Our fragile circle, breached

Valued commenter Raven introduced me to this Irving Townsend poem about the loss of a beloved pet:

“We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only certain immortality,
never fully understanding the necessary plan.”

I find it comforting today.

Daisy Mayhem Margaret Kennedy, 2008 – 2021

The first thing to know about Daisy is that she was a boxer dog who had the heart of a lion. She was a sweet and gentle girl, but she was also a fierce and proactive protector of her pack. She was our beloved companion for almost 14 years.

Daisy came into our lives as an 8-week-old pup the summer we celebrated our kid’s 10th birthday. We argued over what to name her for a few days and settled on Daisy. The name suited her, even though there was nothing particularly floral about her.

Our fragile circle, breached

As that long-ago summer turned to fall, sometimes I’d take Daisy with me as I canvassed in the neighborhood for then-candidate Barack Obama. She was a disarming presence, which was helpful in that mostly Republican neighborhood.

Daisy was the smartest dog I’ve ever known, which ironically made her the hardest to house train. My house-training approach is based on knowing that most dogs want to cooperate, so the challenge is communicating what you want. I think Daisy was hard to train because she speculated about what I wanted rather than learning by repetition (you pooped outside? yay!) as simpler creatures do.

She had an animal intruder alert hierarchy I never figured out. Squirrels, cats and dogs who were not part of her pack were to be barked at ferociously and driven off. She’d try to catch snakes and be irritated when called off the chase. Most birds — even large ones like herons, cranes and ducks — were okay in her book, but she disliked vultures. She found alligators viewed through the fence uninteresting. But she’d bark furiously at river turtles and gopher tortoises for some reason.

Early last spring, Daisy was barking nonstop while stationed at the gate downstairs that separates the yard from the river. We haven’t been able to call her off for the last couple of years because she grew stone deaf with age. When I went to investigate the ruckus, I saw she was barking to scare off a big old turtle who’d been sunning on the riverbank. She kept barking until it lumbered into the water and swam away, as if to say, “And STAY out!”

Otters were a mystical wonder to Daisy. She’d freeze when she spotted one and watch it reverently and in silence until it went away.

I’m still convinced she’s one of the few dogs on the planet who ever took a genuine selfie with no human help. Lots of people stage dog selfies, but this is the real deal:

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I had taken a selfie of the two of us to send to someone and set my phone down on the sofa cushion, apparently still in selfie mode. Daisy snapped the shot above with her own paw.

Daisy had many endearing habits. One was to plop down next to a loved one and lean on that person. If I was sitting in front of a laptop working and not paying attention to her when she wanted my notice, she’d push her muzzle into my ribs so I would stop ignoring her. It worked every time.

She would also approach us with a serious expression in her amber eyes and seemingly try to talk, growling in an undulating tone. My husband would respond in an equally serious tone, saying things like, “Really? That’s fascinating, Daisy.” Once you replied, she’d walk away, either satisfied that she’d been heard or exasperated at being patronized.

She was a good sport about costumes, at least until the second you took your hands away, then she shake off the fake reindeer antlers or Tim the Enchanter hat. :)

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Daisy was already elderly when we moved to this house three years ago. But she was still a bouncy old girl. The stairs became more of a challenge as the months went by; she went up and down gamely but at a slower pace.

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Despite reaching the doggy equivalent of her mid-90s or so, Daisy remained relatively spry and enjoyed life right up until recently, lining up for treats and spinning (albeit in slow motion now) when the mister returned home from work. She played with Badger until he exhausted her, then she swept him away with an impatient paw.

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She slept more towards the end. Her favorite spot was a cushion on the porch overlooking our little river lagoon, with her muzzle facing the wider world, nostrils taking in air samples for analysis and still alert for intruders, even as her sight grew dim. I think she liked the spot because her vantage point from the cushion allowed her to be at ease and keep watch at the same time.

We agonized this week over whether it was “time.” And you know, it probably was before we could admit it to ourselves. Daisy’s interest in food had waned, and while she could make her way downstairs, we had to carry her back up. But she didn’t seem uncomfortable, and she remained alert and watchful until the very end.

Earlier, I was sitting on the porch nearby while Daisy dozed in her favorite spot. I noticed her paws twitching as if she was running in a dream, and I hoped she was experiencing the sensation of being young and strong again. Shortly after, Daisy simply drifted away, choosing her own time and granting us that one last favor.

You were a good girl, Daisy. You were the best girl ever.

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