The Last Walk

On rare occasions, I choose to share something personal on my blog, which focuses normally on Benetech, technology for good and social entrepreneurship.  Two weeks ago, I wrote the following to friends and family:
Australian shepherd dog next to a tree wrapped with her leashOur beloved Australian shepherd, Calypso, turned 14 years old today. I just took her on a walk around the block. It was bittersweet. Time has been kind to her looks, but not her mind. Her coloration is such that gray doesn't show: she looks the same as she did ten years ago, except a bit thinner. But, our bright, vivacious dog has slowly gone away. She's lost most of her vision, and most of her hearing, and it seems like she has the dog equivalent of Alzheimer's. Formerly a fiend for toys, and an avid playmate for other dogs, she doesn't notice them anymore. As she slowly went around the block, limping and stumbling over cracks in the sidewalk, I began to realize that this might be the last time I get to take her on a walk around the block. A few flashes of the former dog showed as she eagerly sniffed a tree or two at the beginning of the walk, but eventually settled into a slow routine. She even walked by our front gate, missing her arrival home, formerly the occasion for great excitement. But, as we started up the walk, I got the glimmer I hoped for that she knew she was home (or did I imagine it?), As I unlocked the door, she turned around and looked down our front walk. Perhaps we both wondered if there would be a next time. Happy birthday, Calypso. We already miss you.
I was in tears writing the words above, which is pretty rare as a die-hard analytic geek engineer.  And Calypso was aware of that.  That evening the old Calypso resurfaced a bit as she stuck by my side as she used to do when anyone was upset, licking my hand in support.

My worried post on canine cognitive decline turned out to be even more true than I expected.  Calypso declined rapidly and passed away last week, only eight days later, in the arms of my (adult) son, Andy.  That was indeed our last walk around the block.

I'm sharing this because my initial words touched many of my friends, who shared their understanding.  And for my colleagues, who might have detected some slacking off lately in my relentlessly optimistic Energizer Bunny persona.

Many of us feel like our pets are integral parts of our families.  Although the passing of a pet isn't "supposed" to affect us so strongly, for many of us  it clearly does.  My family is still walking around out of balance, always expecting to see our dog, starting to go to feed her or let her out.  There's a dog-sized hole in our lives, and it is a much bigger hole than I ever expected.

I thought I'd share a picture of Calypso in her prime, as we'll remember her.
Australian shepherd running at full tilt on a beach, tongue out so far it's almost licking on of her eyes, which are different colors (brown and blue).

Thanks, Calypso, for all the love and happiness you gave our family.  We do miss you.    


Donna McNear said…
Great photo of Calypso. Hope it is framed and on display someplace in your home. Would be a great painting. Let me know if you ever want to consider that.
MrsLittleJeans said…
So sorry about this Jim...I was in tears even though I always tell myself that the pet led a good life and there should be no sorrow...I hope you find another one like Calypso to share another part of your lives
Unknown said…
Beautiful tribute to Calypso who brought so much joy to the Fructerman family. She was beautiful and shared herself with a loving family that gave her a great life. She will always be missed. Anyone who has ever been blessed with a dog in their life knows what you are all going through. Sending hugs.
RB said…
I'm so sorry about Calypso. What a beautiful dog.
Unknown said…
The "dog shaped hole" is very familiar. This is what I wrote when our Sooty left after 15 years.It's called "The ache of the isn'ts" is

It's the isn'ts that ache
And they take
By surprise.
There once was a bowl
where this emptiness lies;
There once was a basket tucked under the stairs
But now that there isn't
its just empty air.
There used to be rhythms
Of breath where she lay
But now that there isn't
it's silent all day.

There used to be greetings
wherever we sat
A shadow that followed;
a chin on the lap
But now there's a nothingness
Follows me round
There isn't a shadow,
there isn't a sound.

The ache of the isn't
is painful and yet
The is's were worth it
I have no regret.
Jim Fruchterman said…
Thanks for the kind thoughts. We have to fill that dog-shaped hole: we're looking at Australian Shepherd puppies tomorrow.

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