I wrote this essay on September 23, 2007. I’m not even sure now what prompted writing about my little dog who died about 15 years before. I do know that in these short weeks since Ed died, I am aware of how my heart opened even more with Ed’s long transition and final passage into the Light. We are here on this earth to remember we are Love, to be that Love, to love and allow ourselves to be loved and receive that love, expand with that love, and flow that expanded love even more. Along the way, our heart opens more and more.
In those last moments of Ed’s life, my heart burst open with more love than I could ever imagine. But it all started with my fur baby Boone. It seems a good time to share this essay with all of you.
When A Heart Opens
It was the oddest thing. One moment we were driving along Hwy 128 through Boonville, a little town in the Anderson Valley about 45 minutes from Mendocino on the north coast of California, and the next minute I had spotted a little blond – something – and before I could say a word, Ed was pulling over to the dirt shoulder on the right. As if we had some silent conversation, since no words has passed between us, I opened the door to the car as he slowed to a stop, got out, walked a few yards behind us, and picked up the matted, dirty, and yes, smelly, bundle of dog that was now waiting for me to approach. It appeared he had come up out of the ditch as we approached on the road, and then waited expectantly until we pulled over and stopped, almost as if this was the appointed time of a prearranged meeting. Wriggling in my arms, I carried him to the car, put him on the floor in front of me, closed the door, and we took off. Without discussion.
A partially eaten blueberry muffin was in a bag on the shelf below the glove compartment, and the little dog began sniffing the package hungrily. Having no other food in the car, I began breaking off pieces to feed to him, which he gobbled down.
Finally, Ed and I looked at each other and wondered what we should do. From the state of the dog, it looked like he had been on his own for quite a while. And what was wrong with his front left leg? An angry red spot was on what would have been his elbow, I guessed, and he wasn’t standing on his foot, but on that joint. He couldn’t walk on that foot and so hobbled along on that bent leg, flopping the useless foot. From the first, he defied anyone to feel sorry for him . . . he was the purest, most light-filled being I had ever encountered. I couldn’t have described him that way at the time. I just knew something had propelled Ed and I to pick up this sorry-looking little stray.
I had wanted a dog for years. Long before I can remember, my parents had two Cocker Spaniels, Lovey, the mother, and Sister, the daughter. When they died, my mother realized they were the cause of her asthma. Early on, I developed an allergy to cats; and then there was that big white rabbit in the cage in the garage that bit me . . . so animals were not a part of my growing up.
Over the years, other priorities replaced the desire for a dog. And then Ed and his two Siamese cats, Samu and Biggie Boy, happened on the scene. He was a cat lover and when I moved in with the three of them, there was never any discussion about the cats leaving. Miraculously, my cat allergies disappeared under the knowledge that no accommodations would be made if I couldn’t co-coexist comfortably with the feline residents of the home.
Finally living with animals sharpened my desire for a dog. I didn’t have any particular kind of dog in mind…..and when the Boone (as we ultimately named him) appeared, I figured, this was my dog.
Boone was quite small, about fourteen pounds, but he had the heart of a lion. He became the “little lion dog”. The first time I witnessed this transformation was about two months after he joined our family. I was walking with him on the headlands above the Pacific in Fort Bragg, California . . . we just strolled together on the well-worn dirt paths in the sun and wind and bright blue sky . . . he scampering a little in front of me . . . no leash laws here. All of a sudden, a shepherd-like dog bounded up to me, more friendly than aggressive. Boone ran back to where I had stopped, planted his little feet (the useless one now encased in a leather “boot” to splint his leg straight and give him a prosthetic foot) and barked fiercely and warningly at the dog that easily had 50 pounds on him.
This was surprising on several counts: I didn’t even know he had a voice, as we hadn’t heard a peep out of him in the time he’d been with us; I had no idea how fearless he was; and I was unused to being protected – by anyone. And the wonder of it all filled my heart, as I scooped him into my arms and felt his determined and protective spirit radiating through his compact little body.
Over the years, we went through a lot together, and Boone was my constant companion. Early on, we tried to repair his front leg without amputation. Boone endured a bone graft, which didn’t take. But in the process, I realized how he relied on me for his strength, too. After the surgery, he was really incapacitated for a while, and I laid him on the bed and cried and stroked him and kissed his silky apricot fur. He looked me right in the eyes, with his soft but steady dark eyes, from under his mop of mane-like fur, and I knew he was taking his cue from me: that he trusted me implicitly, and if I was so distressed, things couldn’t be right.
The awareness hit me like a ton of bricks, that I, my attitude, was keeping him from the healing that needed to happen. In one of the fastest mental and attitudinal healings of my life, I took a deep breath, and told Boone that he was just fine, he was getting better every minute and no more worries! He took the cue from me, gave a little wiggle of agreement, licked my face, a smile settled on his face, and from that moment on, he perked up healed as best he could, although it wasn’t to be his last surgery.
