I know it isn’t the First Friday yet. I am violating the protocol of my blog so that I can honor my best friend, Oberon. For over 14 years, my beloved border collie has been at my side every day. He has struggled in the past few months – his mind was as sharp as ever, but his body betrayed him. Today, we let him go on to The Rainbow Bridge. I am unaccountably sad to lose him. I take comfort in the only thing possible: the knowledge that I gave him a great life. He gave me a great life as well.
Oberon is named for a character in Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The character is the King of the Fairy World. The play has long been one of my favorites, so it was a natural, unique choice. When Oberon came into my life, I didn’t want a dog – too much responsibility, I said. I was in my final semester of my senior year of college at the University of Baltimore, I was applying to graduate school, and I was in a rocky relationship with the person who is now my ex-husband.
Why in the world would I want a dog? I gave in – but only if I could choose his name. In every way, he has lived up to his namesake: he has been a magical presence.
To steal a phrase from Tim O’Brien, this dog has been the hero of my life. I could not have known what a blessing Oberon would be. For those of you who own dogs, you know. They are so much better than people in every single category. They never hold grudges. They always think the best of you. They are always genuinely happy to see you when you get home – and they don’t get mad when you are running late. Oberon has seen me through writing my master’s thesis, through my divorce, through a major life change when I finally opened up to the love of my life, through a new marriage, through bad, annoying days at work, through my doctoral program and all the tears and stress of comprehensive exams and the dissertation process, through everything. He has been my constant, my touchstone, the buddy who reminds me that everything looks and feels better after a walk in the fresh air.
He has been a source of continual comfort. Just interacting with him always lifted my spirits no matter what happened during the day. I’ll never know exactly what he thought about me, but I like to think he also saw me as a friend – though Billy Collins has some pretty interesting thoughts about this. (It makes me happy to think of the dogs writing poetry somewhere, out there. Oberon will write Shakespearean sonnets, I just know it.)
In my Philosophy class this semester, we have talked a lot about what happens to our souls when we die. That discussion feels more real to me today. Some believe, like Aristotle, that matter and form exist together, so when our bodies cease, everything ceases: our soul cannot exist apart from the body; but some believe we go on in some form – whether that is to heaven or to Plato’s world of forms or The Rainbow Bridge or just as energy that needs to find another way of expression. When it comes to Oberon (and all dogs for that matter), I guess I prefer to think of his soul as the Eastern Philosophers do: as energy that has always been here and will always be here. His energy is not here anymore inhabiting his body, but now it has been returned to the world. It looks for a new way to interact, but it does not die, does not diminish. That would be an unbearable loss. To know that Oberon’s kind, gentle spirit will reincarnate into another form is the only thing that lets me let him go.
This week we have enjoyed the warmer weather, turned our faces toward the sun every chance we had. We’ve been noticing so much more together: how much greener the grass suddenly seems, the way the air smells different after spring rain, the red buds pixelating all of the trees, and the first smiling daffodils. All this will go on now, without Oberon this time. Today before the vet came to help him transition out of this life, my wife Stephanie and I took one last walk with Oberon. It was something we were both looking forward to and dreading all week long, ever since we made the decision to let him go.
We walked slowly and comfortably in the direction he wanted. He got to say goodbye to his best friend, Colby, a Golden Retriever who lives a few doors down. He sniffed everything, breathing in the world and enjoying every bit of it. I could not help but think that I almost missed all of this – that I didn’t want him. That seems incredible to me now. I would have missed out on so much love and friendship. I am grateful for every day of these last 14 years – I only wish we could have had a few more. I hope it was peaceful, his final act. It was peaceful and heartbreaking for me in equal measure. I just wanted to keep going, keep walking with him forever.
Tomorrow, I do have a post prepared for the First Friday. I hope you’ll come back for that.
© 2015 Ryna May