It’s been just over a week. Last Tuesday night to be exact. That’s the night the four of us huddled around our beloved companion of sixteen and a half years and said goodbye.
Buck became a part of our family when he was three months old. We were living in Oakland, California at the time. My son was five and my daughter had just turned one. My husband was coaching for the Raiders and he was gone all the time. It wasn’t a great time to get a puppy on paper—but our hearts said otherwise, so we did.
Just a little over a year earlier I had said goodbye to Tino. He’s the Blue Heeler that found me in a dream when I was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That morning I woke up and just had to get a puppy. It was a visceral pull. And I went to the Santa Fe Human Society and there was the puppy from my dream. He didn’t look like any dog I had ever seen until my dream the night before.
Tino is why we found Buck, another Blue Heeler. And now we have still another Blue Heeler, Huckleberry. He’s at loose ends without Buck this last week. Even at sixteen and a half and Huckleberry the younger, stronger dog, Buck was still the alpha. Huckle isn’t sure what to do with him gone.
I see Buck in all the places he inhabited. The front porch sitting sentry. The horse pasture sniffing and making his rounds, even on the last day of his life. His bed at the end of our bed. The place in the sun where he would sleep so deeply these last few months. With each day passing since last Tuesday, his presence becomes less vivid, more diffuse.
That night when we had to say goodbye, his body was shutting down. He was refusing food, broth, water. His panting told us he was hurting. The four of us agreed, we couldn’t ask him to go through another night of suffering. He had given us so much. He had moved all over the country with us. He had been right there with us through so much living. Faithfully. He adjusted to new places, new routines, the comings and goings of a family who has often been too busy for our own good. He grew old with us. He took care of a lot of things for us and with us.
These Blue Heelers are a part of my universe in ways that might resonate with some of you. Tino came to me in a dream and said “I’m here.” And then I found him the next day. These dogs are amazing in their intelligence and their intuition. He learned more words than I can count. And he was loyal and protective. He’s how I could sleep at night. And Buck, too. And Huckleberry as well.
In his older years Buck would wake me up in the middle of the night sometimes because he needed to go outside. It was never a welcomed sound—that yip he would make that said, “either take me out or I am going to go to the bathroom in the house.” But when we got outside, I was never sorry he led me there. It was almost always a clear, star filled night, with a moon that lit up our pasture with an ethereal luminescence. He would meander around while I looked up and found my place again in an infinite multiverse. And there would always be a moment when we both were out there in the middle of the night, just the two of us, basking in the moon glow. And I would feel especially alive and at home in the world.
When my son (now 21) and husband were digging Buck’s grave in the dark I could hear the murmurs of their conversation and see the shimmer of their lanterns in the woods we live in. I sat on the porch with Buck’s body wrapped in a blanket. It was another full moon like he had reminded me to go out and see so many times. I sat there with him one last night and let myself be alive and at home in the world—this time with wailing at the end of his life, this being who had accompanied me so faithfully.
What does this have to do with feminism, you ask? Everything, I answer.
My womanhood is located in a world ravaged by the cruelties of patriarchy, white supremacy, sexual violence, mass extinctions, and climate catastrophe. Dependable companions like Tino, Buck, and Huckleberry support my nervous system and my spiritual wellbeing. They help me believe in a better world, where sentient beings are gentle with each other and take care of each other. They help me be brave and they help me love and they help me grieve. They companion me when human beings don’t know what to do with a woman like me—who yearns for deep connection and for the truth that can bring the world back home to itself.
That night, just over a week ago, nothing else mattered but the connection that we shared. The symmetry of a moment when we know our place in a sacred algorithm of relationship and purpose. That’s what it feels like to love and be loved. To know and be known. To be given space for honor, gratitude, compassion, and the mournful cries that come from sharing a life.
In a world of so much death and cruelty, so much abuse and terror, if feminism seeks to be a container for healing and transformation, then we who are formed by those principles and aspirations must find ways to be fully in our bodies and fully in the world. It can be hard to stay present in a world that struggles to be gentle and to honor all life. Whatever it is that supports you really being here, really being at home in the world, I hope you will prioritize keeping it close to you. We need more beings who are fully alive—who are willing to wake each other up and remind each other to look up at the stars and bask in the glow of a full moon and remember that we are made for love.
Marcia Mount Shoop is an author, theologian, and minister. She is the Pastor/Head of Staff at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC. Her newest book, released from Cascade Books in October 2015, is A Body Broken, A Body Betrayed: Race, Memory, and Eucharist in White-Dominant Churches, co-authored with Mary McClintock Fulkerson. Marcia is also the author of Let the Bones Dance: Embodiment and the Body of Christ (WJKP, 2010) and Touchdowns for Jesus and Other Signs of Apocalypse: Lifting the Veil on Big-Time Sports (Cascade, 2014). Find out more at www.marciamountshoop.com
Categories: abuse, animals, Body, Climate Change, Death, Death and Dying, Dreams and Dreaming, Ecofeminism, Embodiment, Family, General, Healing, Interdependence of Life, Loss, Patriarchy, Relationality