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Barely Bearli

Barely Bearli

I moved the armchair and ottoman into the front hall to be closer to him. He sat quietly in his red brocade dog bed, occasionally looking out the beveled glass front door. It was in those moments that I thought he was still himself, that he would get up and talk (woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo) to me about needing a cookie, but the internal bleeding was draining him of the spirit and playfulness I had known as Bearli (Swiss for Little Bear) for the past eleven years.

He came to me at 10 weeks of age in November '99, a bundle of big eyes and white Havanese hair (not fur) that fit the palms of two hands. He was so beautiful I cried the first time I held him. At five months, he was a cast member of our national tour of "Anything Goes." While I played Reno Sweeney, Bearli took the place of that ridiculous stuffed dog one of the actors carried around and asked the audience to believe was real. Of course, all eyes were on him whenever he was onstage; he was a star and he knew it.

Just recently, he had some trouble walking and I said, "He's getting old, poor boy." He was talking (woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo) to my niece, Josanne, who was sitting on the steps of my office. She's always had a intuitive gift with animals. With a surprised smile, she said, "He doesn't like it when you call him old. He wants to be called a puppy."

So for what I didn't realized were his last four weeks, I told him frequently what a beautiful puppy he was. He responded with enthusiasm, scampering and prancing as best he could. It was ten days ago that he slowed down and seemed to be running out of steam. I thought he had wrenched his back leg again and happily carried him home for the last part of his morning walk several days in a row. Then last Monday he would not eat, nor Tuesday, and the vet said his blood panel showed he had almost no platelets, the clotting factor in his blood. We tried a transfusion and medication, but by the next morning he was right back to listless.

I wasn't sure I could not have the heart to "put him down." Forty-five minutes before the appointment with the vet, I thought maybe I was making a mistake, but then he walked into the kitchen and lost control of his bladder. He sat there in a puddle of bloody urine, confused. He was barely Bearli any longer. It was the sign I needed.

The doctor so gently stroked his head and said, "Sorry." I draped him in the shawl my spiritual teacher had given me twenty-one years ago and held his face. "Thank you, thank you, thank you" I told those soulful eyes. Then the doctor pushed the syringe. In thirty seconds his heart had stopped. So fast. Eleven years ended so fast. Just last month I had told him I was so happy we'd have another four or five years together. But we have the time we have and we never know.

He was my first-ever puppy and will remain so for all my days. I will miss, I already do, his jaunty walk, his morning kisses and the clear way he looked at me. It's good that I have it all stored in my heart where it can never be lost.