A year ago our dog started showing sign of old age. Her muzzle turned white and she started to get tired after a bit of running. When you spend fourteen years with someone you start knowing how they feel and what they are thinking. Suddenly Luck wasn’t as active and could sleep the afternoon away. At that time I decided to make a deal with her. I whispered in her ear one night as we both headed for bed that “I needed a year to get ready. I couldn’t let her go any sooner.” Of course she licked my face and I assumed that she agreed.
Last week when my husband and I went to Quebec city for our 22nd wedding anniversary, Luck went into convulsions. The veterinarian suspected a brain tumour with heart issues. Later with blood results there was talk of liver disease. After the ordeal Luck struggled to walk. After a week she stopped eating and lost her autonomy. She hide in dark corners in the house and panted uncontrollably night and day. We had to made the decision to maybe send her to Glooscap.
When I was little (6 to 12 years old) I often attracted stray animals. I don’t know why but dogs especially who were lost from home often followed me back to my parent’s house. My dad would call the SPCA and they would come and pick them up. Often they were old animals that people abandoned. I always wondered why anyone would think of rejecting a pet just because of illness or old age? It didn’t make much sense to me. At the same time, I often pondered on why these dogs would choose me as a guide. What did they see in me?
After having children and moving to our home in the country stray cats and stray dogs started showing up at our door again. We adopted a few and we were lucky enough to know people who were ready to open their homes to these animals. Some didn’t live very long but at least they had people who cared before they took their last breath. I believe that nobody should die alone.
Often when I was younger, when an animal was about to pass, I would dream about this Giant Warrior at least 25 feet tall covered with feathers and holding a spear. His hands were so big that he could hold a medium size dog in the palm of one hand as if it was a small nest. He had long black hair, piercing eyes and looked very much like some of our First Nation ancestors. He wouldn’t talk French or English but it didn’t matter because I always understood that he was there to help. At first the animals would lay still in his hand. He would blow on the animals softly and soon they would start moving and they would become lively. The dream would always end with a path and the sight of the Giant calling out to the animals and bringing them home.
I had a pretty vivid imagination when I was younger, at least that’s what we called it…. I always believed that this Giant was the keeper of the animals even though for a long time I also believed he was a figment of my imagination. In my late 20’s, I randomly shared my story with a Mi’kmaq elder just before a conference and walking out on stage. Astonished, RP told me the legend of Glooscap. She couldn't believe I had dreamt of the Giant without even knowing anything about him. I remember being happy to hear that the Giant of my dreams existed – at least that’s how it felt for me: He was now real!
Two weeks ago, Glooscap visited. He looked a bit more serious than usual as if he was announcing some bad news. I knew that he was coming for Luck. She was having trouble breathing and was always by my side as if she was scared to be left alone or to be taken away from me. I remember waking up that morning and whispering to Luck that “it was ok. She could go now. I wouldn’t be upset because of a breach of contract, after all we were 2 months away from a year.” She looked up and licked my face as if she agreed with me.
On Friday, Luck left with Glooscap. The veterinarian was somewhat caught aback when we asked her to cremate Luck along with a medicine bundle filled with tobacco, a branch from our raspberry bush (Luck loved raspberries), a monarch who died last year (hit by a car), her baby teeth and some of ours. I don't think the clinic is used to families who do rituals and believe that humans and animals end up journeying the same paths in life and death.
In the end, it’s nice to know that in life and in death we’ll stay a family and that maybe one day – we’ll get greeted by Glooscap on the other side.