By Rosemary I. Patterson, Ph.D.
Aloha Bella. Maybe you can hear me in some metaphysical place where good dogs go when they die. I'm having quite a time adjusting to your sudden departure. I had no idea that bone cancer in your leg was causing that weakness ands terrible swelling. I just thought it was arthritis and weakness in the knee joint. So when I left you with the vet and said, as always, "I'll be back," to go and get a ferry to take your beloved Ted to the hospital for his operation I had no idea you wouldn't be there when I came back.
My audio tape says that the purpose of a member of the animal kingdom is to serve the higher kingdom of humans and to give a purpose to the members of the plant and mineral kingdom. You did that well. You were always there for me and for Cathy, Marty and the three children, Keiyana, Emma and Ethan. You even let Ethan sit on you, listened to his hearty shrieks and plummet you with his toddler hands as you were living your last months in a weakened state, without complaint. You even let Keiyana and Emma spray you with soap suds from their summer episodes of fun with the sprinkler and trampoline. So much for the supposed visciousness of a very large Rottweiler. Cathy hasn't told the girls yet that you won't be coming back. She is dreading the reaction and waiting for the weekend so at least they will have two days to grieve before school.
You had just over seven years in this world, a Saturn cycle, and our family was so fortunate to have you with us for all but your first three months, of which we know nothing, except that some person turned you in to the SPCA saying tht you were hyper, a hyperness that we never experienced except for the usual antics of a puppy. I'm gong through a grief exercise where you are supposed to make a grief graph with a timeline showing the high points and low points of the life encounter of a loved one.
Remember the first time we met, only two hours before the SPCA lady was going to decide which of the twenty-five applicants would get to take you home. They let Cathy and I meet you and you were beautiful, a gorgeous animal with the two Rottweiler dots so noticeable above your eyes. We sensed your big heart immediately. Cathy told them how my husband had just died, that I had a large yard, and had experience with our other big dog before.
"Just get her out of here," the SPCA lady said and we did. You sat on Cathy's lap all the way home. Then you made one of the very few mistakes you ever made in your life. You so loved children that you jumped on top of Keiyana in the baby seat and tried to love her. Fortunately no harm was done. What a time I had raising you. I could barely hang on to the leash and the time you lunged for that Canada Goose that came out of nowhere in the Park bystanders thought they would have to call an ambulance as I crashed into the concrete sidewalk. And there was the time you almost pulled me over a cliff chasing that squirrel.
And all that socializing in the dog parks. You were a huge container of unconditional love. You loved everybody and every animal you came into contact with (except cats). Even permitting Rocky Balboa, the self-confident miniature Dashhound, to take over your house in what would be your last two years. How tired I got of people laughing, pointing and remarking "Big and Little" as I took the two of you for a walk.
Bella, you were even an inspiration for one of my books, "The Wager", about senior ladies in a dog walking club who make a bet to get a new boyfirend for Christmas from the single members of their dog walking club. That novel came out of watching how people in dog parks interact with their dogs and all the doggy things that you and others like you do.
You were there for most of the important things in my life in the last eight years. I probably would not have got to know Ted if I was not going over to that beautiful dog park on the ocean in West Vancouver with you. We met there for me to give him a book bag from the conference he had missed. And from that day all three of us kept meeting at that dog park twice a week. Remember the time I lost my keys to the van. Ted had to drive both of us across town in his car all the way home, assist me to scale a fence, break into the house and drive me back to the park, all without yelling or losing his temper, and demonstrating to me what a considerate, kind gentleman he is. We left you in the house to await the police who we thought the neighours would likely call after seeing us break in.
You were with Cathy, Keiyana, Emma and I the night as we went to the Cottage on the island and found a tree branch nestled in the electric wires. You kept us safe and even warm as we huddled in the cold darkness until help could be found in the morning.
You loved people and other dogs. Remember the time I put you in that high-end kennel to accompany Cathy, Marty, Keiyana and Emma for that trip to Malaysia that resulted in another novel, "Healing Khadijah?" You didn't even seem to mind being left behind. You planed with the other high-end dogs and so impressed the kennel owner that she told me that "Bella would always be welcome here."
You were always waiting for me when I came home. Even the other night you managed to crawl out to the front, under that Cedar tree you loved, unti very late when I made it home on the ferry from one of my career assessment efforts. I had to drive you down the lane to the back door because you too weak to walk but you welcomed me anyway and pretended to enjoy the hamburger I cooked for you even though it was laced with herbal remedies.l
You survived the tumultuous move from the cottage and the home in Coquitlam to the beautiful island where we now live. You loved ambling along the spectacular beaches and trails here, even when Rocky Balboa came along. The two of you had one of those intense love-hate relationships, even though size-wise you should have been totally incompatible. You did such a good job of loving our neighbours that they cried when Marty told them we had been forced to put you down. I had hoped that you would be able to die in your familiar house and yard but perhaps you didn't mind. The vet staff were very loving, and permitted Cathy to be with you when I couldn't as they ended your suffering.
I guess you now that you will never be able to catch the rabbit down the street now. I often wondered what you would do if you did catch it. I bet you would have just licked it and it would have died of a heart attack. You were never successful at chasing the large Quail family away that comes through the hedge from the neighbor's bird sanctuary that he maintains. But those are probably the only two failures in your life (in your mind). The back lawn will probably grow back now and my back car seat can probaly recover from your fur but things will never be the same here again. Perhaps the reincarnation people are right and you will find your way back to us sometime again. But in the meantime there will be a tremendous void to fill.
You died the same day that the lady that starred in "The Titanic" died. Perhaps she needed a Rottwieler to protect her in whatever metaphysical place we go between lives. What an experience life is. Our spirits come here, dogs as well as people, and we are emotionally and physically vulnerable. We live, love, grieve, succeed and fail but your life, Bella, was a tremendous success. You served your purpose well. And now, I suppose, I have to try and do the same, but it will never be quite the same without you.
Mahalo nui loa for your live and life,