A Day in a Life: On the Wings of the Crow

I dreamed all night, chasing after a fearful Spunky the dog, as she fled from room to room, terrified, unable to settle down. I agonized over her process, as I followed after, wanting her to have calm contentment, to be given respect and quiet, but there was too much stress around her and in my dream she just could not settle down. Then, I heard a voice say: Don’t worry, you’ve all done this so many times before, over many lifetimes, you just have to remember. Now, as I dreamed through the rest of the night, still following our dog from room to room, this voiceover continued to speak the same sentence until I woke in the morning with it still ringing in my ears.

The next day was the day we had arranged for the vet to come to the house to euthanize Spunky. She was in her eighteenth year and by the beginning of the week we saw the clear signs that her end was near. She became increasingly incontinent and could not get up by herself. Once up it was agonizing to watch her try to lie back down as she circled and circled and then slowly plunked to the floor with a deep groan. We saw her fear of falling on the ice and snow escalate as she refused to go outside, standing at the door and then turning away. We dealt with the soiling and daily cleaning of her bedding, giving what little we could to this most noble soul in her final days. And finally, as she slept in deep comalike states for most of the day, we acquiesced to the truth of her journey’s end here on earth. It was not fair to keep her in this world any longer. She was in pain, and her quality of life was greatly compromised. We noticed that her nose was still in good form though; sniffing out tempting odors from the kitchen still her greatest pleasure.

In contrast to my busy night of dream worry, the day dawned quiet and calm. Spunky, fully aware of the significance of the day, as she had been all week it seemed, continued to let us know, by her deteriorating condition, that we were making the right decision for her. We were determined that her last day with us, and her passing, be as stress-free as possible under the circumstances, and this became the central intent of the day.

The information I had received in my dream the night before stayed with me from the moment I woke up. I knew it was significant, though I had yet to fully grasp its meaning. Don’t worry, you’ve all done this so many times before, over many lifetimes, you just have to remember. I told Chuck about my night of dreams with Spunky, about my worry that she would be frightened and anxious. We had already decided which room we wanted her last moments to be lived in, but after my dreams I decided that we should prepare appropriate bedding throughout the house and let her choose where she wished to recline. With that in mind we spent the morning hours quietly making preparations while she slept in our bedroom.

Spunky was Chuck and Jeanne’s dog, and their children’s pet, before she came into my life. In my imagination I see her following Jeanne around as she tended to follow me around, sitting at my feet while I worked, her herding instinct keeping track of all activity, making sure everyone was in view. The first time I met her I was sitting on a small wicker sofa in the sunroom when Spunky wandered over to me. Jumping up, she squeezed her big body next to me on the tiny sofa and lay down, gently putting her head in my lap. Chuck, greatly surprised, exclaimed: “She’s never done that—not to anyone!” We sat like that for a long time, quietly taking in each other’s calm energy. I felt completely welcomed and clearly accepted by this big dog, totally compatible.

Chuck’s daughter, away at school and unable to be here with Spunky on her last day, had sent us an email to read to her dear doggie, thanking her for the long life they had experienced together as sisters and best friends. As Chuck sat next to her and read Erica’s words, Spunky put out her paw, laying it on the printed sheet of paper, acknowledging the sweet truths and, then, when she had heard enough, she shifted away, grunted, as if to say, “Stop now, I’m done.” This was also Spunky, as unsentimental as they come; she’d heard enough. She was always open to a good cuddle but she’d just as easily push you away when she was done. This is what we felt she was telling us now, I’m done with this life; let me be free to go on. I feel privileged to have shared many experiences with Spunky, and to have known this most amazing dog.

The vet was due to come in the afternoon. We lit candles and sat down in the living room, where I had set up a nice bed for Spunky, just where we wanted her to lie, beneath the Buddha, but it was still going to be her choice. It was then we heard her trying to get up in the other room. Of course it was her nose that roused her, as we had just made some lunch. We helped her up and watched as she hobbled out to the living room, ready for a tasty treat. It was then that she saw the comfy bed I had prepared for her, actually in one of her favorite spots and, just as we would have wished, she went right over to it and lay down.

