28 Aug A Best Last Day – A Series of Articles on “Fospicing”
A Best Last Day
(For Mercedes, Elton and all the rest)
Gentle fingers fashioned
From the lightest breeze,
Tickle over your closed eyes,
Angled now to the bluest sky;
These last moments,
Were made just for you.
We surround you,
Our faces pressed against your grizzled cheeks,
As you totter on your rickety pins,
We followed your distant gaze,
Scratched the stowaways
Scurrying over that bent back,
Our throats tapering,
Eyes too slow to capture AWOL tears.
But you didn’t cry.
From the blistering
Tossed from throat
To anguished throat
Away from that choir,
The frantic chorus, to which
You once lent your voice,
Bouncing wall to wall,
Dodge balls at your head;
Away from all of that;
And a million more miles
Away from what could have been.
If there is a moment of peace,
When all expectations slough away,
And all is as clear as the sky was on that day,
Where there is no place for even one roiling thought,
I wished that moment for you then;
As you angled your face
To receive the sun’s balm and blessing,
And surrendered your limbs to grassy ground,
What we wanted to be,
A best last day.
I remember a few moons ago, when I first took the helm of CACC, trainer Curtis Scott was attempting to raise awareness of the need to bring dignity to all of the animals who died anonymously as a result of a lack of space or for other reasons in the municipal shelter. At the time, I could not focus on that aspect of the “business.” I was too close to it. But I understood why he wanted these animals to be acknowledged: We lose something in our souls when we fail to cradle those who are scared or alone when they cross over. Curtis himself died way too soon — and he had just begun lending his dog whispering skills at the City shelter as part of an ad hoc “special ops” team for more challenging dogs — as I wanted the focus to be on how we could help them live.
I wrote the poem above after a long-term dog at the shelter had been returned following a tragic accident in her adopted home. The adopters were stoic, but heartbroken. And unfortunately, given the nature of the incident — the death of a smaller resident dog — the beloved shelter dog was not destined to leave the shelter again. So like a number of others, we gave her a best last day, hoping that would be all she remembered.
The subject of the next few blog posts is the challenging topic of limited time and how some folks make it their business to deal with it to create best last days … or best last weeks … or sometimes best last months. An open-admission shelter caters to whatever crosses the threshold and many animals enter very aged, ill or both, but still have some time. There are some stoic brave folks who are able to engage mindfully with these beings in their final moments, and help them cross the celestial street by becoming “fospice” parents, that is foster parents to terminal companion animals, and providing hospice-type care. They open their homes and hearts to what they know will be intense, if brief relationships. Stay tuned for their stories!