She arrived in a snow storm. Carefully carried home by my sister as the roads slickened with ice. I found her by the grace of god and internet searching. What a world we have been brought into. Quiet as a church mouse was the description the shelter gave her, and a sweet, sweet demeanor. No physical abuse, only abandoned. Her brother, too.
My beloveds backed my readiness for raising this young pup of 3 months. With muddy paws and seal whiskers, she was called Bella. Beauty. Like the way the autumn sun hits the bright red leaves at the most beautiful angle illuminating the ordinary. She was extraordinary. All love this one precious soul.
Placing her paws one at a time into your hands as she greeted you. Person, oh, yes, let’s connect. She pulled people into her love and wrapped them with soft nose kisses. Intelligent as can be. She learned to sit, down, stay, and come in less than two weeks. She was hungry for more ways to obey my voice, which was an invisible leash, or a bond between us. When she listened to me, she was safe. When she ignored my call, it was only for a short while because she knew her importance in the pack of us wild wolves of Windy Hollow.
Two days before she knew me there was Greg and 15 other pack members, maybe 20 including the other dogs. She stayed in the pack, hiking over streams and thick meadows, smelling the life inside each rodent hole.
I dismantled the crate and lay down a sheepskin at the foot of my bed for her. She did not cry at night any longer. She was home, with me, and we found each other, and that is all that mattered. I woke in the morning with her little nose nudging the side of the bed. She never jumped up, only wanted to be the first spirit to greet me for the new day.
It took her several weeks to learn to love walks. To trust that walks out back meant we were going for pleasure, always to return home. She gathered dozens of ticks, dug up holes, leaped over the brook not always making it entirely, her hind legs sopping wet. She shook off the water and sprinted up the hill to the greening pasture. She always knew the path home. And when she was ready, she would take it regardless of where I was, waiting in front of the barn. I learned to love her love for the comfort of home.
Bella Luna was the name she grew into during a visit with family. Only a few minutes with her light and they heard her name in full. Beautiful Moon. We joked that when she’s gone someday we’ll look up at the moon and there she’ll be. We did not know at that time she would make that departure sooner than we’d like.
She taught me to open my heart even when I could not bear the imminent pain of her leaving. She taught me that healing does not mean cured, it means loving the way I know how and listening to the one who has come to my door. When the root of illness is nothing I can touch, I can still offer comfort, full body strokes, kisses on her forehead, my song. Plants are powerful allies, and they do not always cure the root cause of illness. They can offer comfort and ease the body’s suffering as it disintegrates.
Bella Luna was born with a small deck of cards and her time was limited. Her light burned twice as bright for her short time here. The archetype and size of her kidneys would not support her body as long as we’d assumed. “Hope for the best, expect the worst,” was the motto she gave us. “My spirit will always be here with you even if my body fails me,” said this most enlightened little being. Her brave soul did not fear the transition. She lived in the present. Therefore, each moment was an opportunity to love her even more.
Loving someone or something is a risk because they may die. I am willing to take that risk. The heart breaks are always worthy of feeling, rather than closing down, swallowing the fear of abandonment. Deep down I knew she was destined to depart much sooner than I could imagine. She was a puppy, less than one year and still so much ahead for her. And her destiny was out of my control. Regardless, she and I, and Papa Andrew did our best for one another. We loved each other and did not want to be apart.
We boiled strong brews of herbal tea, we formulated tinctures, we made castor oil packs, we cooked every meal from scratch, we grounded vitamins into her food, we harvested nettle seeds, we sourced local meat, we read books, we gave her shiatsu and cleared her chakras, we sang, we brought her to healers, to veterinarians, to gatherings, to rivers, and we prayed.
She lived two months longer than her prognosis. During that time she was allowed to be in any room on any soft surface of the house. She slept in our bed, she cuddled onto the couch, even had her own little throne near the kitchen so she could keep her eye on us while we cooked for dinner parties. She wanted to be part of it all. She knew she belonged. Bella Luna claimed us, she claimed her space and allowed her body to be as it is. She never gave up, as we say, she surrendered to the essence of Being. I called her Baby B, and she truly knew how to just Be.
