Thursday, March 1, 2012

Life & Story: Dulce the Dog

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Have you ever had to deal with your pet/companion passing?

I have such a brilliant story to share with all my lovely readers. It is a story filled with so much love that your heart will expand just a bit and your eyes will well up with tears.  It is happy and sad and sweet and if you have ever dealt with the loss of a loyal companion, this story will ring in your heart and possibly help that spot in your heart to heal.

I asked my dear friend, Wendy Parr (an amazing vocal teacher in NYC and ps. she is the teacher of singer Regina Spektor), to share her story of losing her pup, Dulce, after 10 years of journeying together.  Please read their story, you will be glad you did.

I was born with a dog under my crib, watching guard over me. She would growl when my door opened until my mom said, "it's me" then she came out tail wagging. I learned to walk clinging to Sam's hair and hanging on as she led the way. One morning when I was about 5, I woke up to such noise, rubbing my eyes and wandering out of my room, saying "Teddyyy, moooove", until my morning sleepy eyes cleared and revealed the staircase was gone and there was nothing but Teddy, our sweet Old English Sheepdog barking and blocking my way, protecting me from falling to the floor below.  I have a long wonderful relationship with dogs. I spent my childhood and adolescence in their companionship, taking care of them as they took care of me.

When I was an adult and felt it was really time for me to have the friendship of a dog again, the first time since I lived at home, I went from Shelter to shelter wishing I had a farm so I could take them all home, but none was my companion. Having always had a sheepdog and knowing the Briard was the dog for me, I connected with half a dozen breeders. When I spoke with Kathy in Ohio I knew she was the one and she felt she had a great pup for me. It was a match, sight unseen. Dulce arrived at LAX cargo and when the crate door opened, Dulce ran straight to me and hugged me. Yep, stood up on her back legs, squeezing my thigh for that's as high as she reached at the time and hugged me, reaching up she kissed and kissed me. I was so happy and so surprised, she was already so big! Tall as my knees at 15 weeks. I barely slept the first week she arrived as I woke to check on her sleeping on her big doggie bed next to mine. On the second night she was laying on her back, all limbs splayed and I took a sigh, that's one happy dog, and I finally slept.

Dulce and I hung out together for ten amazing years. Ten years spending it all together. Dulce went everywhere with me. If you know me, you know Dulce. In fact, I met so many people because they all stopped to ask "what kind of dog is that?! " Dulce came to work everyday - hanging out in the music studio, making so many people happy. A few friends and clients overcame their fear of dogs because of Dulce. She traveled with me - California, New York, Argentina, Uruguay, Miami, Sarasota… we met thousands of people.  Dulce walked off leash for 10 years, first in LA, then Manhattan. Such an unusual dog, we were stopped all day long by strangers for photos, to say hello to D, to ask "what kind of dog is that". When three months old, my dad experienced this and said, "You're going to need a placard to answer all these questions". It was always fun meeting new people, she got lots of love and attention and brought so much joy to people. After 8 years it got to be so much, I started a blog and had business cards & T-shirts made.  I'd blog Dulce's adventures - since she went everywhere with me - I posted photos of her in local shops, going to gigs and so on. It was great to share music and cool stuff through her eyes. She's such a character and always happy to be photographed. Strangers took pix with her and I posted them in the photo gallery. One couple, Jim and Jessica stopped me in the street so excited because they had seen a dog just like Dulce uptown and fell in love with her. They showed me the photo and I said, "That's Dulce!  They were thrilled. Jim got Jessica a dulcethedog T-Shirt for her birthday which D personally delivered.  Dulce was asked to be in a music video and for a while the majority of the comments on YouTube were about her. She made friends everywhere.

We communicated without words… and with. She would surprise me with her brilliance, and let me say EVERYONE who ever met her said "That's not a dog, she's a person in a dog suit! because she really was the smartest dog I've ever known. Once I came home and she was happily chewing a bone on my wonderful Berber rug from Morocco. I said, "Oh Dulce I'm so glad you like your bone, but not on the good rug. You're supposed to eat that in the kitchen." She looked at me, picked up the bone and took it over to her bed where she continued to enjoy her big beef bone.

