Rafiki in Wildflowers, Alpine Meadow below Engineer Peak, San Juan National Forest, Durango, Colorado
If you haven't heard, Rafiki passed away on Wednesday December 9th, 2009. He was in his 9th year, but we never expected him to live so long with the cancer in his hip and chest. We had seen this day coming for months. It had almost been a year since the diagnosis. Steroids and pain pills helped ease his discomfort. Our goal was to keep Rafiki alive so long as he could eat, stand, and smile. The last day he would not eat and could barely walk. There was no smile. It was the day after a big snow. 24 inches. Bob arrived home in the snowstorm from Bosque del Apache on Tuesday afternoon and as Marilyn broke trail Rafiki struggled on uncertain legs to meet him through the two feet of snow. Rafiki did not have a good night and in the morning it was clear it was time.
We called the vet first making sure that she could fit in the euthanasia during her busy day. Yes, of course. The vet had given us three sedative pills to give to Rafiki when it was time and after Bob cleared a path through the snow to get the car out, we settled down on the floor by his head and gave him the pills. We took our time stroking Rafiki’s exquisite fur and telling him all the private goodbyes we say to dogs who have tracked beside us across the winters and springs of our lives with sure feet and steadfast hearts. Marilyn smudged him with sage and rubbed his forehead with oil. When he arrives they will recognize him by sight and smell, anointed and honored.
When the vet injected the euthanol, our arms were around him with his head pressed close to our bodies. His ashes will mingle on the land we call home with those of Kachina and Jesse and Dali and Lambchop and Bob’s Father. It was the only home Rafiki knew and he flourished here and saw it as his steadfast role in life to stand as protective guard over his domain and family. Abused as a puppy, we had rescued him at the Humane Society. Nervous and aggressive initially, patience and training gave him understanding of his place in the family, and he was finally comfortable. Overly protective sometimes, he wasn’t always friendly to other dogs and even to some people, but as he grew older, he became more calm, friendly, mellow and loving.
We cried. Last night and the night before. Months back when we thought it might be his last day. We’ll cry again when we don’t expect it, and when his ashes are returned to us. But while the tears well and spill, we remain clearheaded. It was a good time for this. He was so ready. We will miss him very very much. He was such a good dog, very loyal and obedient and a good friend. We are very sad and miss him dearly and weep for the empty place his passing has left behind.