9 November 1998 – 27 November 2010

 

Almost a dozen years ago,

after living for a year and a half without a dog,

I got a call from my friend Lynelle.  She had been hiking on

Mt. Sanitas, run into a woman with two beautiful standard poodles,

asked where she’d gotten them, called the woman in Rock Creek who was

the source, and discovered that she had a litter of puppies ready

to go.  I phoned the woman, got directions to her home,

took Sofia out of school, and

drove there.

 

I used to believe,

having trained dogs when I was

younger, that I knew something about them.

When we got to Rock Creek, I started performing puppy tests,

in my mannish way, to sort out which was the best dog of the five available.

Sasha was the first dog I tested, the runt of the litter, and it took me all of a minute

or so to dispense with her.  I was on to the third or fourth puppy when

Sofia, who was sitting quietly against the fence with Sasha

in her lap, spoke softly.  ”Dad, I think we

should take this one.”

 

 

“Really?!”, I said.

I’d been decidedly unimpressed with her.

But I always knew my daughter was smarter than me,

so that was the end of it.  We paid the woman

and went home with our new dog.

 

 

It would be fairer

to say that Sasha raised Sofia than

that I did.  She slept with her every night,

napped with her every afternoon,

communed with her

constantly.

 

 

When I lost my daughter

almost six years ago, it was Sasha who carried

me through it.  In Tibetan culture dogs are regarded as the

reincarnations of high lamas, and are treated accordingly.  Sasha

taught me over the course of a dozen years

that this is fact, not fancy.

 

 

To try to recount all else

that Sasha carried me through, taught me,

helped me to bear, suffered or savored or celebrated with me

would require more space than the internet offers.  I realized early, as did

most everyone who knew her, that I was in the presence of a realized being —

pure grace, pure patience, pure humor, pure steadfastness.  I didn’t

always behave accordingly, though mostly I’d like to think I did,

at least in the way I held her, regarded her, treated her.

But I did always know what I was looking at

when I looked in those eyes.

 

 

When she was

diagnosed with melanoma two

years ago, they told me,

“Three months,

tops.”

 

 

She stayed twenty four,

through three surgeries, a bunch of

radiation, an experimental study at CSU.

Throughout she was as present, as loving, as kind

hearted as ever.  A couple of months ago I walked over to

Whole Foods with her for a cup of coffee to drink with my NY Times.

We sat down at the tables out front, and a middle-aged woman a couple of

tables away was talking, rather incessantly, with a young couple at a table on the

other side of her.  I could tell immediately that she was somewhat needy

and unhappy, describing her husband’s refusal to let her decorate

her home the way she liked, and things like that.  The couple

answered her politely, if not enthusiastically,

and left after a few minutes.

 

At that point she turned to me

and began asking questions.  I don’t love a lot of

conversation first thing in the morning, especially of a certain

kind, especially with strangers, and I answered in the best way I could

to get across the message, “I’m going to drink this coffee and quietly enjoy my

paper now.”  She understood and quieted down after a few questions, but

I could still feel her very real unhappiness just vibrating away.  After

a minute or two, Sasha got up, walked over to her table, and lay

at her feet.  She stayed there, soul-doctoring in silence,

until I left a half an hour later.

 

 

This was Sasha

on the day she left her body.

One eye had stopped working a few days

earlier, the other was glassy, and she had a hard time

locating us if she was more than a few feet away.  But when

you put your face next to hers, or curled your body

around her, she was the same as she ever was.

She curled back into you and

radiated love.

 

I could never

summarize her and won’t try.

But I understand in my bones what bodhisattva

means because of Sasha, and also how Rumi stopped

searching for Shams because he came to

understand that Shams lived

inside him.

 

 

This is the best friend

and greatest teacher and purest love

I’ve ever known, on the 25th of July of this year,

filling my home in Boulder with God.  Ibn al -Ghazali wrote

that “Prayers for the dead are on the same footing as gifts for the living.

The angel goes in to the dead with a tray of light, bearing a cloth of light,

and says, ‘This is a gift for you from your brother so-and-so, from

your relative so-and-so.’ And he delights in it

just as a living man rejoices

in a gift.”

 

Do me a favor today

and send a tray of light to Sasha.

Trust me when I tell you that she is never not

sending one to each and every

one of you.

 


North star,

guiding light,

beloved.

 

11 Comments 9 November 1998 – 27 November 2010

  1. Kelly Carlsten

    Sasha was an amazing girl and I feel lucky to have met her. Thank you for sharing her stories Brian, you are in my thoughts.

  2. Josh Koch

    So sorry to hear the news. I have often told stories from my interactions with Sasha….she was truly a miraculous creature

  3. mnx

    Bye beautiful Sasha
    first picture I saw
    knew you were loved
    thankyou for unveiling a man’s heart…..

  4. Bill Goldman

    Hey Brian,
    That was beautiful- great photos of Sasha and Sofia-eloquently written.
    I’m so glad I had a chance to know Sasha- Being an embodiment of Love, she transcends time and tranmits Love to all beings right now

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  7. Joyce Galloway Parker

    I just read the beautiful tribute to your dad and cried as I read it. Then I read this and really started bawling! I am so, so sorry for the loss of your beautiful, precious daughter, and for the loss of this wonderful, magnificent dog.

    While I have loved and lost several dogs, and grieved long and hard for each of them, I thank God I don’t know the pain of losing a child, and pray I never do.

    This will stay in my heart and on my mind for a long, long time. And you will be in my prayers.

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