The last two years of her life, she was glued to my side. I'm sure she knew long before I did that she was sick. I knew she had kidney disease and we did everything to take care of her - changed her diet, acupuncture, chinese herbs and in the last few months doggie dialysis. In fact, when she passed, Babette told me that when she discovered the kidney problem, most dogs would have lived six months and Dulce lived for two years. We did good ;)    It was amazing to share ten years, ten years. So many experiences together! Two cities, four homes, three girlfriends, three teaching studios, countless walks, hundreds of pounds of meat, more yams than I can count, over a dozen flights, walks on six beaches, two continents and thousands of cuddles and kisses. She knew me best of all without words. If I cursed she got scared - couldn't stand to see me angry, if I said ouch, she came running to offer a kiss, every time I wrote a new song on the piano she grabbed a squeaky toy to play along… Dulce was magic.

One morning I looked at her and began to cry. "You're leaving soon", I just knew. Friends questioned it, because she was still vibrant as a puppy, but I knew. And for the next three months I felt her slowly getting weaker. She took one less walk a day and her walks got slower and shorter. I had to get a harness and help her up stairs. It was hard to experience and not be able to do more than I was to help her. It was also an incredible experience - we got closer than ever. She showed her love, her gratitude to me.  She asked for what she needed - putting her head on the bed with her brows slightly lifted, a little hummmph noise to get my attention. I'd get out of bed to lift her hind legs and help her on the bed where she'd remain 'til late the next day. Sometimes I could see her crying, her eyes so sad, sometimes filled with so much love and deep gratitude. She was softer. I'd been going to yoga 5/6 days a week for two years and in during these last three months she came with me a couple times. Usually, she would be happy to sit at a distance from me so long as she could see me, but at this point that wouldn't do. She got up and walked into the room, laying down beside me. She spent the whole hour and a half laying next to me. A couple times, kissing my arm while in down dog and she leading us all by laying on her back belly up in happiness into Shavasana.

I wondered, if I need to help her pass, how will I know? It was so clear. For the last three months she was weak, looked sick, then would be like a puppy, then weak again. Her last weekend she was dying. She basically stopped eating, couldn't even get her to eat her favorite treats. She wouldn't let me take her photo and I have thousands of photos, she poses. But that last weekend she kept looking away from me when I snapped a shot. We had upped her liquids and had an appointment with the vet for Monday to see how she was doing. Saturday night I felt her slipping away, I could smell the odor… she was dying. We were up all night - she was choking, we'd go outside and she ate grass for a half hour, drink water. Then we went back in for an hour or so, back out for grass… I cried a lot, felt so hopeless unable to do anything for her. I gave her my love. Saturday night was so hard on her, I didn't want her to go through another night like that. I made the appointment with Babette for Sunday evening to help Dulce go. We drove back early, Dulce laying in the back seat. I'd cuddle her, read and give her space, I took a nap with her. All the way letting her know, "just 5 hours til we're home and it's all over"…" just three more hours Dulce, it's okay" … such a bittersweet day. We got back to the city and walked home, Dulce was bouncy, so happy. I said, "It's our last walk through the Meat Packing District". I took all the luggage upstairs and offered D a last walk. We crossed the street and she laid down. I asked her if she wants a walk or to go home. She turned her head towards the house. She jumped up and we walked home. Upstairs she lay down, spent. Complete. I put everything away, nice music playing, set the house nicely and sat with her head in my lap. Our final conversation. The bell rang and Dulce jumped up greeting Babette with puppy enthusiasm, her tail wagging. She was happy and ready to go. I was weeping, uncontrollably weeping, telling Dulce how much I loved her, wishing her a safe and happy journey. How grateful I am for her… Babette asked, "Are you ready?"  As soon as I said yes, fireworks went off! Pride fireworks. I laughed, "Really?! You're going out to that? fanfare?" And I knew it was a celebration. It was all good. I asked aloud, "When will I know she's gone?"  and as I brushed her head I saw the light go out of her eyes and I knew, she was gone.

