Gilgamesh 8.13.2001 – 9.9.2013




Gilly’s last good (1/2) hour


One of his favorite places, where we’ve played hide and seek and catch-me for 12 years – as we did today, for 15 minutes of real, playbow, laughing play.


The beloved, the beloved’s face.


A couple of weeks ago: mac and cheese. Last week: lamb. Today: blueberry pie.
His three favorite foods.






uncomplicated forward motion




“Are you an angel made of pie?” I’ve asked Gilly thousands of times. “Or are you a pie made of angels?” We never did decide.
So much love. So many gifts.


15 minutes of play, another 15 of walking around together, sitting in the grass, singing our Sam Cooke song (he did his own whole verse), and that was all he had left. It was a perfect half hour, though. And though it cost him, he gave all he had to it. So did I.

My beautiful Gilgamesh.




A couple of things I need to say to the humans

To those who have loved Gilgamesh, and been his friend, and helped him and me along the way (especially in 2008 when he was so badly injured, you know who you are), you have my eternal gratitude and thanks.


To those who have really understood the relationship between me and him – through experience of their own, or through having kindred inugami mochi/witchy/shaman-y/call-it-what-you-like ways of being with animal familiars – even more gratitude. You make me less alienated in this moment.


To those who have fallen in love with Gilly a little bit, or a lot, through knowing him or through this blog or Facebook or whatever parts of this weird dogumentary thing I’ve done over the span of his life, I’m really glad you got to share some joy in him, and am constantly amazed by how much of his spirit has conveyed, to so many.  It moves me, as he does. As does your kindness and warmth.


Those who don’t get it won’t. But this I do need to say: regardless of whether this makes sense to you or ever will, for me this is a loss greater than any human one could be.


I don’t much care whether people get that, or love it or leave it, but do ask that people respect it.  Otherwise, all I ask is that people refrain from saying stupid, hurtful things, or making extra work for me right now, or otherwise acting like assholes in ways they would not if this was a death they did understand. I will do everything I’ve said I will do, because that’s what I do. Please just give me room, and be kind or be silent.


[If that sounds harsh, two things: 1) apologies, but it’s just information geared to prevent permanent fractures in otherwise working human relationships, and 2) believe me, it doesn’t sound half as harsh as some of the things people have said to me in the last weeks, from ignorance or selfishness.]


He’s not a partner. He’s not a child. He’s not a human. For me, he’s more.  And yes, he means more to me than any human on this earth.


For twelve years, every astonishing gift of a day.


What we have to do now is impossible.


It’s just Dylan Thomas from here.


Immense heart – Gilly’s and mine – extended to all who have been part of the joy.

Some favorites.

From Amherst to Ripton to Prout’s Neck to Martha’s Vineyard to Rockingham to Chesterfield to Jamesville to Goshen to – all over New England, being himself.

And yet –

– even today, the good hour came: the pain meds kicked in, he asked for something-anything-adventure, wagging. A couple of barks to reassure me that he meant it, that he was up for something.

I took him for a drive, up through Cheshire and Savoy and Windsor.He fell four times, in the car, trying to move around to look out the windows: I pulled over and persuaded him fully and finally to stay on the dog-bed purposely installed there to make this less likely, and less dangerous. Opened the windows wide and simultaneously cranked the heat so he could smell everything without freezing.

We found a wildlife management area, and pulled off: I lifted him down the dip into it.

There he tracked intensively for 15 minutes, staggering and tangling in bindweed and goldenrod, in tall late-summer grass and rough-cut dips and swells, but happily: something other than concrete under his feet, huge open sky, paths cleared but no human development, nose-drunk on coyote, rabbits, foxes, deer, moles, only he knows who else.

Happily. For a little while, everything green and gold, life-layered.

And today, no comfort to be found anywhere.

