Kineo, our ancient beagle boy, passed on to new adventures a few days ago. He died on my birthday.
Your dog dying on your birthday sounds like the saddest blues song ever. And it was. But there were gifts in it, too. Between my tears, squeezed out from heartache, I am able to acknowledge the timing, the lessons about beginnings that eventually must turn to endings, and back to new beginnings. I am accepting Kineo’s gift.
Kineo was the first and last thing I “did” each morning and every night. “Thank you for being my dog again today, and for being the best dog ever,” I’d say, wrapping him in a velvety hug. Then I’d regale him with an ever growing litany of noble titles before going to get my coffee or going off to bed. You’re welcome, he’d snuffle, his big brown eyes pouring the depths of his love right back at me. And he’d keep on keeping on—for days, weeks, years beyond what a seasoned beagle owner in her right mind (or any dog owner) could reasonably expect. He was two months shy of turning sixteen.
It almost got to be a joke, how he’d keep needing his annual shots, his celebratory cans of Ol’ Roy gravy dinner, and another five-pounder box of biscuits. I’d mark the calendar for his birthdays, then his half-birthday and, finally, his three-quarters birthday just before Mother’s Day. I’d do the dog-to-human years calculations thinking nobody must have told him he was pushing a hundred and twelve. Until there was no more fooling Mother Nature.
In the end, Kineo gave me the gift of one more boat ride, of watching his ears flap softly in the breeze as his nose tried to hoover out every last early summer scent coming off the lake. He devoted all of his days to making the best of mine, of ours. He shared the wonder of living every moment close to the earth, far from worry. And the grace of going peacefully, gratefully, when the time was right. He came to us a dark, stocky little puppy, ready to live up to his rugged Maine mountain name, and left a wizened, lumpy old hound happy to just waddle around after us and sleep in the sun.
On the afternoon of my birthday, Kineo listened mostly with his heart as I smiled through my tears, kissed his old grey head, and whispered one more time. “Thank you for being my dog again today, and the best dog ever. My Lord Bemis camp beagle, ruler of the afghan realm, the far rug regions, the tall pillow plateaus, the deep, dark blanket bayous, the vast, uncharted forest floors, and all the known couch counties. For being my sultan of the Subaru, titan of the Toyota, baron of the biscuits, guardian of the garden, and prince of the porch piddles. For living in regal beagle splendor all of your days, until this last day, Mumma’s birthday, the twenty-seventh day of May in your sixteenth year Atta Doggonie.”
And then we closed the circle.