It was such a hard process, so hard to see her spirit gone. She was really just a caracas. It was also amazing to be a part of her full journey. Puppy to death. Years and years of sharing my life. Because everyone loves D and I had clients the next day - my big fear being having to tell everyone one by one, feeling it over and over again, I decided to make a post on facebook and Dulce's blog. I spent hours writing and crying so very deeply. In the pain, I realized some of what I was grieving was my own death. Dulce lives in me, in my molecules and she took some of me with her. She is forever alive in my heart, my body, my spirit. But grief, in addition to loss, it is our own death - both what is lost in the moment and the awareness of death we grieve. Writing her remembrance was incredibly helpful and healing. It got me sharing my love and gratitude for her. I spent Monday writing it and posting a memorial to her on her blog. And once I posted, the phone calls, texts, messages came pouring in and the tears came pouring out. It was beautiful to hear the love so many had for her.

At first it was awfully hard, especially seeing people who knew me, who knew her - it brought up all the sadness. And my first new student who came in I realized, wow you won't ever know Dulce. Everyone I meet from this day on will never know D. And that made it all the more real and surreal.  Other than that it is simply a new chapter. I don't miss her. So strange she is such a huge character, energy and when I traveled and she wasn't here I felt her absence, but with her death, my home felt light, clear, not missing anything. I saw her - laying at doorway, in white butterflies that flew around me for weeks after she left. I live on the fourth floor in Manhattan and butterflies were outside my window and out my kitchen window. My kitchen window! It's strickly city outside my kitchen window. My clients felt her greet them for the first couple weeks after she was gone. And I dreamed her. How lucky am I! We were walking again together. She came to tell me today was the day put her body to rest. I had her ashes and was flying to LA and planned to scatter them there. The night before I flew I dreamed her. We were walking and at each intersection she was laying dead and I realized, "Oh that's right, you're dead and I have to do something with your body. "Are you ready to be buried?" I asked her and she looked at me, smiled and nodded her head. I woke up feeling soooo lucky. And that day I got off the plane, drove straight to my old apt where she first lived with me and scattered her ashes under the three big trees where she used to play.

Dulce left to make room for a person in my life, ushering me into a new chapter of my life. Since she left my health has improved and my social life expanded exponentially. I believe she took things for me that have made me better. I have time I haven't had in ten years and new choices available to me. I can hang out at the club I belong to more. I have some freedoms that come with the loss. And I can see why people get a new dog immediately. There is a space, a relationship that is gone. I want the space right now. So I stop and give scratches and cuddles and kisses to dogs all day and get that canine creature love for a few minutes. And every once in a while someone who hasn't seen me in a long while asks about Dulce and I have to say, "I'm so sorry to tell you", knowing that they are going to be sad and shocked, "that she left us this summer". And I see the tears well up and the surprise upon their face as they say "No! I never thought it could happen, not Dulce."  Her best buddy Leon, the dog walker texted me just last week saying his heart is still broken missing D. My neighbor who's Old English, Toby, Dulce's dear buddy, who passed just two days after D just got a new friend, Gabby Tobias Wooleybottom and I am so happy for her. I can see how good it is for her that she has a new five month old furry friend.

As I write about D all the love I have comes up and tears and grief too. Sometimes I can lean over as if to snuggle her and all the love is there and her absence makes me sad. I have a wonderful children's book, The Magical Adventures of Dulce the Dog to write. It may be a few years until I do it, but I hope to commemorate her amazing personality forever through story and illustrations. Her blog is still up, don't know what I'll do with it, but I certainly can't take it down. And I have a shadowbox with her photo, leash, tags favorite toy and rubber ball waiting for me to put it together. I just haven't been able to get myself to do it just yet.

I hope Dulce will continue to visit my dreams and I imagine I'll see her again in another form. A connection like that isn't ever gone and since we all come back again and again, I feel sure I'll see her again and when I do, I'll know it's her and I'll call her my Dulce again.

~Wendy Parr

Some friends I love:

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