As part of letting go, we also stopped using the word, “No.” Our puppy training morphed into only love, only positive affirmation. My need to control her dissipated. I wondered why I ever felt like I had to be in charge all the time? I wanted to protect her from harm.
I wanted to write this story of miracles. I prayed the doctors were wrong and that I could heal her with herbs. I bow to the truth of healing. I bow to the false guidance of right and wrong. I open to the impermanence of bodies. I forgive myself. I honor the wise woman inside who is trying to her best. I honor the brave partner I am blessed to experience it all with. Andrew gave it everything he could to care for Bella Luna. When I was hopeless deep in despair, he stepped in. When he was grief struck and questioning everything, I stepped in.
Our strength grew and Bella affirmed us each time we embraced. Andrew recalls the moment we learned how ill she was. We lay on the couch weeping. She came over and nudged his hand into mine. Wagged her tail and walked away. She knew our love. And she praised our love.
Baby B took her last breath inside that frail aching body during a monsoon of rain. The winds howled, calling her home. The foliage broke free and whipped through the air before landing on the earth to decompose. The sound of water pummeled our windows as if the ancestors were cooing her back to the mystery.
While I slept by her side, I dreamt she morphed into a giant blue whale and leaped over my head, diving deep into the ocean. Upon waking, we sang her the song, Baby Beluga.
I gathered mullein, yarrow, dandelion, red clover, sweet birch, tobacco, goldenrod, and white sage for her grave. A tennis ball which she loved to fetch, too. While placing each item to form a soft bed for her, I called in each direction. The wind responded with a force greater than my mind can comprehend, but I felt it in my bones. The rain soaked my coat and seeped down my vertebrae. Who am I but a river flowing down into this deep hole where the earth will soon hold my sweet B?
She went fast and with grace. Dignity, courage, strength, power, forgiveness, light, playful, tender, vulnerable, trusting, she returned. I surrendered as her spirit rose, trusting the heaven and earth will hold her now.
7 responses to “The end of the outbreath”
What a beautiful post. You are such a great writer Hannah. So sorry for your loss. What a lovely tribute to Bella Luna. Thank you for sharing this.
Thank you for reading, hope you’re well, Nancy. 🙂
Reading this brought me to tears, Hannah. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece of writing that speaks to the wisdom of healing, to love, and to doing the best we can to enjoy every minute with each other because nothing in life will last. I am glad she enjoyed sleeping on all the soft surfaces in your house and know that she had the most loving last months on this earth. Sending you hugs.
I feel your love, Kendall. Thank you for seeing me and her, she was such a light being. Blessings sweet sister.
Lots of love. I feel so lucky to have also had a very special being (dog) with us, in our case longer but so so hard to lose. I cried all through your post. Big hugs.
Shalom. I am in tears and want to thank you for such a sincere and pure writing. My Ziggy has been with me for almost 6 years and every evning or in the morning, I thank him for another day. When I discovered that I was yearning for a service dog, I thought very hard abut what it would be like to be almost 24/7 with one creature. My handicap is hidden, and having a working dog meant that I was telling friends and strangers that I had challenges. He helps me to be honest in many ways. The advice we get from books and trainers about the person being alpha and always in control, is misleading. Thankfully, I chose to envision us as wellness partners. I am not perfect and did not desire a perfect companion during the times he was not guiding me back to my car. It sounds like you and Bella Luna were also loving wellness partners. I know that she will continue bringing you and your humans comfort and joy. As we craft story or an herbal potion, you and Bella created a sacred connection. And we are richer for responding to your invitation.
Thank you for seeing me and the connection we have with our dear animals. Blessings to you and Ziggy. May your days be sweet, full of growth and gratitude.