Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sweet Papillon

Waiting for Jan to Come Back

Papillon (1995-2008)

Papillon was born August 6, 1995 in a small house in Maine. Her mom was a beagle and her dad was a lab/border collie mix. Papillon arrived to the sound of music, laughter and children's voices. She was surrounded by woods and a pond and birds singing and people who loved her. She got her name from a white patch on her chest that looked like a butterfly.

Papillon made her way--instantly--into my heart. She was four and a half pounds wet when I was able to bring her home. She had the softest ears ever and the cutest features, even though later, BF and I joked she looked like Max from How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Papillon's artistry came from being able to make people smile. She used her creative energy and a set of save-the-seals eyes to melt your heart. She didn't just want to hug you. She wanted to get inside you as she pushed her head into your head for a special mind-meld. Papillon, the dog with the thousand names, had a gentle way about her not easily forgotten. She liked to hug and cuddle and lay on your foot. She made a coo-cooing sound (my favorite) before plopping into the curve of my legs at night to sleep.

We said she had an "Edible" Complex. She loved her Fromm's, yogurt, carrots, pretzels, popcorn and anything else she could lick off the floor while BF wasn't looking. The vet thought we should change her name to Hoover.

Papillon developed a special relationship with her friends and greeted them in special ways. When M came, she squealed in excitement and ran around the house in anticipation of a walkie. When J came, she sneezed and grabbed her dog toy for him to play with. She'd wait for BF to come home--starting about 20 minutes before he arrived nudging me, herding me toward the door, waiting in anticipation for his pats on the head. Papillon turned into "JP" (jealous puppy) when others vied for my attention. She wasn't aggressive about it, just a bit of a noodge. I can still hear our two-year-old friend saying, "Can Papi back off, Jan? Can Papi back off?"

For me, personally, Papillon gently, persistently, compassionately kept my heart open during a time when it could have oh-so-easily turned cold and hard and closed. She was mine and I was hers. Papillon picked me I know it. We spent less than a month apart the whole time she was alive (I was there the day she was born and visited her often until she was old enough to come home). And even now I can still see her, curled on the bed or getting a drink of water, then vanishing.

Papillon died May 27, 2008. I believe when she heard BF and me arriving home, she got up off the bed, came toward the door and died. Her heart just stopped. She was still warm when I opened the door to the apartment and found her. She looked whole in every way except her spirit was gone. I knew instantly what happened though we tried to revive her. Our kind vet waited after his office closed for the day until we could deliver her body. He said even if he had been right beside Papillon, he would not have been able to save her.

I find some comfort in knowing Papillon lived well and died well. Her death was natural. She was old. Her heart gave out. We found her in the room she loved the best and her body wasn't alone for very long. She died before her legs or organs or eyesight or hearing failed her. Except for being spayed, she never needed to visit the vet for more than her annual check-ups or an occasional infection. Her last day included our usual walk around the neighborhood, breakfast, pats on the head from family and naps on the end of the bed. As far as we can tell, if she experienced pain at all, it was for a very, very short time. BF thinks she was as surprised about dying as we were to find her dead.

BF and I decided to cremate our precious dog. When we're ready, we will take Papillon to Acadia National Park and scatter her ashes there. We're waiting for the perfect day. She loved to hike and, even when she was too old to go, practically jumped straight up in the air when we got our backpacks and hiking shoes out of the closet. BF and I know just the spot to honor our sweet dog.

Papillon wouldn't want me to stay sad. She was all about happiness and calm and peace. I miss her, though. Things are not the same without her physical presence. It will be some time before I stop expecting her to come around the corner or shake her collar to go out or press her paw against me for a pat. Caring for her and about her was an integral part of each day. And, though I appreciated her when she was alive, I am just beginning to understand what a great gift Papillon was in my life: a unique and perfect and beautiful friend. So, while I am truly sad at her passing, I write this to celebrate her life and to thank her for teaching me so much about kindness and compassion, friendship and love.

Thank you, Papillon. Thank you.

Papillon in PA (Probably Waiting for a Treat)