I first learned about artist Nina Bagley while reading "True Colors: A Palette of Collaborative Art Journals". I fell in love with her beautiful collages and was thrilled to learn that she has a blog called Ornamental (http://www.ornamental.typepad.com/). I was amazed to learn that not only is she a beautiful artist, photographer and jewelry maker, but an astounding writer.
Nina's blog is the type of blog that I aspire to write, but have failed miserably. I cannot begin to write as well as Nina does. Her posts about her home in the North Carolina mountains, her nature-inspired creations, her parents, her two sons, her dear sister, her cherished friends and her beloved dog evoke and stir so many feelings, emotions and insights. She writes with soul and heart and passion.
Having followed Nina's blog for quite some time, I (and her other readers) were aware that her dear Aspen, a springer spaniel, was aging, and at 16, was showing signs that he would not be with her much longer.
Sadly, Aspen died May 11. Yesterday, Nina said "goodbye to the dearest friend I ever had". I just had to re-print part of her post here. She expresses what I have not been able to write about my most recent dearest friend, my golden retriever Penny, who passed on January 6, as well as our other dear boys and girls: Beau, English Setter, age 14 1/2; Brandy, German Short Haired Pointer, age 14; Lady, cocker spaniel, age 16 1/2.
I felt I had to share this loving tribute, for all of us who love dogs and feel, as does does Mary Oliver (below) that the world would be a sad place indeed without dogs.
"Ornamental", May 15, 2009 - copyright Nina Bagley:
i loved this boy so much, so very much - loved him in a different way than loving another human being, which is an altogether different brand of love, you see. aspen loved me absolutely and without condition; he expected nothing of me except his breakfast and dinner and to be near me at all times, whether awake or asleep. i've never been loved before like that; perhaps i may again, when a springer spaniel puppy comes back into my life, but to live alone with a dog like this - a dog i had in my life for fourteen of his sixteen years - is to know the meaning of love in its purest, truest form. i could look into those big brown eyes and know that everything was going to always be okay, as long as aspen was there by my side. i snapped lots of photographs of him in the last couple of years of his life; i knew that i'd cherish them once he was gone, knew that i'd sorely regret not having them if i didn't . . . the photo below (see Nina's blog for this photo and others) is the very last one that i took, late last week, when he was lying below this green table right next to my feet; the peace that was felt in those moments was a tangible thing - touchable, something to reach out and embrace. he did all of this for me, simply by living at my side and by loving me right back.
i want to thank the hundreds, literally hundreds, of you who've written me here and have sent tender emails, who've sent cards, who've called, who've wept along with me. i would have felt like the loneliest person in this corner of the world, were it not for your kind, loving words, for the sounds of your voices on the phone. i had no idea that my grief would knock me right from my knees and onto the ground; i had no idea that so many of you would respond in turn with sorrow of your own. so many of you have said that you'll miss aspen, that he was as much a part of Ornamental as i am. that warms my heart, just knowing that he was loved in so many different places across this great big world. i've experienced a veritable roller coaster of emotions these past few days; not many of you knew that last thursday, before i left for robin's graduation weekend on saturday, i was forced to make the decision to leave aspen at my vet's kennel, rather than drag him along with me into a frenzied, unfamiliar schedule. he had grown lethargic, with little or no appetite, had several accidents here at the house and in the car. so left him, i did, with much hesitation and even greater angst; yet once i'd arrived in boone, i realized with relief that i'd made the right decision.
it was not until i was driving home on monday afternoon, feeling a little bittersweet after the graduation and taking my time on the winding, foggy roads, when i also realized that his time with me was drawing to an end. the vet called while i was passing through asheville, an hour from home, and said that he was "trying to leave us", that i should get there as quickly as i could. i missed seeing him alive for one last time by twenty little minutes. twenty. but his eyes were open, and i could swear that he was looking right back into my eyes for one last, beautiful, heart wrenching time. a friend and reader shared this lovely quote from mary oliver today with me, and it took my breath away, as her words so often do:
"We open the door and he [Ben the dog] glides away without a backward glance. It is early, in the blue and grainy air we can just see him running along the edge of the water, into the first pink suggestion of sunrise. And we are caught by the old affinity, a joyfulness -- his great and seemly pleasure in the physical world. Because of the dog's joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?"
i've questioned myself, my decision to leave him, a thousand times since monday afternoon. i'm sick that he was alone, without me by his side, when he decided to leave this earth. yet i also know that he most likely chose it to be that way, to spare me of any greater pain. i'm eternally grateful that i was saved from having to make a decision to put him to sleep; i'm grateful that this didn't happen while i was in boone, before robin's graduation; i'm especially grateful that it now won't happen while i am away from home for nearly a month - it would have been unfair to burden my parents with all of this, had i left him with them as planned while i am away. good dog, aspen. wise dog. good, good dog. i still expect to find him in all of the usual places - at the open door, beside my bed, here at my feet. and perhaps he is here, after all, just invisible to my limited eyes. i hope that is the case.