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#16 ~ one of the seven great dogs

April 8, 2012

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
Anatole France

Djuna Cupcake, my heart of hearts
photo by Breelyn MacDonald

A great squall came upon us here on our farmlet a week ago. I saw it first from a distance, in that dawning of the morning when Djuna usually announced the coming day with his gentle, breathy ‘woooof’, his polite plea to join us on the bed. Mysteriously disturbing, it surely was a sign of things to come, but we didn’t know how dangerous it really was until it was upon us.

And when it was suddenly there, a Great Joy was sucked from our world and an overwhelming sadness took its place … a raging stillness, hot and stifling, no breath, no heartbeat.

My springs of Joy are dry …  (a sentiment stolen in part from that great old song, Long Time Traveler)

Djuna Cupcake was one of the Seven Great Dogs.  If you’ve seen the film ‘Dean Spanley’, you will know what I mean. If you have loved and been loved by a dog of pure heart … one who was a great teacher of presence, of patience, one who was the dispenser of unconditional love and the blessings of an incomparable joy … one who was a great listener, guardian, and the embodiment of Buddha, Coyote, the Goddesses Eleos and Kuan Yin all in one soft coated body … one who was your loving shadow because he or she felt that it was their job to see you safe at all times … you will know what I mean.

He died quite suddenly. Like that squall, his death came with no warning and for days after Paul and I were sucked deep into that great black hole of grief. The dread attacked us at every turn, where we would always see him but now only a glaring emptiness stood. I felt as though my heart and soul had a raw, oozing, gaping, searingly painful wound where he had been torn away from me.  Stolen.  We cried a lot.

Some people will never understand.  I try to feel compassion for them, rather than issuing the big ‘EFF YOU”, but I am only human. What is this BS about a ‘three day’ rule? What? Because he was ‘just a dog’ we should be over it all in 3 days?  Djuna was surely a better person than most Humans and I will never stop missing him. I feel so deeply sorry for those people who have overlooked having such grace and beauty bless their lives –– the companionship of a great dog (or cat or horse, or human person) –– so that, when the monumental end comes and they’ve come through the great fires of sorrow, and have been washed by the flush of a million tears, they come through to the other side where they are able to see the remarkable love, joys and lessons they’d been gifted by that companionship. I can only hope now to ‘be’ the person Djuna thought me to be.

3 days and 3 more and 3 million more and even then more just won’t do it.

Paul and I were with Djuna on our bedroom floor when he died. I lay with him next to my heart, whispering love, my arm draped over his neck …  and as he was leaving us, I saw him standing just beyond Paul. Alert, ears akimbo, head cocked, eyes bright, a wad of socks in mouth, standing in his particularly great exuberance, as he did each morning when the time for chores presented itself – “Come on! It’s time to go! Get with it you silly humans! There’s work to be done, there’s a barn to clean and a day to sniff, there’s delight to be found!”  And then he left.

My ‘joyometer’, my daily dispenser of mirth, and my constant reminder of the importance of presence, has gone missing – his lessons of ‘Be Here Now’ measured in doses of  ‘Oh, sense the beauty in the music of the wind!’, ‘Let’s just run in circles and laugh’, ‘I love, love, love you!’ … gone. It is wholly up to me now to remember to stay in each moment, to just be a nice person, cry whenever I must, to laugh as much as possible and dance for the sheer joy of it.  And when the cacophony of the deafening silence has quieted and the colors of sorrow have muted and gone transparent and I’ve had some time to let the Aegean clean up those bloodied wounds in my heart and soul, there will be room again here for another one of the Seven Great Dogs.  And the cycles will continue on.

