Once upon a time, there was Angel.
Angel was a small, bounding ball of blond (blond, not white*) of fluff that came into my life when I was 15. Angel predates Poseidon in my life. We were a no dogs! household, until my mother started dating — er, I hesitate to call him a man — who’s sole good contribution, far as I’m concerned, was to bring Angel into our lives. The story went: he and his son found Angel out in the streets one snowy night and rescued him. Four or five years later I would learn that that’s not exactly how that went down, but I had no way of finding the people Angel previously belonged to (“man” was already out of our lives by then, and good riddance) and Angel and I were inseparable by that point. Let me be honest: I wasn’t interested in trying too hard to locate these people in the second largest city in New England.
We didn’t want to name him Angel, but Mum insisted. He was the “don’t get too attached, he’s not staying,” dog. He took to sleeping with Kevin right away, and he would mimic Kev’s sleeping patterns and positions, which was adorable to watch. They’d share the pillow. Once, when Mum went to wake Kevin up to go to school, Angel chased her away. Once, when Angel was running downstairs for something or other and he realized he’d forgotten his chewy upstairs, he made a very human sighing-in-exasperation sound and turned around to go get it. Angel was as much cat-like as he was dog. He’s the dog that got me over my small dog snobbery. He had all my cat-loving friends fawning over him. He was pretty, and he was wicked in the way that spitz breeds are, with that shit-eating grin, and that devilish gleam in his eyes. He was friendly with almost everyone, in a somewhat atypical Pomeranian way, though he especially loved Kevin, and he was utterly, utterly stupid about me. A house full of people, and if I simply looked at him he’d be on my lap in an instant. No command, no signal, nothing beyond a look.
The feeling was mutual. I lived, I think maybe a year, possibly not even that long, after I moved out of my mother’s house, without him, until I got permission from the landlady to bring him with us. I saw him a lot, even then, but oh, getting him to live with me again was just . . . that dog. That dog. He loved everyone, but he was mine.
I stayed with my ex longer, after it became clear that the relationship was doomed, because I didn’t want to take Angel away from him; they were close, too. But when I moved out of the bedroom, he came with me on his own accord. When we moved in with Beth, he slept for the first month by my head, with his paws on my face. When I was afraid that Beth’s Orion (a Keeshund) would bully Angel, Angel showed me that, no, the seven pound dog was going to be the boss of the house (or, second boss, after Sassy). He took the influx of cats with stride, even when baby Neech decided that Angel would make the *best* pillow (I have pictures!) When Corbie came to live with us, Angel showed him the ropes, and for six glorious, glorious months, we were flush with dogs, and it was wonderful.
He was always being mistaken for a younger dog. Aside from his spastic trachea he really had no health problems. And, one day, he developed a cough. A month later he was dead, having died a horrible, horrible death that I will never, ever, so help me, let any of my family suffer through again. (I maintain that he wanted it that way. He totally hid how bad it was, and that last day he was walking around on his own, navigating the stairs, hanging with us like he hadn’t done since we started medication, played “hunt” with some food I tried to get him to eat, even ate some of the food. He watched TV with us. He was downright perky — and once we called it a night, it all went to to hell.)
It shouldn’t be surprising that Angel’s on my mind a lot, with CHF that Corbie’s dealing with. Corbie presented symptoms much earlier, is responding to treatment, is likely not as old as Angel was when Angel got sick (I have the joy of not knowing exactly how old most of my animal companions are, and with Corbie, as with Angel, we don’t even know which year). But he is still on my mind, a ton.
In my spiritual landscape, family is family, and my gods care about my family regardless of species. Poseidon especially has a healthy respect for the importance of small dogs in my life, which renders them important to Him. (I balked at this, at first; I don’t any more. The whole point of marriage, of this sort of union, is, well, union, right? What matters to Him matters to me; why shouldn’t those things that matter to me matter to Him, as well? That’s not hubris; that’s marriage.) Much as I adore Him, He is not the psychopomp figure in my life. That is Odin. And Odin assured me before Angel even passed that he had a place within Odin’s Hunt, should he want it.
Angel was not one of those dog-dogs. I don’t know how to explain it, really. Many people commented that he did not strike them as a dog so much as someone who was currently in a dog form. What really matters is, I knew that when he died, he wouldn’t leave. I knew that he had no intention of moving on, that our friendship was not going to end simply because he was no longer incarnate. He left for a small while, tucking his presence away from my awareness, because I did not handle that transition well at all, but he came back and when he did it was clear that he was getting a great handle on this whole spirit-being thing. He was only sometimes a dog. He was very cozy with Odin and, more, with Bestla. I did not see that coming. Bestla is one of Beth’s important kin, and She’s important to Odin but I don’t really have a lot of direct contact with Her, so, yeah, pretty humbled by that.
Now and again I make attempts to involve Angel in my spiritual life, but it hurts, still, so it’s not something I do regularly enough. He gets honored during the Festival of Treats, and when his presence is near-tangible I speak with him, but I don’t seek him out.
He showed up on Tuesday. He shared a desire to explore other areas, a desire of moving on. He made it clear that his preference was to stay around, that our relationship mattered more to him than moving on, but that he is pretty much spinning his wheels due to my lack of attention. He was the least canine like I’ve experienced him. And, I feel like an ass, because he is so very important to me. I don’t want to hold him back, but I also don’t want him to go. I’m not ready for him to move on yet — except, if it was just that, I would say, go, do what you are moved to do, I’m not going to be selfish and make you stay. It’s not just that — the moving on, the exploring other things is a second choice. There’s plenty he’s still got to explore without making any more permanent decisions. I just need to let him back into my life again. He was a constant companion and my best friend for fifteen years — for nearly half my life. And the feeling was so very mutual. So what the heck, Jo?
Sometimes we just fail at things, even when we allegedly know what we’re doing.
* He was often mistaken for white, as he was that bleach blond color. Dorkily enough I know that white Poms are more uncommon, and some say that this is because the white gene is connected to the size gene in some manner, so the smaller the Pom, the less likely they are to be actually white. Is this true? Unsure. What I am sure about is that he was blond.