Archive for September, 2010

Farewell to a Dear Friend

Posted in Impressions, Journal Entry, Photography, Writing and Poetry on September 30th, 2010 by Angel Villanueva

“There is no limit to the extent to which we can imagine ourselves into the being of another.”
~J.M. Coetzee, “The Lives of Animals”

On September 9th 2010, Rose, my Labrador Retriever, passed away. She was five years old.

In a way, it was good to be in a distant city when I got the news. Not surrounded by the familiar, I could go about my day bearing the standard of grief without having to explain myself. I could walk the streets at night under a light drizzle, letting the fresh water from above mix on my cheeks with the salt water from within as others hurried past me busy with their lives. I could, as I do, turn inside for answers and not worry about the external world being an encumbrance to the process.

Weighing heaviest on my heart was not being there. Rose was sick before I left for Europe, but we did not know what it was or how bad it was. The different vets who saw her were stumped by her symptoms, which seemed to respond favorably to treatment for an allergic reaction. The cancer diagnosis came too late, at a moment when I had no way of being in touch. Steve, my partner, had to go through it alone, watching Rose quickly fading and helping her to fight in every way he could think of. I know she was well taken care of, yet a part of me wonders if she felt abandoned, if she waited for me as long as she could. I wish I had at least been able to say goodbye.

Rose came home as an eight-week old puppy one eventful afternoon in July of 2005 and immediately became part of a happy triad: Steve, Angel, and Rose. She was family, an integral part of daily life, complementing our existence in ways that only a friendly and loving animal can. For five years, raising and sharing a life with Rose gave Steve and I a joyful common purpose and brought us closer together. She was a gift: free-spirited, tirelessly playful and curious, always excited about new things, places and people, and possessing of a fixity of purpose (finding food!) I have yet to construct for myself about anything. She kept us company when we were away from each other, brightly colored our day-to-day activities and even helped to keep us healthy by having to walk her for miles every day lest she be restless at night and keep us awake. Rose was a living anchor to the good in life, and we were in turn happy to be responsible for the life of an animal friend.

To me, Rose also functioned as an expansion of my mind, extending my cognitive reach into the animal world. She was my experiential bridge to a realm of perception and living otherwise closed off; a constant reminder of the fact that the human experience is but a fragment of a larger reality. Rose showed me that as sentient beings, humans and animals share commonalities which can uphold a kind mutual understanding with surprising ease.

In April of 2007, I had a strange apocalyptic dream in which Rose, then two years old, came to me during a moment of tremendous duress which just happened to take place amidst the ruins of my college campus. Considering the pressure of school at the time, the dream reads like a metaphor for salvation, an act which, in more than one way, this singular creature in fact carried out for me.

There are brands of conviction that place animals on a value scale in which they are considered lesser creatures, different and separate from us, granting adherents the liberty to distance their self-concept from animal identity as far as they wish. I find this appalling. The insight into the fabric of nature we have so painstakingly obtained through scientific study indicates clearly that humans are not simply Masters of the Earth, alone in our comprehension and privileged in our superiority. Being the first species to acquire the power to change the biosphere at will while remaining dependent upon it places us squarely in charge of maintaining its delicate balance. In this sense, we are deeply indebted to the species who have chosen to become our friends, for they are a reminder of our intrinsic connection to the rest of life. To the extent that we separate ourselves in identity, thought, and action from the animals, we become less and less.

A Short Walk Down Memory Lane

Baby Rose, Sleepyhead…

Time out for a rambunctious little girl.

With Steve in the family room.

Growing up.

Graduating from puppy school.

Still thinking she’s a tiny puppy.

In the pool with Natasha.

Fun with friends at the lake.
(Click here for full photo essay.)

Survival instinct at work: taking to the water during the brush fires behind the house.
(Click here for the photo blog of that event!)

Full Winter Coat

One day I came home from work to find that Rose had been busy making art out of herself… and the house! She was about a year old here.

With me in the garden.

Her favorite toy: a hula hoop!

And so, dearest Rose, Steve and I bid you farewell. Though we will always wish you hadn’t left us so soon, we are grateful for the wonderful time we spent together and all the joy you brought us. Thank you. We hope you had a good life, that your needs were met, and that you were as happy with us as we were with you. We loved you. You will always be a star in our sky.

Paris, France
September 30, 2010

“We send our thanks to all the Animal life in the world.
They have many things to teach us as people.
We are glad they are still here, and we hope it will always be so.”

The Mohawk Thanksgiving Address