Restless, unhappy, tense, vague: early pain pill, but still nothing right or pleasurable. Food a steroid-driven urgency divorced from pleasure. Water a steroid-driven urgency meaning constant need to pee, apparent worry he’s leaking; he isn’t, or not enough that he’s not cleaning it off his legs before it leaves any trace for me to see, but a constant worry for his fastidious nature. Outside on the grass: little interest in anything, the light too bright, the sun too hot, the wind too cool, not right. Inside on the daybed: wanting touch, not being able to tolerate much touch. On the kitchen floor after another pain pill, the only thing he’s asked for all day: a gesture with his paw to give me access to the chest-spot he likes to have scratched while he waits for the pill to work.

I’m told:

He’ll go off his food (not while he’s on steroids, he won’t: they’ve turned food into a burning and unhappy obsession).

He’ll lose interest in things (unimaginable, until today – and even today, it’s not that he doesn’t want to be interested in what’s happening around him, it’s that he can’t find any comfort or pleasure to be the ground from which he can express interest: even the ground itself he’s having to hold onto pretty firmly, as though he thinks he might slide off the surface of the earth).

He’ll become incontinent (maybe, but I doubt we’d let that happen: between his fastidious cleaning and my constant watching of his needs, there’s no trace of anything but horrible urgency about peeing, steroid-driven like everything else now).

He’ll become unable to walk at all (maybe, but maybe not).

The pain will worsen.

A few days ago, I told him: I’m running out of ways to help you.

Today: I wish there was some way I could help you. In a rational world, such love would be able to help.

We’ve had The Talk. About it being okay to go. I don’t know what he took from it, I don’t know whether he can take that in: my loyal inugami, my guardian. I know it was my job to tell him anyway, and in some way that could be true.

Mostly, what I’m sharing publicly is the good hour or two each day we’re getting. In part this is because Gilly has friends and admirers all over the world, and this stage of his life I can share with them, too. So many have traveled so far with him: so many mountains, so many adventures, in 3D and by way of this blog, or Facebook, where his pals keep up and keep track. So much dogumentation, dogumentary, dogtoral dissertation.

So much joy and beauty in Gilly being the virtual dog for those who don’t have one, the wilderness dog for those who live urban, the well-trained dog for those who didn’t know what dogs will do when given the opportunity to succeed through consistency and clarity and devotion and hard work and deep trust, for those who have just been smitten by his elegance, his autonomy even in such profound bond to me, his occasional irascibility, his valor, his comedy, his refusal to behave as a prop and his determination to form his relationships always and only on the grounds of honesty and action, his willingness to put up with some kinds of nonsense but not others, his near-magical ability to stop nonsense in its tracks with just scent or glance or kindness or calm, his fundamental and contagious gentleness, his simultaneous spring-coil of energetic joy, his glow of well-being in his total certainty of my love for and loyalty to him.

In part it’s because if anyone starts with the armchair vetting, the advice-without-information, the patronizing, the radical and sometimes intentional misunderstanding of the relationship between me and Gilly (which is not ‘pet’/human), the turning of Gilly’s pain into an opportunity to ride whatever their own hobbyhorse of the glucosamine-or-acupuncture-moment is, I will start taking swings at people.  And they always do start that shit. So I’m keeping the details between me and his vets and our 3D friends who are there in the practical ways that matter. None of this is up for abstract discussion or small talk. None of this belongs to anyone but him, and my job is to help him as best as I can.

Even as many can offer welcome kindness, and a few can offer veterinary skill along the way, what we’re walking through right now – and having to decide, day by day – is something no one can do with us.

The additional pain pill kicks in, and Gilly wags at me for the first time all day. For a moment, I question all of it: there, see? There’s Gilly. He’s fine.

Those moments of it’s fine, he’s fine, there, see, there’s his joy have less power each time they come and go, because with each going, the mathematics of his quality of life get simpler.

Part of me is still railing against the lesson of the epic king for whom Gilly was named. Mortality itself should fall before this love, some part of me believes, as Gilgamesh did: to the ends of the world grieving for Enkidu, to the point of having immortality in his hands. He became a good and wise king when he let go of it.

Gilly has already done that. Long since.  With all my human cognition, and all my ability to see the bigger picture of his life and its beauty and goodness: I am just grieving. Wishing I could fix it for him, and wishing I could keep him with me a little longer without it costing him the kindness and care I have promised. My happy, valiant, joyous friend. There’s no ready. There’s no good time.