To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
to let it go.
– Mary Oliver, “In Blackwater Woods”
I stroke her soft ears, lean down and feel her breath on my cheek, bury my nose in her thick ruff. Her fur smells of mountains and wind and sunshine.
I will always remember the exhilaration of flying down the ski trails with her head between my knees, her paws skimming the snow, my eyes streaming tears from the wind.
I remember waking, terrified, from a rare nightmare filled with the presence of black faceless evil, my heart pounding, and hearing her gentle rhythmic breath beside me and knowing I was safe. I remember the first time I saw her, a three-month-old puppy in her foster home, just a few weeks after she was found in an abandoned house, hungry and scared. She trotted up to me, breathless from her rough play with her brother, Wuzzy, and leaned her small body against my shins. I was smitten.
Dora has trotted by my side for twelve years, through joy and heartbreak, sharing my tent, hiking through alpine tundra and desert canyons and coastal rainforests with me and her other beloved humans. We have loved the world together, held each other against our bones, knowing our lives depended on each other.
In four days, we will say our final goodbye. The appointment is made. Her last sniff will be of my scent. I’ll put my hand on her heart and feel its final beat.
Her ashes will be spread in the places we loved together … the spot on Whiskey Creek where she always insisted on a drink; the trees on Grasshopper Trail where she would plant herself, nose pointed upward, ever hopeful that the chattering squirrel would lose her grip; the ground under the willow trees in Riley Park where we lay on the cool grass to escape the summer heat and watched the cricket games; the waters of the Bow River where she came nose to nose with a beaver; the place on Meadow Mountain where she disappeared into the woods and came back with a mouthful of quills.
The time has come to let the mortal Dora go. Her joyful, inquisitive, adventurous spirit will remain with all of those who loved her.