Today, an angel collected her wings, and went home, to her sister.
Death smarts. Death stings, and it cuts, and it rips out your heart and stomps all over it, and then it punches you in the gut, and winds you, leaving you gasping for breath, and asking “Why?”
When death is sudden, it is both cruel and kind – sudden death spares you the drawn-out pain of watching a loved one suffer, wither and fade; the shock of sudden death is almost too much to bear.
When death takes its time, it is both cruel and kind – slow death gives you time to prepare, to say your goodbyes, and to deal with the process; watching the pain and suffering of a slow death is almost too much to bear.
Clelland and Nanette brought home two gorgeous Dalmation pups, early in 2002. Pure breed, delicate and all the more beautiful for it, they were given very long names, to show their breeding, but we all got to know them as excitable, cute and bubbly Domino, and elegant, genteel and regal Chess. Their delicious cuteness is the stuff of Hallmark cards and epic Disney movies.
Of course, each had their own personality. Excitable, cute and bubbly Domino – or Dommy, for short, who was the naughty one, always with her petite wet nose where it didn’t belong, and soon, it seemed that her name wasn’t Domino, but Dommy! No! – an admonishing cry her mums let rip with regular and loving familiarity. Chess was the calmer one, as if this wagging and barking and kow-towing to humans was totally beneath her, which it was. Two things would get Chess going, and two things only: food, and bubbles. Utter the work “Cooky!” and Chess’ pale blue eyes would light up like fireworks at Christmas, and take the soap bubble bottle off the fridge while in her sight, and she’d make the already beside-herself-with-joy Dommy seem almost lethargic, in comparison. The two of them also developed this little quirk, when it was time to eat: they’d sit still as statues, waiting for their bowls – placed on opposite sides of the kitchen – to be filled, and then, on the the word “Eat!” they’d wolf down exactly half a bowl each, and then following Dommy’s boisterous, barking cue, they’d race to each other’s bowls, barking as they went. It never failed to amuse, beguile and amaze, this playing with their food.
Over the years, the girls – for that’s how we came to speak of them – soon became famous. Everyone at Clelland and Nanette’s work, and all their friends and family talked about them, raved about them and loved them just as much as if they were their own, and the girls were showered with gifts and love and stories and love and more love, with love on the side. Unlike human children though, they never became spoiled brats. They were always just so happy to see you at the end of the day (I know – I house-sat many times, and loved looking after these two ladies – er…that’s Chess and Dommy, Clell and Nanette are quite capable of looking after themselves!) as if they were still those bright-eyed new pups when they were first brought home. But they also knew the rules, and only a word – usually “No!” or their names, said curt and loud, would stay any wayward behaviour (because let’s face it – dogs will be dogs, even when they’re princesses like these two!) They were so like stars in the movies of their own lives, it was only right that they were soon nicknamed Droolie Andrews, and Chess-ica Fetcher.
As with many pure breeds, the girls had their share of genetic failings (in humans these present themselves as such disasters as Prince Charles’ receding chin, and the potato faces of the Spanish royal family!) and had to weather such tribulations as special diets, and cancer. An epic operation on Dommy’s leg saw to it that there were trips to an animal physio, which included doggy aquarobics. This was how the girls gave me a gift – I am now lucky enough to recount the tale of when I worked for Clelland, and having to, as I often describe it “pick up my boss’ Dalmation, from their home in Sandton, in their Land Rover, and dash off to physio and K9 aquarobics, twice a week. These are the pleasures of my working life. It’s very Devil Wears Prada, only without Meryl Streep’s snide comments, doncherknow…” Dommy bravely beat that affliction, though she was never allowed to jump up, or climb stairs again. She still tackled life with as much vigour, and laughter and smiles as that little pup, brought home in 2002.
In 2011, Dommy’s candle burned out, and the world was a much quieter and forlorn place because of it. Still, there were the memories of that joyful, happy little girl chasing bubbles in the sunshine, and barking for her sister, Chess, to swap food bowls with her. Chess bore the solitude in the quiet, dignified manner that she’d become known for. Her heart was always brimming with love for all those who she met, and she doled the love out with a still and reserved grace that always quieted the person she was loving, at the time. But you got the feeling Chess was merely biding her time, and in December 2012, cancer came and found her, too. It took just a few weeks to do its business, and on 1 January, 2013, Chess collected her angle wings, and went home to Dommy.
Doggy Heaven is alive tonight, with the happy sounds of Dommy welcoming her sister home, and no doubt endless fun chasing heavenly bubbles from bubble-shaped cloud to bubble-shaped cloud will follow.
Chess and Domino, we were the lucky ones, to share 11 of our human years with you. Thank you for teaching us all about love, and laughter, and grace, and beauty, and poise, and fun. And bubbles!
© Dave Luis 2012. All Rights Reserved.