My daughter’s dearly beloved dog, Rainbow, a Flat-Coated Retriever, died on January 24. She was two months shy of 13. Her death saddened our family immensely.
I looked out my bedroom window a day after Rainbow’s passing and saw her paw prints in the snow in the garden, a place she loved. They will melt away in the rain, leaving only the grass, or be covered by more snow, but these paw prints are indelibly embossed in my mind.
I was scared of Rainbow when I first set eyes on her in Los Angeles on a warm winter day about 10 or 11 years ago. I was not accustomed to big black dogs, and I thought she might attack me. She looked intimidating, really. Little did I know that she was the gentlest of dogs. Looks can indeed be deceiving.
As I got to know her, I realized she would never harm me. As I took her on walks, she became a close companion I could trust. I was never frightened of her after Los Angeles, even when she was in a frisky and playful mood and jumped up at me in mock aggression.
She was like a human. When I peered into her glowing orange eyes, she looked back in empathy, as if she had sensed my mood. She was not a cipher. She had a personality. She was kind, quiet and well mannered, a real sport. She never tried to hog the limelight, like Elmo, our late Maltese. She was a lot like our other late Maltese, Pablo, whom I could hug and kiss.
She was so obedient. When I drove from Toronto to New York City, she sat quietly in the back, enjoying the ride every kilometre of the way. She never once barked in complaint. Rainbow was a world traveller, having been to Paris and various cities in Canada and the United States. She was my daughter’s shadow.
In retrospect, I fondly remember the pleasant walks with her in the ravine near our home, along Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles and in my daughter’s neighborhood in Toronto. I also recall the nights she curled under our coffee table as we watched TV, the mornings I would feed her when my daughter was away on a trip, my wife feeding her home-cooked meatballs or sneaking a pill down her throat when she was sick, and the joy she exhibited when she exuberantly greeted my daughter at the front door upon her return from out of town.
I’m sad that her last days were marked bu discomfort, but all living/breathing things are born, and die, in some form of pain. I’m grateful we were all there to comfort her in her final moments.
She’s gone now, but I will never forget her uneven shaggy coat, her bushy tail, her forlorn eyes, her gentle mien, and her good-natured sticky-tongue licks on my cheek.
She had an exceptionally good life, and she was pampered until the very end. We will miss her greatly, but we will never forget her. She was an integral member of our family, and will remain in our collective memories until our own lives peter out.
I’m taking one last glance at her paw prints in the snow before they vanish.