I had planned on celebrating my Leonberger girl Ammulett’s 10th birthday in this blog, but she did not give me the chance. Instead, she crossed over just nine days shy, in peaceful bliss while I was out on an errand. The ‘when’ was her choice, as it always is. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer six weeks earlier, but we had time, pain had not yet stolen the light from her eyes nor dulled her enthusiasm for a walk. She was on the first tier of pain meds, so we had time. At least that is what I thought. I turned a blind eye to the signs she was giving me…the heart wants what the heart wants…and I wanted her forever.
The bond we have with our animal companions is truly astonishing. Deep and rich and uniquely individual, they have a heart born to be with only one other. Sometimes it takes a while to find their true guardians, they may make stops along the way but they always end up with the one heart that beats in unison with theirs. Forever entwined, forever connected.
So it is with my Ammulett. I could speak of her being exceptional, of a love so deep it frequently brought tears to my eyes when I looked at her, which was occasionally embarrassing, of the consuming grief that has temporarily sucked the will and joy from my life…they are familiar to all of us. We have each, at some point, been where I now stand. For me to think my pain is greater than yours is ridiculous and disrespectful. Instead, when I speak of Ammulett, remember your love for the one who has gone before you, for they are each dear to us, each born to be only ours and the gifts they bring are only for the heart they chose to be with. They are all different, but the love and loss we feel is the same.
Ammulett drew her first breath in my hand and when she did, I knew she was mine. I did not look further at siblings, structure or temperament, it was irrelevant. The heart wants what the heart wants. In her ten years we had many adventures. When she was a baby it was all joy, in her adolescence she was a trial many times. She enjoyed a game called the ‘woof game’ where she would be walking down the sidewalk with me and if she saw somebody coming towards us she gave a little bear hop and woofed, which sent the stranger dashing for safety across the street. She never could figure out why I didn’t like that game. Maturity brought the comfort and peace of knowing each other so well words were not necessary. She and I were fortunate to have gone to Europe, to have shown at Leonberg with some dear friends who took us in for several months as we waited for Ammulett to come into heat and did a fine breeding by the fjords of Norway. That was my favorite time with her because it was just she and I. It was her favorite also. She gave me five beautiful daughters, two of which lived with her for the remainder of her life. She had a spinal cord stroke at seven years and for two weeks she was completely paralyzed in her hindquarters. Luckily, she regained most of it back. But she stumbled around a good bit then and no longer knew when she had to pooh so every morning it was a bit like walking through a mine field. Again, irrelevant. As she grew older she needed help to get up, if she turned too fast she would fall over and I would quickly assist her. It got to where, no matter where I was in the house, I could feel her struggle to get up and shout, ‘Mama’s coming!’ When I got there she would just be smiling at me, patiently waiting for a helping hand. No words necessary. Old age quietly turned a strong body into something frailer, she got cold easily, her hearing diminished, her face grey and thin…but every time I looked at her I saw her beautiful prime self, strong, limber, perfect with a spirit so bright, it still brought tears to my eyes.
And then our time was over. On November 6, 2013 her lovely heart stopped.
I have no regrets, no ‘I should haves’. Since the day she was born I kissed her every time I left her. I told her I loved her with every parting and in between. She knows she was completely and deeply loved, greatly missed and she had made her leaving almost impossible to recover from.
I will of course. Just as we all must, as we all have done. We learn to tolerate the pain, the loss. Maybe I do have a regret; it is the same as yours. The time together was too short. We want to hold them forever. Our logical mind knows that cannot be…but you also cannot argue with the heart. It wants what it wants, and logic has little to do with it.