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Ally and Me: A Memorial
When we lose someone dear and precious, it is up to all others to die before they are lost to us again. Safe in our memory this recent death awakens and adds to the loss of all who have gone before. They loosen, stretch and as they join hands the weight of all pain and grief crushes us until we think we can’t stand or move or breathe again.
There is an emptiness in my heart that is like a dog. Her name is Ally and she is a Doberman. And if you know about Dobes, you know that they are special- if you have been able to be loved by a Doberman; you will know that they are unique. Ally is awesome.
It was barely two weeks when we met. My life is complete and completely chaotic because I’m leaving a place I don’t want to go and moving to a place I don’t want to go. I know I can’t do it alone, I need a dog. But not just any dog, a Doberman.
He was born from the Aeolus pedigree and his breeders who sold him to me said that his line has won many awards for best in show, obedience and many others. They are champions and he says this is his best litter in twenty years – he sells puppies for $4,000 each.
When he noticed the gut he heard, he said he had 2 males and 2 females that he would sell for $1000-$1500 each. He suggested that I drive to his cabin to meet these puppies. The caretaker took me into a large garage type building and picked up 4 small bodies, placed them on the cement floor and left me alone with them. When I was sitting on the floor, one of the puppies got out and started to kick all over his body. His 3 other litter mates stood at their ball and looked at me warily. At that time, Ally and I began a ten-year journey that ended on the morning of March 26th, 2006.
Ally wasn’t afraid. Our first “outing” was to a Petco store in Houston – he was 4 weeks old. He saw a big Rotweiler, the dog must have weighed 120 or 130 pounds, this little puppy “attacked” the Rotweiler-straining on his leash while he was old, screaming with all the burden of the 80 pound beast he would become within the year. The owner as well as the 5 or 6 other customers in the store broke up. Throughout his life that fearlessness would be an important part of his personality.
He was three months old when we left Texas to go to Massachusetts and I was really scared. We arrived at Logan Airport at the end of November 1995; I picked up Ally from the dog carrier and as we sat in the airport plane I wasn’t sure who was more scared, her or I. I found a house to rent with a tree for the puppy to run and grow into I can only hope that the new job and home will work out for us. But I’ve been in Texas for nearly 20 years and moving to Massachusetts is like moving to another world.
I work very long hours, too long to be fair to a rapidly growing, energetic and lonely puppy. But over the course of a few weeks, we changed to a way of life that worked well for both of us. The caretaker has taught me that crates are the best for growing dogs – since they are animals, they are safe and the things in the house will be protected from curious puppy teeth. But during the times you are allowed out of the box, it’s all fair game. It was most difficult to keep up during my morning exercise and it must have been during one of those times that the cause of our first crisis occurred.
We have probably been in our new home for a month or so. At two or three o’clock one morning, Ally suddenly became very ill with vomiting and diarrhea. I called the emergency number for a doctor, and I reached a man named Dr. Rice. After explaining my situation to this man, he responded by giving me directions to Tufts University Hospital advising that the dog’s symptoms seemed to require emergency surgery and that his practice was closed as he is close to retirement. I will never know why this good man agreed to let me bring Ally to his office at 6 am on my way to work. Dr. Rice told me that he did not know what would cause such a violent illness in a dog this young and in his gentle way tried to prepare me for all eventualities. He explained what he was going to do and what his options were and that he would call me mid-morning. I was meeting with my administrative staff about our budget challenges when my secretary interrupted us with a call from Dr. Rice. Taking the call, the listeners in my office heard only one scream from me: “what … pantyhose?” And my whole office was dissolved into gales of laughter.
Ally saw and picked up a pair of my panty strings. Dr. Rice was surprised by the fact that the purgatives caused the pantyhose to come out without complications. He could not identify anything on the X-Ray and had to rely on restoring the lost fluids of the dog and continued to draw vomit hoping that something. will be out. He said it took him and his staff a while to identify what the object was. I picked up my dog later that afternoon with a heartfelt thank you to this man- when I asked if he could recommend a vet for me to take Ally to, he smiled and replied, he already had one.
The best times in those first few months were spent behind the rental house to find trees where it could compete with complete abandonment that winter and spring. Or those weekends when we run through the quiet streets of the city. Many evenings we would just sit and listen to music and I would talk to him about whatever was on my mind.
When John met Ally and I that year, it took some time for them to understand each other. John was used to dogs but dogs that were mostly outside and kind of invisible. Ally liked being outside- if I was there but it was invisible. As soon as John and I got married he bought a couple of books about Dobermans so he could learn about this dog who is the best friend I will ever have. When he finished the books he announced that he now agrees … that with the Doberman you just have to know that it is a very good word that they chose to live with him and to love him … but that it is their. choice.
What is it about love between us and a dog? Is it that we envy their integrity of character or the purity and simplicity of their nature? Where most of our lives are spent constantly at war with our different selves – destroyed by greed or greed, the animal is never more or less animal. Where love between humans is often conditional, the love of a dog inhim it just eats no matter what. I think it’s no coincidence that God spells backwards.
John and I talked for hours about Ally the night she died. John does most of the talking while I do most of the shouting. We talk about his soul- that Texas heart of a size full of irreverent spirit. John took many walks in the desert alone with Ally and said that he would always think about what might happen if they met a mountain lion, which is abundant in the high desert mountains. That night, John said that he knew exactly what was going to happen. That if it was necessary, Ally would have put herself between John and the lion, and would fight until her death.
There is a stone on his grave that reads:
“Aeolus” Ally Heart and Soul
August 7, 1995 – March 26, 2006
The gift I am sending you is called a dog, and it is the most precious and valuable thing for mankind.”
When I was still in high school, I discovered the books of Kahl Gibran and memorized some sentences that seemed to explain the confusion of my life as an adult. Now as much older adults, they come back…
“…Your happiness is your unmasked sadness. And well your smile has risen many times filled with your tears. And how can you be?
The deeper the sadness, the greater your happiness… When you are sad, look inside your heart and you will see that you are actually crying for what it is. your pleasure. Some of you say, “Happiness is greater than sorrow,” others say, “No, sorrow is greater.” But I tell you, they cannot be separated.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your table, remember that the other is asleep in your bed. Indeed you are suspended as the scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when it is empty are you steady and balanced. “…
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