That journey ended on March 30 when it was clear that she had, at best, only a couple of weeks left. Most of her days were spent sleeping and when she was awake she would either spin constantly, pace the house with her head down so disoriented that she bumped into walls and furniture. When I called her or asked her to sit, she would spin around trying to find me, often managing to halfway sit in her best effort to please but often facing away from me and not sure where I was.
She could still walk, but just barely. And on the sunny days that used to be her absolute favorites, the bright light made it impossible for her to move as she hung her head and closed her eyes.
Although we’d gone six weeks without seizures, her level of medications had reached a point that they would soon become toxic and there was the very real chance that she could have violent cluster seizures in the middle of the night that would have been an agonizing farewell that I knew would haunt me for the rest of my life.
Her primary vet, most dog-savvy friends, and her two specialists all agreed that it was time to say goodbye. Horrible as this farewell was, it had the peace, dignity and loving touch that was befitting of Bow. I had debated having it done at home or at the specialist’s office and finally opted for the latter. It is a beautiful facility that feels more like a resort than a clinic, and she was comfortable and felt safe there right through the moment of her last breath as she rested her head on my knee.When she was diagnosed with the tumor in February 2010, we were told she had maybe two months left. The stereotactic radiosurgery done at UC Davis managed to make her first tumor go into complete remission, but a new, larger one developed in December. To do initial radiation would mean exposing the tissue treated last year to a level of radiation that all of the doctors agreed was not worth the level of risk.
The support I have had since her departure, especially from the BRAT community has been overwhelming. The grief has been enormous, but I keep thinking about all of the incredible gifts Bow gave me during our two and a half years together. I had not had a dog in my adult life, and she was a tremendous teacher.
In the future when I make a home visit for potential basenji adopters, I will know all of the right questions because of all that Bow taught me to look out for. And in that moment, I will know that she is there.
When I am asked to evaluate a new basenji coming into rescue, I will be confident determining its temperament, manners and behavior because she showed me the full range of what to expect from a basenji. And in that moment, I will know that she is there.
Once I have reached the point where I know the time is right, and I feel I’ve received a sign from Bow on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, I know I will be able to bring a new basenji into Bow’s home. When we take our first walk, and there is a tug on the leash or a reaction to another dog walking by us, I will know just what to do because of all that I learned from Bow. And in that moment, I will know that she is there.
When I am with another creature – be it a basenji or a human – and I become frustrated and want to demand respect and have my authority recognized, I will pause and remember all that I learned from Bow. I will take a breath, remember to act with the same gentle, consistent and patient leadership that helped Bow feel confident and willing to obey. And in that moment I will know that she is there.
In my darkest, most discouraging moments when I feel that all is hopeless I will remember the most important lesson I learned from Bow. She let me know that I still had the capacity to give and receive unconditional love. She may not be by my side, but the love we shared is no less present than it was on our last day together and it is something that I know I will eventually be able to share with another basenji. And when another pair of almond eyes look up at me willing to make an attempt to trust me and see if we are prepared to share a life together, I will remember all that Bow taught me that will give me the confidence to be a good guardian. And in that moment I will know that she is there.