Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Edgo Levine: Eulogy for a Friend

Edgo was always smiling, and he had such a beautiful smile!

There are friends who come and go in your life, and then there are friends who leave their paw marks on your heart forever. Edgo was such a friend. We knew each other for many years. He was a sweet, energetic, protective Aussie who started with my children's other mother, but spent most of his life with my daughter and her family. He died on June 5, 2012, but lives on in great memories we all share of this wonderful dog.

My grandchildren saying goodbye to Edgo.

I first met Edgo as a puppy. He was full of energy and...fur! Edgo was the fuzziest, furriest dog I have ever known. I know Australian Shepherds are supposed to make great sheep dogs, but he actually resembled the sheep! He had the typical herding instincts as a puppy, nuzzling the children in the family, moving them from place to place, but he also had protective instincts that sometimes astounded me.

I have a rare form of arthritis that can sometimes be very severe. One afternoon, as I carried groceries into my daughters house from the car, my knees suddenly gave out from beneath me. The grocery sacks fell onto the counter, and I fell to the floor. Edgo ran into the kitchen and stood over my body, two legs on each side of my chest, his chin straight, eyes forward. I told him I was okay and he briefly lowered his head to lick me on the nose, then returned to his protective stance, waiting until my son-in-law found me and helped me up from the floor.

Edgo, always smiling!

When my daughter was pregnant with her oldest child, Edgo started sleeping beside her bed. This may not have been the best situation for my daughter as she was often kept awake by his scratching and snoring, but Edgo felt it was his job to protect her. No one instructed him to do this, but he knew something was different about my daughter. In his mind, he believed she was in a fragile state and needed to be protected, and that was his job. Night after night he followed her into the bedroom, curled up next to her side of the bed and stayed there until morning. From that time on, Edgo decided his place was by her side. During the day, he played with the children, followed my son-in-law around the yard as he did his chores, and cuddled with me when I stayed at their house for visits, but most of the time, he was by my daughter's side, protecting.

My granddaughter hugging Edgo.

Edgo was attacked by a large dog when he was a puppy and he did not get along with other dogs. He adored cats, and even played with them, but not dogs. It saddened me to think of the joy he could have had in his life if he had not been attacked as a puppy. With his energy and playful attitude, he would have made great friends at the dog park or a wonderful addition to a pack.

And oh my goodness did he have a playful attitude! Edgo loved to play with my grandchildren and watched over them as if they were his own children. He also loved to chase tennis balls. When I came for a visit, my grandchildren often put on plays or fashion shows and while I watched and took pictures I always had to keep one hand free to throw the ball to Edgo. He chased that ball for hours!

I still remember the first time I threw the ball and he didn't chase. Instead, he slowly walked over to my side and lay down at my feet. It was such a shock to me to recognize that he was growing old. In my mind, he was always a puppy. In my mind, he is still a puppy.

Edgo getting ready to crawl beneath the couch.

My daughter's home has a short set of stairs leading from the kitchen to the den. As he grew older, Edgo preferred to sleep in the living room beneath the lounger where it was cool, but if the kids and I got rowdy--and we always get rowdy--he would walk over to the top of the stairs to check on us. When I saw him looking down at us I stood at the bottom of the stairs and did my own version of the Temptation's song, "Papa was a Rolling Stone." I clapped my hands and rocked back and forth on my feet, singing, "Edgo was a rolling stone. Wherever he laid his paw was his home, and when he moved all he left us was a doggy bone..." As I sang my song, Edgo stepped from side to side, mimicking my movements, and howled as if he was singing. "Hey Momma!" I continued, and he hopped from foot to foot as if he was still a silly pup. "I heard Edgo was a dog of all trades! Chasing the tennis balls and begging to play! Momma I'm depending on you to tell us the truth!" I sang, and Edgo followed right along, rocking back and forth with that beautiful, captivating smile on his face.

When my grandchildren were younger, I often slept on the couch in the den so they could find me if they woke up in the middle of the night, even though my son-in-law built a bedroom for me in their home. Edgo liked to fall asleep by my side. Eventually, of course, he would trot up the stairs to check on my daughter and finish the evening snoring away beside her bed, but he liked to fall asleep by me, I think because he liked the never-ending petting that I'd grown used to having two labs--I have so many animals now that I often wake up in the middle of the night and find my hand moving on its own, petting whatever animal has crawled up onto my chest.

I am also a certified Reiki therapist and Edgo was a Reiki hound! He loved Reiki! If I sat down on the floor he ran to my side, roll onto his back and waited for the energy. If I had a child in my arms, he stayed on his back. He was patient. He would wait for his turn. If I scratched his belly or rubbed his head, he was fine with that, too, but what he really loved was Reiki. I did this often in his older years. We had something in common--arthritis--and I knew it helped him feel better. Most of the time, it put him to sleep, and he always slept with that sweet smile on his face.

That sweet Edgo smile!

Oh yes, dogs do smile. Edgo smiled often, especially when he was playing with the children. He also gave hugs. When I came into the house, he would run to my side then roll around on the floor waiting for his hug. I got down on my knees and wrapped my arms around him and lay my head on his chest. He wrapped his paws around my back, just like he was giving me a hug, and he always smiled. I believe animals have rights--not certain rights, but all rights, as humans have rights. The right to shelter, food, safety. I believe respect, compassion, and kindness is a right that all animals have simply because God created them. And most of all, I believe they have the right to be loved, and I love Edgo with all of my heart.

I planned my last visit because I knew it was getting close to Edgo's time to leave us and I wanted to say goodbye. I wanted to tell him how much I love him and how much his friendship and protection of my family meant to me.

Once I arrived, though, I realized I wasn't ready to say goodbye. I started searching the internet for alternative medicinal treatments and filled my daughter's refrigerator with pills with strange names and bottles of cod liver oil. My son-in-law stood silently by, shaking his head, but as man who served twice in Iraq, I think he understood this was part of the grieving process. He knew that I knew it was Edgo's time to go, and for the rest of the family the grieving process had already begun, but I was just beginning the denial, prayers, begging God to stop this from happening.

Eventually, I knew it was his time. I had to say goodbye, to hold him in my arms, hug him, rock him, sing to him, and tell him how much I loved him. So I did. Night after night, until I finally left for New Mexico, I held him in my arms and told him how much I loved him.

My granddaughter saying goodbye to Edgo.

When the phone call came from my son-in-law, I was standing in the desert with my chocolate labs, chihuahua, and Baby the Desert Dog, watching them run and play on a sandy road and watching the Sandia Mountains turn bright red as the sun slowly disappeared on the horizon. I looked at the buzzing phone. At first, I refused to answer. Then, as I watched my dogs running through the sagebrush, barking and playing, I realized how appropriate the moment was, with the sky blazing with color, the dogs behaving like little puppies, a cool breeze moving through my hair. Edgo would have loved this moment, I thought, and I realized he was with me. I knew who was on the phone, and I knew why he was calling.

I returned Aaron's call. "We spent a long time saying goodbye to Edgo before I took him to the vet," he told me. "I held him in my arms and it was very peaceful," my son-in-law said, but I knew this already, because Edgo was always at peace. He was well-loved, and he loved deeply in return.

Edgo has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. He is no longer afraid of other dogs. Now he plays with them, chasing the yellow tennis balls through grassy meadows, barking to his heart's content, running like a puppy in the cool breeze at sunset. He is a young again, strong, vigorous, full of energy, compassion, and love. Oh, so much love. Yes, Edgo is happy, because he knows that some day he will see his family again. Until that time, we have our memories, and they are all good. 

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