I just came back from paying a shiva call for Atticus Goldring, the 14 year-old Golden Retriever, Mattie and Roy, my former neighbors, lost over the weekend.
Atti was riddled with arthritis, barely able to walk, so they took him in on Saturday to that big, vast park in the sky.
It’s where I met him, years ago, when I found him off his leash eating remnants of a tuna sandwich in the midst of the Great Lawn.
I remember Mattie running up the hill yelling at him like he was her son, and of course he was, just with a tail and two extra feet.
We sat side by side, on the sofa, telling teary tales about Atticus’s chronic antics, surrounded by pictures of him, in his Halloween costumes when he was the Phantom of the Opera and Deputy Dog. Mustn’t forget the time Roy dressed him up as Miles Davis, his favorite musician, in a turtleneck and beret. Did Miles ever even wear a beret? I remember asking. Roy answering, he wasn’t sure, but Atticus could carry it off either way.
How they loved him, and as we all know, when an animal departs, so do our hearts, losing a comrade who never left or judged, always there to comfort and keep us company.
Mattie kept saying, “Oh, did we do the right thing? Should we have waited a little longer?”
Evidently Atti had rallied a bit, seeming better, though it happened before…that optical illusion of wellness that’s oh so fleeting in its hopeful light.
It reminded me of something my old vet had said to me, when I took my beloved cat, Inky, in feeling, it was time to let her go, but she too, had a moment of comeback, causing me to pause thinking, she’d somehow be okay again.
And Gerry Johnson, in his sweet, calming voice said, “Wouldn’t you like to go out when you were feeling a little better, a little less pained and confused? Don’t you wish someone could do that for you?”
When I said this to the Goldrings they seemed relieved as they tenderly held Atti’s collar, while passing around tuna on Ritz Crackers.