The Vigil

People always say, “You’ll know when it is time.”  Sometimes that is true.  But sometimes it’s hard to tell.  This has been one of those times.  Having lived through the horrendous experience of our old deerhound Magic fracturing his leg due to a previously undiagnosed osteosarcoma, I want very badly to spare Queen that awful demise.  But when is it time, actually?

With a horse, I think it’s easier.  Those that are spared the usual disasters which befall horses—the broken leg due to a fall, the perforated intestine due to colic—they simply get old.  When their arthritis can no longer be managed, when the tendons finally give way and the hooves can no longer bear the weight of their bodies, they lie down and cannot rise.  Or they stop eating and stand quietly in a corner of a green pasture.  And then you know its time.

Dogs are different.  They want to be with you.  They are willing to put up with pain and suffering beyond what a human thinks is possible, as long as you will lie down with them, pat their heads, give them a special treat while looking into their eyes on a sunny day.   Leaving must seem to them, after a life of protecting you, a betrayal.  They want to stay for as long as they can.

The vigil started this morning.  The dogs are smarter than I am.  I let the puppies in the house while the lawn was being mowed—the mower frightens them.  When Pibb was ten weeks old, he made the mistake of stepping on Queen who was asleep at the time.  She made sure that never again will he forget the maxim to “let sleeping dogs lie”.  When the kerfuffle ended, I was shocked to see that not a hair on his head had been harmed.

When Pibb came in today, he immediately lay down with Queen, head to head.  An hour later, I noticed her position had shifted.  Her front leg was touching his, paw to paw.  I think she was reassuring him.  This afternoon, she felt well enough to go out and bask in the sunshine.  Yoda, my little mixed breed rescue, has always been an empathetic little dog.  He cries when the girls have their nails trimmed.  Today he plopped down right beside her face.  And there he stayed, his little body shielding her eyes from the sun.

Saying goodbye has never been easy for me.  But I know that it’s time.  And if there is a heaven for dogs, Magic and Izzy and little Jack will be waiting for her.  We will be okay down here, knowing she is no longer in pain.

Rest in peace, GCh. Jaraluv Queen.  Forever our Queen of Hearts.


  1. I’m so very sorry. We pay such a high price for all that unconditional love. I know you will be strong. It’s just a temporary separation after all. Run free and without pain Queen.

  2. The actions of your other dogs brings me to tears. Thank you, Miranda. And beautiful Queen–I hope you run with Maggie at the Rainbow Bridge. I see you there. I see you both there.
    with love,

  3. Tonight, if you can, pick out a bright star and let it be Queen’s. And if there’s another one nearby, it can belong to Magic. In this way, they will always be with you, as beautiful as ever, and together forever in Heaven’s broad field.

  4. The last week Lark was alive, each time I helped her outside, after she did her business, she would lie down in the shade. One by one, cats and dogs would drift out and lie down in a circle around her. I witnessed this multiple times that last week. The evening we released her (lying in her bed) True and Magi watched carefully and quietly as she left this world. I wasn’t as quiet.

  5. Finale

    Sleek sable Ozra, royal Dane,
    Small Jetsam, of strange pedigree,
    Bolo, who crossed the Spanish main,
    And shy, devoted, Scotch Dundee,
    And all that eager, trusting band
    Who lived their lives as best they knew;
    Who thrust wet muzzles gainst my hand,
    And gave me love beyond my due,
    So gallantly each played his part
    That no new friend usurps his place.
    In quiet corners of my heart
    Each owns, still warm, a bedding-space.
    I’ll not believe their jaunty tails
    Are drooping in Death’s gloomy pound,
    But one by one they found the trails
    That lead to some far hunting ground.
    I hope it breaks no holy laws
    If neath God’s table they are fed;
    I like to think their spirit paws
    May dig Elysium’s garden bed.
    And He who fashioned grass and trees,
    And cares for sparrows, beast and men,
    May let them press against His knees
    And stoop to stroke them now and then.
    From “Tales from the Pekinese” by Burges Johnson

    1. Joy, that is a beautiful poem. I’ve never read it before. Thanks for taking the time to post it. M

  6. I am so sorry for your loss, Mary Ann. Although we know we have to, it is always devastating to have to let them go. Beautifully written. I love your Crab Diaries.

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