Almost every evening Djuna and I took an evening stroll down our quiet lane. I loved watching him dance his great joy, nose to the ground scenting all of the news of the day or nose to the sky, sensing what was coming on the breeze. On our walks I watched the seasons change, the rising of the full moon, the greening of the new spring and the evening skies, like snowflakes, no one ever alike … I watched the Canadian geese come and go, the Red Tail hawks courting in the air above me, and let the build up of my day fall away as I tread softly with my gentle friend. It took me several days after Djuna’s death for me to realize that here was yet again another gift he had left for me in his wake, and one I should continue to enjoy. The sky was black to the West, we’d had heavy winds and rain all day, but when there was a break I set off on ‘our’ walk. Wrapped tightly in sadness and hardly breathing with the missing of him, I shuffled along about a 1/2 mile and turned for home before the rains started up and the chill wind began to blow, fierce again, from the south. That wind battered and bashed me until it freed the tears from my eyes, and the freezing rain lashed my face until I grew numb. As though suddenly realizing I was about to drown, I surfaced, taking in great gulps of air as though I’d not been breathing for several days, and began to climb free of the suffocating bonds of my sadness.

My Djuna, my Cupcake … My Heart of Hearts who knew my soul, my every thought; great lover of Paul and I, and of Breelyn; great lover of his mare and his pony, of socks and his furry toys and his GWBush chew doll; great lover of his evening walkies and of riding in the car, and feeding the birds; great lover of sofa naps and sleeping in late with us on the bed and chasing BALL and rolling on the grass and of eating horse poop; bountiful bestower of stealthy kisses; joyful jokester, Greek scholar (he knew about 15 words and understood several phrases spoken to him in Greek; something we did only after he’d begun to understand words and phrases *spelled out* in English! ‘Car’, ‘dinner?’, ‘play with the ball?’, ‘feed the birds’, water, pony, get the goat, etc!); Djuna, beloved Honorary Cat, our timekeeper, our guardian angel, our boss, our playfully dignified friend (thanks for that Marija) and family member, and one of the Seven Great Dogs – we will love and miss you forever.

But now – there’s work to be done, there’s a barn to clean and a new day to sniff, there’s delight to be found!

love - photo by Breelyn MacDonald

32 Comments leave one →
  1. JoAnn Marie permalink
    April 8, 2012 8:34 pm

    Thank you Eleanore. Such a wonderful tribute and beautiful reminder of what’s important.
    Much love,


  2. Jenny permalink
    April 8, 2012 8:46 pm

    So beautiful Eleanore….thank you.

    Love & Hugs,


  3. April 8, 2012 9:59 pm

    I love you. Zulu lies here, a young mentor of Djuna Cupcake. I hope for her such a full life as his, and mourn with you for one of the seven great dogs. I’ll never forget him.


  4. Robin permalink
    April 8, 2012 10:18 pm

    I barely breathed.

    Human and Divine.

    Expression to the ineffable.

    For me, new pathways were created in my being through the experience.

    Thank-you Eleanore, for allowing access to your heart and soul through your writing.


  5. Lisa Cowden permalink
    April 8, 2012 11:59 pm

    So very touching, beautiful images of what was a great love. Thank you, I have to move back from the keyboard lest a tear drop on the keys.


  6. gingerartproductions permalink
    April 9, 2012 2:43 am

    Well said mom. He had the fullest personality I’ve known. He will be missed for a very long time 😦 Love you


  7. April 9, 2012 8:47 am

    Even when ‘we’ are gone, we’ll live on in your hearts and heads – and in my khase (being a Siberian) on your khlothes –

    Khyra’s Mom here now – I so understand all you’ve shared – and I feel it is one of those topics that merit ‘if I have to explain it to you, I’m pretty sure you’re not going to understand’ –

    Have a great time at The Rainbow Bridge Djuana – there are so many pawesome souls there already – all waiting for us!

    I always feel a line from an Uncle Tupelo song says it best – of course, with a wee bit of modification:

    It’s not furever…it’s just…fur now!

    Khyra and Phyll


  8. April 9, 2012 9:13 am

    Thank you for such a poignant retelling of Djuna’s loss. I still grieve for Maxwell, a charming Black Lab with a pure heart and great sense of humor. After three years, we rescued a Chocolate Lab, Macduff, who is as dear and kind, but more of a pacifist than Maxwell. They are forever wrapped around our hearts.