Chuck and I sat down again, ate our lunch, intending to sit with Spunky over the next hour as we waited for the vet. Sadness began to seep into the room as we reminisced about her. I picked up a book to read and Chuck, feeling restless and in need of some guidance, got up and went into the other room in search of reading material. He came back with The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying in hand. He said his hands just reached for it, his intent to shift the mood guiding him. Opening the book at random, he began to read about bringing appropriate energy to the bedside of the dying. He read that for life to go on without attachment, it is best not to bring sorrow and tears to the bedside of the dying, only joy and good thoughts for a calm journey of awareness, so that the dying one does not feel drawn to stay connected to anything on earth, thus interfering with their journey. This was just what we needed. It gave us the appropriate attitude, exactly the shift we needed to bring us to clear knowing of what we wanted for this lovely dog. We wanted her to be set free to go on her own journey. We did not feel it was appropriate to be sad for her. Her life had been long and fulfilling and we could not hold her back from the next leg of it. It was not our place to feel sadness, only joy and release felt right.

Once again, the voice from my dream came to mind. Don’t worry, you’ve all done this so many times before, over many lifetimes, you just have to remember. Now this phrase made sense to me. As we sat there peacefully, with a very calm and contented dog, I noticed her glancing at us every now and then, as if to say: “Yes, this is right, this is how it should be.” And I felt as if I had done this many times before, indeed, sat by a dying one, knowing exactly what they needed. The fact that Chuck let himself be led to that specific book was part of this knowing. We just had to remember, which was exactly the feeling we had as soon as he read aloud the words that were so appropriate. Oh, yes, that is how we are supposed to act on this most momentous day. We are merely here to assist the dying one with our good thoughts. We are here to send her on her joyous journey. Now we were at peace, all three of us, as we sat together and waited.

When the vet arrived Spunky greeted her with two loud barks. Her back legs now useless, unable to get up, she lay her head back down and waited. It was time and she was ready. Our hands on her at the last moment, I felt her energy leave so easily, so lightly. She was gone with a poof of happy release, without sentiment, off on her journey.

Afterwards, as Chuck and I sat in the empty living room, we felt her absence, but at the same time that her life had been fulfilled. We knew she did not need to hold onto anything here, it was as it should be. Again I was struck that we did indeed know this to be true, and that it was true for all of us. Our time was done when it was done; it was fulfilled. Don’t worry, you’ve all done this so many times before, over many lifetimes, you just have to remember.

I suddenly heard the loud cawing of a crow. It was so loud that I got up and went to the window. And there I saw a giant blue-black crow, sweeping back and forth across the front yard, over the roof of the house and back over the yard again, cawing ever louder. “She’s off on her journey,” I said, as the crow swept past the window one last time, its feathers shiny, glistening in the sunlight. It flew directly south, taking Spunky’s energy. On the wings of the crow, she continues her journey.

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One thought on “A Day in a Life: On the Wings of the Crow”

  1. Dear Jan,

    Thank you for sharing this most private, intimate time with us. Your tender words describing Spunky’s last hours are truly moving and insightful.

    Recently I had the opportunity to share with Chuck a very similar story about the recent passing of our elderly dog, Virgil, and learned just how magical this process is that takes us from this world, to another.

    Virgil spent his last days cradled in my arms as this seemed to be the only thing that soothed him. When he calmed down on the third day, I gently placed him in his favorite, soft bed, in his favorite warm spot in front of the wood stove and surrounded him with his beloved toys. My husband and I were also accompanied by our other dog, Gracie, who not only refused to leave him this entire time, but much to our amazement, we watched all day as one at a time, she dropped her stuffed toys beside him.

    Suddenly, without any prior thinking, something inside me made me bend over and whisper in his ear that it was OK, he could go. I left the room for only a brief moment and when I returned, his energy had peacefully moved on and his constant companion and guardian Gracie was beside him ever so gently covering him up with blankets….a remarkable sight.

    As Chuck and I discussed this a few days later, he brought to my attention how it seemed that I had been holding on to Virgil’s energy and only by me letting go, was he able to leave. It was definitely one of those ”Ahhhhhh’ moments. I learned something new about how energy works, something I had not understood until this moment. Without realizing it at the time, Virgil gave me a precious gift, a lesson on love and letting go.

    I send much love and my heartfelt condolences to you and Chuck for the loss of your treasured friend.


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