|in my own words|
|-- by Mike Murray|
Yet another neighborhood canine has crossed over to the other side. As did Molly, Maggie, Prince, Rex, and Zeus – all of whom lived within a stone’s throw of one another – Murphy has given up the ghost. She’s gone on to her great reward.
An adherent to the tenets of no specific religion, I have no convictions about what, exactly, happens when we die. But I do believe that consciousness continues. And that, in some form, we go on. If there truly are “good places” and “bad places” awaiting the deceased – as many faiths assert – then Murphy’s ultimate destination is clear.
Because it was plain to see: Murphy had a good heart. She had a kind nature.
I recall the day, thirteen years ago, when I met that little pixie. Ann and Dave introduced her to Pam and to me over the chain-link fence that separates our yards. I remember how much she reminded me of Zipper, a Sheltie / Corgi mix with whom I lived years earlier. Zipper’s Corgi influence gave her a stouter body. But the overall similarity between the two was obvious and, for me, elicited pleasant memories. Like Zipper, Murphy was friendly and outgoing.
Pam took a strong liking to Murphy from the get-go. She established a daily ritual of running up and down the fence line with her new friend, the one she called simply “Murph.” It amused me to watch them from the patio door. Herself tiny (Pam is all of 5’ 1 ¾” in her stocking feet), they looked like two small dogs playfully racing. A day seldom passed that didn’t involve a few such precious moments.
Pam and I had been planning to adopt from a local shelter, but were hesitant to do so until the property we had recently purchased was properly dog-friendly. The patio door was inoperable during the winter, reducing the accessibility of the back yard for months at a time. Then came Murphy. Our affection for her enhanced our hankering for canine company; it prompted us to act.
And so we replaced the door. Soon thereafter, we adopted Maggie – a Collie / Shepherd / Beagle mix. Murphy and Maggie hit it off from the start. They bonded quickly. And deeply. When they weren’t playing, they were peacefully lying in the grass together. They’d get as close to one another as the fence that separated them permitted.
It was the way they’d commune for long periods of time, communicating in that non-verbal way that animals have, sharing things to which no human is privy, that so struck me. Their friendship was profound. And it was private. What passed between Maggie and Murphy were things that they shared with no one else.
Although she was thoroughly devoted to her human family and was especially close to Maggie, Murphy had many pals in the neighborhood. A social butterfly if ever there was one, Murph made the rounds. She could be yipping in her high squeaky voice one moment, pleading for all she was worth for your attention, only to drop you like a hot potato when some other person or animal caught her eye. With Murphy, it was definitely a case of “so many friends; so little time.”
Much of my own interaction with Murph revolved around yard maintenance. Murphy learned early on that I was unlikely to interrupt my mowing to visit with her, but that, when finished, I was delighted to do so. So she forced herself to patiently wait. When the mower was finally stowed and the shed door closed shut – signaling the completion of work – she’d happily run to that special place between the fences and await my arrival.
The special place was the one she used to “do noses” with Maggie. It was a small separation between the chain-link and wooden fences that was wide enough for snouts to fit. Maggie and Murphy sniffed each other through it; they kissed each other through it.
Pam and I reached through the opening to lovingly stroke Murphy. Oftentimes, I’d get down on my hands and knees and offer my mug. And Murph would enthusiastically slurp away. (As was Zipper before her, Murphy was an enthusiastic face-licker.)
Those were happy times. But they came to an abrupt end when our Maggie passed away. Maggie took gravely ill approximately nine years ago. She embarked on a difficult treatment program and seemed safely on the road to recovery. But she succumbed to a terrible relapse only a year later. Pam and I were devastated.
Murphy was, too. She had lost her special friend. As heartbreaking as it was for Pam and for me to go on without Maggie, so too was it hard for Murphy.
And now it is hard for Ann, Dave, and Charlie (their son) – and all of the members of Murphy’s extended family – to go on without her. Everyone who has lost a loved one, human or animal, knows their pain. For those who loved Murphy most, these are dark, difficult days.
Murphy lived a long, full life. Although she was cheerful until the end, it was plain to see that she was struggling. I observed her carefully in recent months. And what I saw in those sensitive brown eyes was weariness. The kind from which there is no recovery.
Old age took Murphy. But her specific cause of death was kidney failure. How strange that – on the very day that Murph’s kidneys failed her – I was in a hospital emergency room, seeking help for (what turned out to be) a painful kidney stone lodged in my urinary tract. A simple coincidence, I’m sure. I’m not happy about my own discomfort. But it pleases me to know that I shared something, however unpleasant, with Murphy during her final moments on Earth.
Maggie died eight years ago. And right up until her own demise, Murph continued to pine for her. Sure, Murphy got along okay with Janna – the mutt Pam and I adopted after Maggie passed away. J-Bear and Murph were friendly enough. But it just wasn’t the same. What Murphy had with Maggie was extraordinary. It was something she was unable to find with anyone else.
Many have been the times that Murphy has lured first Pam and then me to the special place between the fences – only to continue whining softly. She never stopped looking deeply into our eyes, searching always for an answer to the desperate question: “Where’s Maggie?”
I suspect that she now knows. And that, at long last, those two dear friends are reunited. And that finally, as Pam observed, “no fence separates them.”
Copyright © 2008 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.