  9. Davi permalink
    April 9, 2012 10:32 am

    Through tears I write this. Thank you for sharing your great love. I give an extra hug and kiss to my dear old dog. How blessed we are to share our lives with these incredible beings.


  10. Mikail permalink
    April 9, 2012 12:47 pm

    cuts to the core of so much of who Djuna was & is, simply beautiful, thanks my friend, he was (as are most of our animal pals) one of if not the best! love you both…


  11. April 9, 2012 1:20 pm

    Losing a friend one has loved and shared so much with is like losing a part of one’s heart. The sadness seems utterly bottomless because the love was endless. We feel for you.


  12. kate51 permalink
    April 9, 2012 2:27 pm

    so beautiful, i sobbed – i have loved many dogs (& cats & horses) & it seems unfair that dogs live such short lives in years but then i think about how there are so many in need of homes & that somehow helps it all make sense


  13. kate51 permalink
    April 9, 2012 2:28 pm

    so beautiful, i sobbed


  14. Kate L. Wall permalink
    April 9, 2012 7:02 pm

    Thankfully, I’ve never heard about that absolutely asinine “3 day” bull. This snapped me back to losing K.C., the cat I “rescued” from the excuse of a place in Olympia (technically, it was the city’s “pound” and fit that word too well). 12 years later and I’m still feeling guilt over how little I really knew about caring for cats. I really do hope he can forgive me.
    A beautiful piece enhanced by great pictures. Pardon me. I ahve some cats to cuddle.


  15. April 9, 2012 7:45 pm

    Beautiful writing and I share your love of the dog. My post from yesterday is also about dogs, but the beginning of the cycle rather than the end. I run a humor blog. Just ran across you by chance in a LinkedIn group. Perhaps my puppy pics will lift your spirits, if you have time for a read. I have Great Pyrenees pups. So sorry for your loss. I know how badly it hurts.


  16. April 9, 2012 7:52 pm

    Thank you, Eleanore, for finding such eloquent words to express the feelings we share, but cannot always speak of, when we lose our treasured pets. I’ve been there more times than I want to remember, and each passing was so difficult— their time with us, though short, was cherished and each and every one is remembered with love.


  17. Audrey Campbell permalink
    April 10, 2012 1:41 pm

    Eleanore, I could feel every bit of emotion through your every word. And I could so relate to those feelings because I felt much the same way when we lost Cody 5 1/2 years ago. There’s so much more I’d like to say, but between being speechless and my tears, I’ll just leave it at this: that was heartbreakingly beautiful. xoxo Audrey


  18. April 10, 2012 3:31 pm

    So very sorry! Your saddness will be replaced with many fond memories as time passes. They’re so very precious and are forever giving to us, asking for so little in return.


  19. Heather Lauer permalink
    April 10, 2012 9:23 pm

    Thank you so much Eleanore. I just had a good cry over your loss and my loss as well. Amalfi still comes to me in my dreams, I am sure that Djuna will come to you and Paul as well.


  20. Paul kamm permalink
    April 11, 2012 12:52 pm

    Much love…we will never forget!


  21. Cecyl permalink
    April 12, 2012 9:38 pm

    Thank you for your lovely homage to sweet Djuna..As far as grieving goes-I think it has it’s own timing from the heart which has nothing to do with time. .Love to you and Paul!


  22. April 16, 2012 6:23 pm

    I read this for the first time, having been caught in the web of my own near tragedy and it made my heart sore for you and Paul and all of the “friend animals” I have lost through the years. It’s never a good time. Or the right time. It just happens. I am grateful to have my Michael and so sorry that Djuna is gone. You two people are the tenderest hearts and most restful souls it has ever been my privilege to know and I am grateful for your friendship and love. The hurt will fade a little with time but the memories will remain fresh. That’s one of “the little graces” of life. I love you both and hold the memory of Djuna sweetly.


