Spring. The season of re-birth. Germination. Gardens flourish. Wildflowers stud the hilltop pasture in an explosion of beauty. It’s ironic how many times this season of life is marked by farewells. Sad, poignant, permanent farewells. This year, we said good-bye to another pet, Mandy, our twelve-year-old teagle.
Visions play in my memory. We picked her out of a litter born to a beagle mama and a terrier sire. Essentially a long-haired beagle, this short-legged calico dog fit well in the family. I’ll miss how she’d lay at our feet during piano practice, squeaking her squeaky toy as if to say, “You make your music. I’ll make mine.”
I chuckle still to recall her staring at her own image in the hall mirror after her first haircut. Those haircuts transformed her from a wire-haired terrier into the beagle. Her coat always felt soft and luxurious after a haircut.
I’ll miss the way she jumped over the gate in the front yard. Or how, grinning from ear to ear, she’d make a flying leap over the back of our sofa to greet a student at lesson time. Or how she never gave up hope to be allowed onto our bed and would leap quietly onto the covers and curl up, her dark eyes sparkling into mine.
How she’d come running when she heard the jingle of a lead, or my car keys. Ever ready for a walk, she never lost hope that all my departures would include her.
I miss the patience with which she regarded my two-year-old grandson. In my mind’s eye, I see how proudly he helped Grandpa walk the dogs one morning, his small stature marching alongside Grandpa’s six-feet, each with a dog in tow. Grandson handled Mandy. Grandpa took the bigger, excitable spaniel.
Fearful of thunder her entire life, Mandy would hide at the first little boom from above. If we forgot to confine her before the annual Independence Day fireworks, the only way we’d find her was to follow the puddles of wet carpet as she anointed any and every room in her distress.
Her fear of booms became a legend. One occasion, my better half overlooked the fact that Mandy was outside when he took his rifle to hunt a skunk. Later, she was nowhere to be found. Not in the barn snuffling in the horse manure, not digging up cat doo along the driveway (her favorite activities). She had disappeared and was absent overnight. The next morning we received a phone call about her. She was in town, four miles away. A kind lady had seen her tearing alongside the highway a mile from our drive. She picked up the frightened dog to keep her safe from traffic (and rifles) and transported her to town. This friend found our identity from the dog tag, after a call to the veterinarian. Mandy had jumped the front yard gate at the first rifle report and sped down the driveway without a backwards glance.
The month of May this year started as the previous eleven Mays began. Mandy got her spring haircut. About the time for her annual checkup, she started to refuse her food—highly unusual for this chubby pet. At her appointment, we checked some swelling on her neck. A biopsy and x-ray follow up convinced us all Mandy had come to the end of the road. We brought her home to baby her as long as she was able to enjoy life. She took a little milk and human baby food for a few days, but eventually refused even those. We walked our favorite walks one last time, until she would walk no more and I ended up carrying her. Her swollen, blood-shot eyes begged for release. At the end of May, we took her for a final visit to the vet. Even then, as I carried her in, she mustered a little wag to greet the clinic staff.
Here’s to you, Mandy. Our sweet Mandeth. My Mandyble, now jumping gates in the afterlife. You reminded me that in all seasons, even spring’s season of birth, the entire cycle of life can be found. Without the ending, there is no beginning. For new life springs from the old.