him. I close my eyes and remember brushing him, and try to count how many different kinds of hair he had – the coarse tail hairs that required extra effort, the small hairs on the front of his freckled legs that needed to be combed just as thoroughly as the curly brown patch on his ribs when he was blowing his coat, or the effort of getting to the undercoat of his ruff. It was always a dance to brush him – i had to judge how to balance the chin, which he liked, with the back of the legs, which he didn’t. It’s not the hair, though. It’s the fact of knowing every square inch of him that hits me now.
Such a little creature, even though he changed over the years, was a link for me of the rhythms of the seasons, or even the dramatic changing face of the land and the river at twelve hour intervals, and the wonder of how we witnessed that, each in our own way. I envied the depth of his knowledge of many languages I couldn’t even dream of, even if I didn’t really want to learn them all (butt for example, I never wanted to learn butt!). He was a constant presence when I was sick and he brought people to us – There were the people of the park who were so good to us that they organized teams to take him out twice a day for almost a year. He could stop traffic that dog, but more than that, he was gentle and stubborn, and a very good communicator. He would let guests know if they were sitting on his side of the futon, and he would bark at them to go home at 10 pm, almost without fail.
Finnegan spent the last couple of years with Mum back at home when he couldn’t be left alone during the day anymore. Until yesterday, she walked him about 6 times a day and at the age of 71 was still taking the lawn mower across the railroad tracks at the back of the garden to cut great swaths over the fields so he wouldn’t stumble or get disoriented and lose track of where she and his canine cousins, Jamika and Guinness were headed.
I am some distance away from Irish country life. It was a long time ago since I lived on an Ontario dairy farm. I spend more time in the car than I do sitting on a rock by the water, but Finnie brought me back to something unforgettable: We humans are not alone on this planet. We are not the most important living creatures. We are not the only ones who think, have emotions and desires or needs, can form relationships or create community. We are a part of something bigger and something much smaller. We can love and be loved with enormous capacity and can choose to live in right relation with other living creatures, or we can miss it completely. I am so very grateful to the Finnegan. So very grateful and I hope I will not forget what he taught me. If I can, I intend to keep his spirit close to me. Every breath. Every precious breath.