11/10/2006   11/24/2006   12/1/2006 In Memoriam

Today, I have only the saddest news to report. Harvey passed away, shortly after noon.

This is one of what I hope to be several memorials to Harvey. He was a special dog, and his memory will require special care. I can only hope that our words and actions remembering him do him justice.

A person could get to know a hundred dogs, no...a lifetime of dogs, and never meet one with the character and personality of Meadow Wood's Uther Snowflake, aka Harvey Dog the Moocher Poocher Moochie Mups (among other things). He has not a single mean bone in his body, is completely trustworthy in every situation, and has absolute trust in his family to take care of him, willingly accepting any indignity or invasion so long as we are there to reassure him.

I know, every dog owner feels that way about their own adopted family member. But we have independent confirmation. Even many of those we know, dedicated fully to their own dogs, have freely admitted that Harvey is the most precious, the cutest, the best behaved, the most open-hearted and trusting, the most wonderful. That's the sort of quality endorsement money can't buy.

His dedication to making our lives special, to being just the sort of dog that inspires the classic desire "to be the sort of person my dog thinks I am", has been one of the greatest gifts we could know. We were truly blessed to know him.

From the day he was delivered to us by his breeders, leaving us wondering how anyone could be so foolish as to entrust in us the care of such a precious puppy, through his younger years when he was known for decidedly non-Bernese Mountain Dog behavior such as catching frisbees mid-air and swimming in the ocean. From his enthusiastic enjoyment of our two-month travel around the USA through his initial bout of lymphoma just a few short months after. From his defiance of all expectations, pushing his remission nearly five years, treating us to the most puppy-like "older dog" we could have imagined, all the way through this final month as he and we gave it one last try to beat back his lymphoma, hoping for a couple more of those miraculous years with him.

From, through, during all of that Harvey has been the object of a love as powerful as any we've ever known. Some might say "he's just an animal", but if you're reading this you probably know as well as we do, there's no such thing as "just an animal" when it comes to family members, even those not of the human sort.

I think it noteworthy that in his last days, Harvey was granted one of his most favorite and rare treats: snowfall. From bounding dolphin-like through deep snow drifts, to chasing after snowballs, he's always appreciated the joy of snow. This last one, he was only able to lie in the snow, occasionally taking a chomp from the nearest pile. He did still seem to take pleasure in it though. We had no idea what was coming, of course, but in hindsight I have to wonder if the snow was given to Harvey as his last mortal reward for his lifetime here.

We were as committed to his health and care as we could have been with any of our family members, but in the end it wasn't enough, just as it eventually never is for anyone. Coming into his most recent chemotherapy treatment, he seemed to be rebounding, capable of dealing with one more weekly onslaught of poison. Even the day after, his mood was good even if his strength was not. By Wednesday, he was showing the usual signs of chemo side-effects, but by Thursday it was starting to look a little more serious than that.

Thursday evening, Harvey was refusing to walk at all. We checked his temperature and discovered that he had developed a fever. I took him to the 24-hour emergency vet, where they tried their best to take care of him. But sepsis and a possibly other infections had done their work, and even with the help of the doctors Harvey was unable to fight back. He went into arrest around noon today; the medical staff was able to get his breathing restarted twice, but he failed to regain consciousness. We instructed them to not attempt a resuscitation again and tried to get to the emergency clinic as fast as we could. We weren't in time though...by the time we arrived, he had passed away.

They brought him to us, wrapped in comfortable blankets. We were permitted as much time as we wanted, alone with Harvey to say our goodbyes. This wasn't the death we had hoped for, for Harvey. Of course, we wished for none at all, but recognizing the inevitable we'd at least hoped that when the time came we would have been able to keep him comfortable at home, offering him familiar surroundings and the family who knew and loved him best. Having him go without us, in the sterile hospital environment like that makes it that much harder. But we were thankful for the time to spend with him after the fact, and knew that if Harvey's spirit was still anywhere, it was there with us to hear our farewell, to feel our last caresses, and to see our tears carried off on his beautiful face.

Even in death, he is beautiful. Goodbye, beautiful Harvey.