  23. April 17, 2012 4:47 pm

    Paul and I want to thank each and every one of you who so lovingly and graciously embraced us – and our darling Mr Cupcake – in this very sad time. I found the writing to be so cathartic, and though he’s just a shadow in the night or a whisper in my ear now, the pain has softened a bit. You ALL helped with that. I am sure that Djuna will show up in these blog pages from time to time to whisper to us all, having sufficiently reminded me to keep my eyes and heart looking up, seeking those divine inspirations from the breezes singing through the leaves and the clouds dancing in the sky … Thank you all. Blessings of peace. Gratitude. Eleanore


  24. May 12, 2012 12:19 am

    I am z. I had the honor of having one of the seven great dogs as my companion for eight years. His name was Guinness and he was of the Rottweiler clan. He taught me to think deeply about the world that was in front of me; he and I had some kind of mental, mystical connection that until I read your post I could not find words to describe. I am a scientist and a professor, and I have written many articles, the best of which I have dedicated to Guinness. Eleanor, you have captured far better in words the feelings I still have for that dog, over four years past. He died in my arms. I have been educated to think otherwise, and also having been a soldier for some years I have seen my share of sorrow. But I have never grieved for this person like I did. I am not over grieving and I doubt I ever shall.

    But life does go on. It simply isn’t as light or bright. I do have a new companion, and she too is of the Rottweiler clan. I accept her for who she is, not who I mourn. She does bring light and comfort in her own way; she is quite the sprite.

    Thank you for your words. They have made my evening much more…I will not say happy because I have tears in my eyes…but somehow quietly and joyfully peaceful – my words are not nearly as poignant as yours. Forgive me for that, please.

    I do look forward to reuniting with Guinness – and all the dogs I have known – at some place we cannot fathom with our minds, but can imagine with our souls.

    As we used to say in the old ways, Pax Vobiscum.


    • May 12, 2012 8:44 pm

      Oh, Z … I know your wistful sadness well. Thank you so much for your comment, straight to my heart of hearts. I appreciate hearing from you, from another who knew one of the Seven Great Dogs, from one who was loved greatly and deeply (by Guinness) and watched over with an unfathomable caring – and who speaks the same language and has known the same light. There are not many who understand what a gift these beings truly are. I’m pleased that the post brought something of familiar comfort to you. Thank you.


  25. August 18, 2012 10:28 am

    Achingly beautiful words. One of the most precious pieces of prose about a dog that I can ever remember reading.


  26. Kev Matthews permalink
    October 24, 2012 9:42 am

    Nobody knows till you have love and lost


  27. Renee permalink
    January 24, 2013 7:17 am

    One of the most eloquent postings on dogs that I have read in a long time. I have had the privledge of knowing several great dogs in my life. I have the quote that you put on your blog, on my FB page. I call it the zen of dogs, they are amazing creatures, who are great teachers. They love unconditionally, live in the moment, and I believe they embody one of the highest forms of loves that one can experience. Thank you for sharing your experience. I wish you love and light with the passing of Djuna, you captured his essence beautifully. I cried while reading your blog, so many memories of the dogs that have captured my heart and soul now gone. But always remaining in my heart…



  28. September 16, 2013 12:08 pm

    Lovely and sad…and you know he had the most that any living creature ever gets….love..

    and even better he was with that love when he died, he wasn’t alone or lonely….it is the most any of us ever have…so although you miss him I hope you also know that there is nothing to regret…
    carole (


    • September 16, 2013 2:44 pm

      Carole, thank you so much. We will always miss Djuna Cupcake … but he left much room in our hearts to fill again, and Lovie has come to take over where he left off. A blessing.


    • December 10, 2013 12:42 pm

      Thank you so much, Carol. Djuna was so well loved, as were we by him, and he left us with an lifetime of happiness, though we will never stop missing him. He urged me on, to open my heart to another, and now Lovie is gracing our lives. The more we know and love can only serve to make our harts bigger.



  1. Love lost « Learning from Dogs

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