Megan and I spent the last weekend with him hanging around and telling stories. On Saturday we spent a nice afternoon at a nearby park, Hannibal lying on a blanket, sharing our meal occasionally and watching the other dogs play. Megan and I read poetry about dogs from a book called "Bark", passing the book back and forth and occasionally breaking down into tears at some poignant piece. On Sunday, we took him up to Sandia Peak and I carried him about 50 feet up the 10K trail and set him in the snow, so that he could once again feel the wind blowing down the mountain and feel the snow under his feet. We then went back to the park, and laid him down under a shade tree, and we stretched out beside him and we all promptly went to sleep. It must have been quite a sight -- two adult humans and their dog all stretched out together, slumbering away in the park. Megan remarked that Hannibal was still teaching us, this time teaching us about the importance of resting on our supposed days of rest.
Hannibal enjoyed lots of hamburgers, steak, ice cream and cheese during these final days. We joked that he was probably thinking, "What the f$%^? I've been telling you guys that I want more cheese, steak, hamburger and ice cream for my entire life and you wait until the last three f%*$ing days I'm alive?"
Our vet, Dr. Kathleen Blackshear, was extremely kind and very gentle in how she performed the procedure. She was also very supportive. She developed a bond with him too, and it wasn't easy on her to perform this duty, but in the end we all agreed it was best.
Hannibal's ashes will be returned to us, and we plan to have parts of him sprinkled in the places he loved in all the places he lived: Washington Park in Milwaukee (and perhaps Elkhorn, WI), Brackenridge Park in San Antonio, along Bayou St. John in New Orleans, and on Sandia Peak in Albuquerque. We will keep a very small portion of his remains with us.
Hannibal spent 4 years of his life in New Orleans, which as many of you know, has the right idea about death. Death is not something to be mourned, but to be celebrated because the deceased has finally been called home. "When I die," goes a New Orleans song, "you better second line." In other words, have a big procession with music, dancing, tears AND laughter. So we put on that song, maybe about a half hour after Hannibal passed and danced through our tears until we were laughing and making up lyrics about Hannibal (you better leave that ice-cream on the floor, in case he comes back through the door...when pup dies, you better second line), though we did this with the blinds closed so that our neighbors, who saw us carrying the dog out and wandered over to pay their respects, didn't think we had flipped out.
We can't thank you enough for the support you've expressed over e-mail and in person. Many of you remarked about how close we were to him. This was very true. Perhaps it is silly to feel this way over a pet, but he was more than a pet to us -- he was a valuable and honored member of our family. There is already an emptiness in our house left by his absence. So, your words of support and your understanding of his place in our lives meant very much to us...and we were gratified to know that at the time of Hannibal's journey home, so many of you were thinking of all of us.
This photo is Hannibal's last picture, taken in our back yard about a half hour before Dr. Blackshear arrived. We also want to leave you with two of the poems we read to each other that Saturday in the park which struck deep chords with us:
Tribute to the Memory of the Same Dog
Lie here, without a record of thy worth,
Beneath a covering of the common earth!
It is not from unwillingness to praise,
Or want of love, that here no Stone we raise;
More thou deserv'st; but this man gives to man
Brother to brother, this is all we can.
Yet they to whom thy virtues made thee dear
Shall find thee through all changes of the year:
This Oak points out thy grave; the silent tree
Will gladly stand a monument of thee.
We grieved for thee, and wished thy end were past;
And willingly have laid thee here at last:
For thou hadst lived, till every thing that cheers
In thee had yielded to the weight of years;
Extreme old age had wasted thee away,
And left thee but a glimmering of the day;
Thy ears were deaf, and feeble were thy knees, --
I saw thee stagger in the summer breeze,
Too weak to stand against its sportive breath,
And ready for the gentlest stroke of death.
It came, and we were glad; yet tears were shed;
Both man and woman wept when thou wert dead;
Not only for a thousand thoughts that were,
Old household thoughts, in which thou hadst thy share;
But for some precious boons vouchsafed to thee,
Found scarcely anywhere in like degree!
For love, that comes wherever life and sense
Are given by God, in thee was most intense;
A chain of heart, a feeling of the mind,
A tender sympathy, which did thee bind
Not only to us Men, but to thy Kind:
Yea, for thy fellow-brutes in thee we saw
A soul of love, love's intellectual law: --
Hence, if we wept, it was not done in shame;
Our tears from passion and from reason came,
And, therefore, shalt thou be an honoured name!
The House-Dog's Grave
by Robinson Jeffers
I've changed my ways a little: I cannot now
run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream: and you, if you dream a moment,
You see me there.
So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you'd soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking pan.
I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed: no, all the nights through
I lie alone.
But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
and where you sit to read -- and I fear often grieving for me --
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.
You, man and woman, live so long it is hard
To think of you ever dying.
A little dog would get tired living so long.
I hope that when you are lying
Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.
No, dears, that's too much hope: you are not so well cared for
As I have been,
And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided....
But to me you were true.
You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.
Hannibal's last picture, taken ½ hour before vet arrived.
Yes, I am crying...