This I Believe

Elena - Missoula, Montana
Entered on March 22, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe that the truest love can be found in a non-human companion…

I lay on the floor next to Taina for what was probably going to be one of the last times we would be together. We had just gotten back from the drug store, where we had to buy more incontinence pads. This time, she could hardly make it back into the house. Her front legs were now giving out from under her.

During Thanksgiving, a few months earlier, Taina was stricken with paralysis caused by a spinal tumor, years of arthritis, and polyradiculitis, all concomitantly. She would no longer be able to use the hind-legs that had allowed her to run, jump on the bed, and chase flying popcorn in the air. The prognosis wasn’t good.

But she had made it through the paralysis of her back legs – accepted her situation, adapted… scooted around with her front legs as if she’d never had back legs to begin with. And when she didn’t want to scoot anymore, she’d whine and bark at me so I could carry her back end for her. True love…

As she was now losing all mobility, I made her a comfortable area in the living room of my new house. The house was carpeted, and the carpet, as well as multiple towels and sheets, was now saturated with dog urine. That didn’t matter to me. Love…

It’s now been almost 14 years. I adopted Taina as an adult dog with broken and ill-repaired legs. The shelter told me she’d have a hard time getting adopted, and that it seemed like she and I bonded. I agreed.

I never had many commitments during my life. I’ve had multiple long-and-short-term boyfriends. Friends and family have come and gone. I’ve had numerous jobs, several career paths, and countless apartments, houses, and lodging-permutations somewhere in-between in multiple states throughout the last 14 years. But, there was always one constant – one companion by my side, protecting, licking, accompanying, tolerating, and sometimes annoying me, but… loving me through it all.

Taina had sparkling brown eyes that shined with life and fortitude unlike any other. Her spirit was always evident in her constant, if not overly so, need to protect me. She was certainly the “alpha” in our household, and I never argued with that. Unfortunately, Taina also sometimes felt the need to sink her jaws into others. I’ve often feared that her occasional aggressive behavior would get us into too much trouble one day and that she’d have to be taken away from me or that I’d have to give her away. But I never did. Through anything…

As I lay on the floor next to Taina, heads resting side-by-side on the pillow, her eyes remained fixed on mine. I covered us with blankets. Despite Taina’s condition, much worse than mine, she found the strength to lick my salty face and tears dry as I grasped her neck and failing body. She weakly raised her paw so that I could pet her chest. “Sleep don’t weep” played from my computer and in my head…. Taina passed away a few days later.

Over the following days and weeks, I wondered if Taina’s spirit was out there somewhere, everywhere… I envisioned her struggling body on the last day as she looked at me with sunken eyes, knowing she was leaving me. And then, a peculiar realization came over me… Through all of my years of being terrified of death and what it meant to vanish, I finally felt a kind of peace… I finally knew that it was okay – that death does come. I believe that that realization comes – that death can be okay – when one has experienced the greatest gift of life, in the truest kind of love. I believe that my truest love was found in my only constant, my non-human companion.