When we finally realized we had to amputate his leg, I delivered Boone to the vet who had attempted the bone graft. The next day I arrived to pick him up. He was hopping around, following the ladies of the staff, resting periodically in whichever office he happened to wander into. His damaged leg was gone, a long row of stitches closing the wound on the stump at his shoulder. It was shocking to see the first time; but he had already developed a kind of rocking, walking, motion that propelled him from his back legs to his one front foot and back……and the staff was so enchanted by his happy spirit and perpetual smile that they kept him with them, not in a cage. His recuperation was taking place amid kisses and hugs and cuddles and delight.
It was the same when we first found him alongside the road. We were on our way to San Francisco, and couldn’t bring him to our friends’ house. So we stopped along the way at an animal shelter in the small town of Healdsburg (way smaller and sleepier then than it is now). We explained the situation and made them promise to keep him safe until we returned in two days. When we arrived back at the shelter, there was Boone hobbling around on his damaged foot, following the staff around, smiling, light-filled, happy for the company. They just couldn’t put him a cage, we were told, it didn’t seem right. And if we weren’t taking him home, there was already a waiting list of people who would welcome Boone into their home.
Living on the North Coast meant most days were cool and misty. So it was no problem for Boone to come with me to work, and relax in the car with the windows down until I could take a break and visit and walk with him. I assumed at first he wouldn’t want to be cooped up in a car…..and I asked him every morning, would you like to stay home or come with me? He would sit up on his rump and hind legs straight up and smile, seeming to say, Of course I want to come! And I’d open the car door and say, well, if you want to come, let’s go! And he’d dash to the car and jump into his seat, happy to be included in my day.
We became inseparable. We walked every day in the many beautiful places Mendocino had to offer – along the cliffs, in the fern forest, among the redwoods, the pygmy forest, the beach, along Big River. When I rode my bike along the old logging haul road that wound miles along the top of the dunes above the beach, I carried him cushioned in the basket on my handlebars. I talked to him about my troubles, my worries, my hopes. Wherever we went, people were attracted to him, enchanted by his happy spirit, his sweet demeanor, and his charming good looks. He was a mutt, some combination of perhaps Maltese, or poodle, and some kind of terrier . . . he had silky blond-apricot tinted hair more than fur that grew long and gave him the look of a tiny lion. But his snout was longish and terrier- like, with a dark charcoal spot on the bridge of his nose, perfect for kissing. He would accompany us on car trips up and down California, never a problem, always welcomed, even by people who didn’t know or like animals. He carried a magic welcome pass with him.
When we brought him home that first day, Ed was unsure about keeping him if he didn’t get along with the cats. I spoke to Boone quietly and told him if he wanted to stay, he had to get along with the cats, they were there first. We opened the front door, and he trotted in, as if he belonged, right past the cats and made himself comfortable in the living room. And that was that.
When it was time for bed, he’d jump up on his blanket on my side of the bed, and lay his head next to me on my pillow. It was as if we had found each other in that instant on the road, and we knew it, in a moment. I didn’t even know I was looking, but there Boone was, waiting for me.
As with any brilliant burning spirit, the time one shares is often brief. Boone must have been 12 or so when we found him, and within a few years, he developed kidney disease. He was never very interested in food, living off his daily delight in life, and now trying to coax him to eat a special diet, taking him to doctors, and various medical tests, seemed to tire him and reduce his joie de vivre. I couldn’t face the inevitable, a part of me would die. Finally, I knew the time had come, and I held him in my arms while the injection was being delivered, grieving that my joyous little being was leaving me.
In that instant, I felt Boone’s amazing, loving spirit push firmly into my heart, and I gasped at the pressure, and then I felt him leap out, free at last, relieved and happy to be freed from his sick little body. But he left a piece of his incredible being in my heart, forever.
The next day, I went to our favorite beach, where we had walked countless times, Boone chasing the seagulls, running into the water and dashing out as the waves came in on the sand. And there he was, complete and whole, with four healthy legs, as I had never seen him, running into the water, barking at the gulls, happy, content . . . and free.
I knew he stayed in this world as long as I needed him, although he was ready to go much sooner than I was ready to release him. My heart lifted, and I felt that piece of him resonating within me, that piece of his being he had firmly implanted in my heart before he leapt into the Universe. My heart opened to accommodate the strength and size of his special spirit.
I thought I knew how to love before I had loved and been loved by Boone, but after he joined the radiance of the Universe, I knew differently. Boone had opened my heart in a way I would never allow a person to do, in a way I didn’t trust another person to do . . . and in giving me that great gift, my life expanded, my capacity to love and be loved increased. My heart had opened.
© 2022 Fran H. Wellgood
Oceans of Love & Light, Fran