I just sent out a letter of recollection to some of my electronic mail list…to share with you, the loss of my old friend Laurie-dog. I’m publishing it here as well, simply because it poured out my finger tips as a reaction to one of the most difficult experiences I have shared with my children. Here is the story of Laurie.
I picked Lawrence up in the small hamlet of Kircaldy. It was a blustery blizzardy morning in Calgary and I was having my coffee at the kitchen table at our home on Mountain Park Drive. I had a Calgary Sun newspaper…unlikely, as I am a Calgary Herald girl, but it was the Sun. I arrived at the obituary pages and found facing me, the picture of Margaret Lawrence Van de Ryse….a lady who had been my first-born’s first and most wonderful babysitter. I wept silently at the kitchen table because I had lost contact with Margaret and her husband Ambrose and really felt again, how essential it is to soak up the love for one another and never take a moment for granted.
I told my husband-at-the-time, that I was heading down the highway to Kircaldy (just outside of Vulcan) because I had to go and comfort Ambrose. He asked, “Are you nuts? Look at the blizzard out there!”
I said, as I shut the newspaper, “Never mind, I will be fine…just please, take care of the kids and I’ll be home by dark.” I had once previously visited the farmhouse that edged the train tracks and set out on blind faith that I would somehow find my way.
I drove through frigid winds…slippy roads…and blowing snow…but eventually came to Vulcan and then opened up the radio station wide…and my eyes just as wide, to find the little spot at the side of the train tracks. With my spider senses, I turned in on the country road…and managed my way into the open yard of the homestead. Of course, in my head, I had wondered if anyone would even be home, and sure enough, Ambrose was just stepping out of the tiny house…his rubber boots, well up to his knees. He was such a short guy. He had done years of tarring on roofs…and his skin was deep red…and he was buried under a layering of felt jackets….he put his gloved hand up to his forehead, as though needing to clarify his vision in the whiteness, and with a quick moment of recognition, came bounding toward me.
He embraced me as though no time had passed between us and he sobbed in my arms. I began to cry as well and then a beautiful old dog( who I later learned was named Sandy) came up to me, tail wagging and body rubbing up against my leg. Amy asked if I would come into the place for tea. We visited most of the afternoon…stories from Drumheller and Calgary and Margaret and her baking…it was all so wonderful…several cups of tea.
Ambrose was without direction…so strange to suddenly be without the constant of his life. “Should I stay here? Should I move to the city? What am I going to do with all of this stuff?” Margaret would be laid to rest in her home town of Drumheller. I asked what would happen to Sandy? I told Amy, “I would love to adopt her if you can’t take her with you.”
In his loud voice he asked, “Why would you take Sandy when she has a whole brood of pups, all weened, out under the shed?” I asked him to show me, so we put on our coats and boots and headed out.
When I saw the number of beautiful pudgy 8 week old pups, I squealed with excitement. “Oh!” I cried out, “I can adopt a wee baby girl and name her Maggie after Margaret! Oh my gosh!” And so began my quest for a female in the litter…I so wanted a baby girl. (not even acknowledging that perhaps it wouldn’t be something that my partner at the time might now want). Through the search, one pup kept chasing me down. I looked at his sex and quickly rejected him, although he WAS beautiful. Again and again, he followed me, rolled over me, tripped me…racing to places he shouldn’t have gone…escaping the little shed. And I said to Amy, “What is with this guy? Is he nuts?” Now…don’t get me wrong, he was as cute as a button….but I was looking for a female.
Amy asked, “What is it about a girl?”
“Well, I want to name her after Margaret.”
“Well,” Amy said…”Margaret was named after her father, you know?”
I responded, “What?”
“Yes! His name was Lawrence….and Margaret is Margaret Lawrence….” Well! That was a shoe-in for this pup because Margaret Laurence is my favourite author and the book, The Diviners drives my way of living. I scooped Lawrence up into my arms, kissed his beak….and told him that I would love him forever.
I placed a small cardboard box into the space between the van seats and started my trek home. I loved his small puppy-sounds as I drove. And I loved the sweet puppy-smells. I felt absolutely in love.
When I pulled into the garage, I decided to go into the house first…
I said only a few words…”Please, tell me I can keep him?”
And….that is how Laurie-dog came to be my dearest and most loyal friend.
It is May 3rd….and only an hour ago, I felt my Laurie’s last breaths move my hand up and down. He was 14 years old…and the best friend that I have had in life. He shared many river walks with me…he sat with me while I painted many pictures in the hills. He forgave me. He healed me. He understood me when others couldn’t. He loved with unconditional love and these last few months, according to my wonderful vet, Marty, he has likely been doing a great deal of suffering. My children, my former spouse and I were all with him to watch him gently move out of this life…and to be born into a peaceful place. St. Francis is there to greet him. Many of you have met him…and had a titch of the love shared with you that I had always felt through him. You were a part of his life and so you need to have his story….it is my gift to you.
We will be gathering someday soon to sprinkle his ashes on the soft grasses of summer, down at the Bow River’s edge where we loved to walk. The magpies will be there….and the red berries of the rose bushes…the pheasants will dive from the top of the ridge. And we will remember and always love our Laurie-dog.