In Memory of Pooka*
October 22, 2000 - September 10, 2014
My dear little Pooka The Perfect Puppy! Okay, so I was a bit partial from the get-go; I'd been hearing about him from the breeder since the day he was born. I drove up from our home in Maine to just outside Quebec City – in December during a snow storm -- to adopt the wee fella at 8 weeks old and he’s been a dream dog! He was easy to raise, to housetrain, to teach, to love, to live with – he got along with everyone, didn’t bark too much, rode with me in the car absolutely everywhere while in Maine, greeted new people with enthusiasm, and was a pure joy that brightened every day. His Daddy said that Pooka was a Momma’s Boy and…okay, he was! He was completely adorable, and everyone loved meeting him.
|Day 1 with Pooka|
At feeding time, Pooka became a Wolverine! His vocalizations sounded absolutely vicious; thank goodness he was mostly talk! He had lots of nicknames, a few of which were "Pooka Peylay" (for the socker player), "Badger Dog" in reference to how he sounded when putting the other dogs in their places, "Pookadero", "Slug-a-bed" (for how he liked to sleep) and I often called him my little "Sweet Potato Pumpkin Pie Guy." And he regularly gave voice to the most wonderful “Woooooooowooooos!” you’ve ever heard! Later in life, he earned another nickname, Professor Grumble-butt, as he grew less tolerant of other dogs, even those in his own pack.
He was quite charming and made friends wherever we went. He loved going to the pet store so that he could say hello to everyone. When we were outside, he loved nothing better than to play with his multitude of balls -- from his soccer ball to his squeaky ball to his hard ball -- and if we removed those, he grabbed his frisbee. He would play tirelessly in the yard. He enjoyed jumping in and out of his wading pool in the heat of a Maine summer, during which season he picked up the temporary nickname "Mud Puppy."
When puppy Phoenix joined our pack in the autumn of 2006, Pooka was not a happy dog! Pooka was quite clear in his contempt for and jealousy of the goofy little upstart. So, while I doubt that Pooka ever really liked Phoenix, at least he became tolerant of the other Corgi. Of course, when it came to sharing his toys or bones, Pooka was still a ‘dog in the manger’ and that included all the other dogs (the Collies and the Greyhound), not only Phoenix. Thankfully, both Corgis abided by the rules so while they made a lot of noise (thus, they had the joint nickname of being The Badger Boys) trying to steal each other’s bones, we never had any injuries.
Pooka remained through all the years my little darling who slept at my feet while I was typing, hid behind my legs when he was nervous (not often as he matured), and gave the best, most dainty little doggie-kisses in the whole world for a dog his size.
Pooka also became a published character! When I wrote my children’s book ~ Rainbow Bubbles & Whirling Lights ~ I knew that I wanted animals for the ‘narrators’ and who better for one of those roles than my precious Pooka. And he did a fine job indeed!
Throughout nearly fourteen years, Pooka remained our perfect boy, although he struggled the last few years trying to maintain his status as alpha-dog up against the much younger Phoenix.
In January 2013, he suffered a sudden, dramatic splenic rupture that almost killed him. Thanks to Gaia’s Grace, natural healing modalities, and Pooka’s big heart and strong will, he recovered and behaved normally for about fourteen months. Then, he began losing rear-end mobility. We had agreed no more tests, so I’m not sure whether it was a complication from the mass in his spleen, or a spread of cancer from it, or the usual suspects of Degenerative Myelopathy or Hip Dysplasia … or all of these in some combination or other. During his last four months, we grew closer as his care intensified. Pooka and I were granted the gift of eighteen extra months together.
Then, I felt a shift in him, I saw a shadow in his eyes. It was time.
There is a powerful sadness I’m feeling … my little world a reflection of the huge loss of life in our biosphere. I am shrinking, trying to make myself, and thus my potential for loss and grief, smaller, more compact. I had no intention of getting another dog once Pooka was gone … and probably not until Phoenix would be nearing his transition time. And yet, this past April, I rescued Widget from the middle of a road and fell in love and he stayed with us; Widget with his twinkle-toes and magic jumping bean ways and winsome abundance of love. And I’m grateful he’s helping me through the process of losing Pooka.
Pooka held his own space with sheer will power and assertiveness; he held determination in high esteem and took life seriously, needing to control the chaos around him. And he enjoyed people far more than he did dogs, but he wasn’t a “lap dog.” He was a true companion on the trial of adventure that is everyday life. He was a competitor and was possessive, always up for an extended game of soccer or tug-o-war or chasing Frisbee, and was rarely the one to quit first though his tongue would be dragging the ground due to his short Corgi legs, a body perfected in the drop-and-roll technique, running flat out belly-to-the-ground, diving in low to push his advantage from below.
|A Decade Ago|
Pooka might lie for a few minutes upon a lap or next to a leg, allowing my fingers to sink into his plush fur and massage his tense muscles – always ready to spring into action. But in his stillness he was always ready to jump into a game or go into watch-dog mode … so he would move a short distance away in order to keep an eye on all movements in the vicinity.
