When this blog was in its heyday, Penelope had a featured role on it. Julia photographed her. I wrote about her. Now that I prepare to modestly revive the blog, I feature Penelope one last time.
Two months ago, after seventeen years, we lost Penelope, an eventuality I anticipated back when I was celebrating her. Julia and I had both put dogs to sleep before, suffered more loss of them than that. We knew the experience. But Penelope, a Shiba Inu mix – Penelope was different. Penelope had surpassed them all. We had loved her brother Homer, gone nearly two years before her, and he had loved us, in his way. We fed and cared for him, petted and kissed him, romped with him and led him on great adventures. He lived to please us.
With Penelope, the far smarter and more temperamental dog, we were in a relationship. And true to her name – and unlike Homer – she had many suitors, but only two people to whom she was faithful. Feisty and fun loving in her prime, and quick to catch the scent of dogs and people she was determined not to care for, Penelope was transformed by great canine age. Once stocky, she had slimmed down, even in her face, and was often on the street, at sixteen and seventeen, mistaken for a puppy, with a puppy’s loving responsiveness. Mostly deaf and blind, we were cheered on those days, very close to the end, when still she showed on downtown walks that pep in her step and nose for the new. Three weeks before the end, after her final bath at Ken’s Barkhaus Mobile Pet Spa, she was looking damned darling.
During her final months, I would often hold Pee’s face in my palms while we gazed, close, into each other’s eyes. Julia did the same. The naysayers, those who look at a tree and see wood in its prior form, discount canine consciousness and affect. They say that what passed between us and Penolope was not a bond of love independent of any need she felt that we could fulfill for her. In truth, it was even more. Much of the talk about love is of its human nature. Beyond the romantic or familiar, it is founded in our “common humanity.” But we and Penelope shared no common humanity. There were our distinct sensuous existences in the world, and forms of consciousness that permitted us mutually to experience and appreciate that existence in each other. This experience crossed the boundary that forms commonality and that separates species. There is no name for it yet. Or maybe there is.
On the day we decided we could delay the inevitable no longer, we scheduled the trip to the vet for evening and spent a last day in love with Pee – Penelo-precious, Penelo-perfect, Penelo-puppy. You get the idea: Penelo had become the universal prefix to more adjectives and nouns we ever knew began with P.
Here is a record of the day.
Penelope at 14