Farewell to a Dear Friend

“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

10 Responses to “Farewell to a Dear Friend”

  1. Lia Says:


    I’m so sorry for your loss. Rose was indeed a special creature and I’m glad I was able to meet her during her short life. You left out my favorite picture- the day she got into your paint. I look at the way she posed for pictures and think she was an artist herself who had finally become too frustrated to let you have all the fun. You are in my thoughts and prayers. I hope that coming back to a home without her isn’t too painful for you, but that you’re able to focus on the happy memories you shared.

    Lia Lara-Tellez

  2. Angel Says:

    Lia, thank you for your beautiful words and for reminding me of that photo… That was such a crazy day, having to clean yellow paw prints! I am uploading it now. 🙂

  3. Laura Crary Says:

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute to your friend, Rose. I remember seeing the photos of her in the pool during the fires, and thinking how beautiful she was, and what a sweet name she had. I prematurely lost my beautiful cat Bobby last year. You may remember. I don’t have the eloquence you have, so I’m grateful for the way your words and photos pay tribute not only to your Rose, but to that feeling that those of us who love our animals have.

  4. Angel Says:

    Laura, I truly believe we are fortunate to be able to experience such amazing, intuitive and constructive connections with other species, even when they prove ephemeral. It’s an extended dimension of living and I’m glad to be in touch with others who understand, so here’s to Bobby and you as well. Thank you.

  5. Larry Phillips Says:

    So very beautifully written, Angel. I tend to measure humans by their relationship to animals and their resulting behavior toward them. This that you’ve said here places you and Rose high in my esteem.

  6. Cristina Says:

    Mi Queridisimo Angel,
    What beautiful words and pics you’ve shared with us!! As I went through the page, my eyes got watery and my heart ached… for you, for Steve and, specially, for lovely Rose. I still can’t wrap my mind around her being gone and I can’t even start to imagine the pain and suffering you both have gone and surely are still going through. My achey heart goes out to you. I know you will treasure forever the wonderful time she gave you. Memories last a lifetime, too bad we all are just passing by…
    love you always,

  7. Becky Arzola Says:

    Sweet Angel and Steve,
    I am truly sorry for your loss. I feel your pain, I am in tears for you. This was a beautiful expression of love and respect for Rose and animals around the world. the way you see her is with such love, you saw her beauty, loyalty and even her mischief like no other and we can see that by your photos, since they are through your eyes. She will not be forgotten and I am so happy to have met and played with her before she went. I’m am so very happy she was able to be in such a wonderful and loving family. <3

  8. Becky Arzola Says:

    Sorry it took so long to see this, I only come on once in big while lately and just saw this a moment a go, Adam and I draw tears for your loss. <3

  9. Sheryl Heth Says:

    Hi Angel,
    Gil and I are so sorry you and Steve lost Rose. Steve sent me this link while we were in Spain but I couldn’t look at it until we got home today. Rose couldn’t have had a better home or more loving and attentive parents. She was a very happy girl. We will miss her.

  10. Alexandra Byerly Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing all these beautiful pictures and your love for Rose,,,she’s in heaven and she watches over you, she gave you all she had and that was her unconditional love,,,
    I know what you’re going through, my one and half year Chihuahua, Clemente Picasso, have to be put down, leaving me in pain in sorrow, specially because I had to make that decision,,,,savour the moments, the memories and this memorial is proof of the love you have for Rose,,,hugs!

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