These last few months, he’s spent more time in self-imposed seclusion in a dark, quiet corner – sleeping, not able to hear well or do his job “proper.” By that alone, I should have known he was ready to depart this world. Maybe I did – maybe it finally sank in.
What is this mystery of witnessing after-death breathing? Is it an illusion, a trick upon our vision? Or is the soul moving around the body, a free-floating energy now that the tether – the body – has stopped functioning and, therefore, containing it? I brushed Pooka’s coat one last time and thought I saw his chest expand. I cleaned away dirt and small stains and thought I felt his foot withdraw ever so slightly – he always did have sensitive toes. I glanced toward his body that could have just been sleeping (if I hadn’t been present during the injection) and thought I saw him sigh from belly all the way up to his head. Is it imagination, wishful thinking, the programming of all the years of presence, of being near while he slept? An illusion I projected once his body was utterly still and quiet, never to rise and give voice to a mighty “wooo-wooooh” again? The result of eighteen months of constant monitoring and care during illness? I would pause when he was too still, when he seemed to be sleeping, hoping to see his chest expand, please Gaia please a little more time, I would beseech.
The veterinarian who came to our home thought he would need a strong sedative dose, since his will was so strong as he struggled to greet the visitor and make sure that there was no danger. When Pooka rapidly relaxed after the initial sting of the needle, the vet said, surprised: “he must be more tired, more ready, than we thought.” I cried. She consoled. And I thanked Pooka over and over for the extra eighteen months he had blessed me with, as well as the love-filled, fully-lived fourteen years together.
|Nanny Morgan to Pooka|
I’m never sure how the remaining animals will respond to a loss; I’ve been surprised too often in the past to predict their reactions. Phoenix had missed Morgana when she was gone; he moped around a few days, then a week – after all, she had been his patient, playful K9 Nanny Extraordinaire (just as she had been Nanny to Pooka!). But Phoenix and Pooka had always had a butt-heads relationship. Nevertheless, as soon as Phoenix came into the living room – where Pooka’s body laid so that we could all express our “goodbyes” and take a couple hours to fully realize his soul had departed his body – Phoenix sniffed, barked, repeated, walked away and returned to bark again. And Phoenix has been sad and mopey since. Phoenix adjusts slowly to any absence in his pack apparently … as do I. Widget, the youngest and newest arrival, was only concerned about my tears and sniffling.
Both Phoenix and Widget cuddled close to me.
And I thought I saw Pooka sigh in relief that the other two will watch over me.
Small dog. Big loss. A large hole gapes open in our home and in my heart. I know it will heal as beautiful memories flood in to lift, seal, and rebuild the breach. It will heal from the love that surrounds me – from beloveds, from the gorgeous world that harbors amazement to hold and balance the grief with joy.
Pooka didn’t know how to do anything half-way (the Collies always seemed puzzled by this intensity); he had an all-or-nothing temperament, one that would ignore his body’s limitations to his own detriment. But he clearly didn’t see it that way. For Pooka, there was only ever one option: to give life everything he had, all at once, no holding back, nothing in reserve … and his vibrancy shown out of him until the last second, ignoring his body’s internal dysfunctions. At rest, his eyes were bright, his thick luxurious fur shimmering like the red-gold sun hid a lack of muscle-mass; at rest, one couldn’t see that his legs had to be dragged across the floor. A proud little dog determined to take care of “business” himself, not wanting me nearby while he was “busy” with elimination duties. These past couple weeks, though, he was often too tired to make it to the door and resigned himself to my carrying him as needed.
I sensed an internal physical shift this past week. And I knew that if I didn’t choose a time for home euthanasia, that he would suffer. I can’t say how I knew, I just did. And I also couldn’t bear the thought that this might occur while I was far away from home. I tried to decipher if this was my own fear or a true evaluation of the situation. When I would “talk” with Pooka and “listen” to him … it felt true.
I miss his presence, but he gave me an extra eighteen months and I’m deeply grateful. I believe he knew that losing him so suddenly – during the splenic rupture – was more than I could bear at that time. I’d already lost Khepra a year earlier in a sudden traumatic accident. I needed time to adjust. I’ve tried. And I’m grateful that Pooka was strong enough to give me the time I needed to come to terms with losing him. Though I'm not sure I did. Do we ever?
* Pooka (or Phooka, Pookha, Bookhas, etc. - various spellings) means "mischievous Welsh fairy" (or Irish goblin, but the Welsh fairy 'version' seems to definitely have a more pranksterish nature according to lore) and his registered name ~ will o’ the wisp ~ refers to a mysterious light often seen dancing in the distance.