When I left the newborn puppies at Joan’s house the other night, they were noisily squealing, earning the first-born pup, the nickname Aria. The second, another girl with a cockscomb hairdo, we mistook for a boy and took to referring to as “he.” The third was born two hours later, seemingly big and strong and healthy. By the 9:30 a.m. feeding, she was gone. Aria lived long enough to earn a name and steal our hearts. She had passed away later the next day. The second puppy lives still and seems to be going strong. Her Mama still doesn’t want anything to do with her, but Joan is making sure the pup is fed. We are trying to supplement her with a goat’s milk product I picked up at the Blogpaw’s Conference in May. I planned to review it on my blog. Instead, it feeds a tiny life. Several times a day, Joan holds down the mama long enough for the pup to suckle.
We are left to ponder why. Why did these two pups come into being only long enough to receive a nod and a smile before dying? What is life and what makes it so fleeting? The questions are the same whether one is an hour old or ninety – life always seems so short, death so familiar and yet, so foreign; something we recognize, but never truly expect. As Joan and I worked to bring the puppies into existence, then to keep them alive, her daughter and son-in-law stood vigil at his mother’s bedside. She died in this span of time and they made plans to return her body to her home in Puerto Rico. They make funeral arrangements even now. “There are so many flowers,” Joan’s daughter says.
To hold a puppy in your hand, no bigger than a bird, is like grasping a living heartbeat. You feel every fragile pulse and yet, in that teeny body with such very big lungs, I also felt a universal strength. She was alive and moving, full of energy, full of life. She made her presence known. In the hours after she was born, her bigger sister cuddled with her. Resting her head against her back, not unlike the way my Alfie sleeps with Waffles. They were small, but instinctualy they knew how to keep warm; they understood the rhythms of life.
Once another of Joan’s pugs had a large litter of puppies. One died each day until they were all gone. I can remember holding one, no bigger than my finger, naming the coal black creatures after the blackest of things – Blackberry, Black Bear, Blackbird and singing away the minutes, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take your broken wings and learn to fly, all your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.” Singing, until her own time came…We tried a sip of vodka in a last ditch effort to jumpstart the tiny heart, it did no good and the last little puppy, wrapped in a stark, white napkin, died. There were others that did not live long. I remember one we called Winnie from another litter and then of course, last year, our little Batman, seven-weeks-old, growing strong, then suddenly inexplicably gone.
It’s so easy to see the heartbreak, to be crushed by death’s uncompromising greed, but during my time at Pugdom, Joan’s house, where the birth and death of dogs is a regular occurrence, I have become intimate with the cycle of things. My heart has been tugged at, broken and mended with the waxing and waning of each small life. Once touched by these heartbeats I become part of their pulse. I weep at their passing, but I see the flowers. There are so many and though they shrivel and wilt, they bloom glorious for a time. Life is something to relish, however brief. It demands celebration and notice. No matter how fleeting it is incredibly strong; unapologetically real, unforgettable! It leaves a lasting song.
“…you were only waiting for this moment to arise…”