One last time…Belle taught us how to say goodbye

~Belle Coyle~


We said goodbye to Belle this afternoon.  For those of you that didn’t know Belle, she was my mother’s faithful Golden Retriever companion for the last many, many years.  She filled the void left by Scarlett, though in ways that no-one could have predicted.  Scarlett, for those that recall her, was a princess.  The Princess of Golden Retrievers.  Quiet, restrained, composed, dainty.  Heck, she even drank water in a dainty way, with absolutely nary a drop on the floor or spilling out of her mouth when she was done.

Enter Belle dog.  Belle was a stray, rescued from the street, somewhere in Kansas.  She was, to everyone’s best estimate almost a year old when she charmed my mother and wound her way into her heart.  That happened instantly, a sort of love at first sight if you will.

Me?  It took much longer for me to be charmed by Belle dog.  MUCH longer.  She was a force to be reckoned with, barreling down the stairs and charging into whomever was lucky enough to enter the house.  She was a gangly Golden, all legs, with unfettered exuberance for life.  Breakfast time?  Don’t stand in the hallway or God forbid be on the stairway when Belle came roaring out of mom’s bedroom.  I can’t tell you how many scratches appeared on the door of my car, as Belle felt the need to jump up to greet me before I’d managed to turn the car off and step out.

Gracelyn was 5 months old when Scarlett died.  And a few months later Belle dog arrived.  Naturally, as a new mom, I was wary.  Naturally.  I was also incredibly nervous about how my tiny mum was going to contain this irrepressible Force of Nature–this dynamo that seemed to be a canine version of a pinball, let loose in my mother’s house.

I will be the first to admit that Belle dog and I didn’t see eye to eye on many things.  I withheld my affection as I was trying to protect my little girl from any harm that could be caused by this whirling dervish/Tasmanian Devil in a Golden Retriever body.

However, the harder I tried to stand back, not make eye contact, be restrained in my communication with Belle dog, the harder she tried to make it happen.  Her efforts to engage me intensified exponentially.  Today, I cannot remember exactly when it happened, but at some point I began thinking that it seemed Belle dog had something to say to me.  And that she was trying and trying and trying to get my attention so that she could tell me what it was she so desperately needed to tell me.  To be honest, I was irritated that she wasn’t like Scarlett.  In my humble (albeit narrow-minded) opinion, I thought mom needed another Scarlett.  A Golden Retriever that was dainty.  Refined.  Quiet.  Mild-mannered.  Would not run into her and lay her flat just because she was excited to eat.  Would sit quietly by her feet while she read the paper and not bark at every car that drove by.

In my narrow-minded opinion, Belle dog was not that dog.  Again, I am not sure what caused me to stop and think “perhaps Belle is trying to tell me something?”  I remember catching her eye during one of her attempts to maul me with love and enthusiasm when I walked in the door.  They were reminiscent of another’s.  My beloved, darling Sundance,  Scarlett’s sister.  Not like the Labrador that would haunt me later in life, but like my Golden Girl Sundance, who died a few months before Gracelyn was born.  (That is a story for another day.)

I began to question whether Belle was attempting to tell me something.  I mulled that thought for awhile and the next visit to mom’s I turned to Belle and gave her my full attention.  I asked her what was so important that she had to tell me?  I sat with her a long while.  I asked her if she was trying to let me know something that maybe had to do with Scarlett or Sundance.  After a little longer, I felt a sense of peace wash over me and had the distinct thought in my head “I’m not Scarlett.  I know that.  But I’m good and I’ll be good and I’m so happy I’m here.  Scarlett wants me to take care of your mother.”

And just like that, Belle dog and I had a wonderful friendship.  She had finally delivered her message.  I had finally set aside my narrow-mindedness and let her in.  She still greeted me every single time with love and enthusiasm and unbridled joy.  And I still had to quickly get off the stairs when I heard her barreling down the hall.  But it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, because I took the time to listen.

So, once again, my narrow-mindedness was simply that–narrow minded.  I know nothing.  Belle dog was exactly the dog my mother needed.

Belle became Belle dog because Gracelyn had a Belle doll at the same time we were getting to know Belle dog.  It was easier to distinguish them and to us, she is Belle dog.

Belle dog died this afternoon, going out on her terms, making mom second-guess her decision for the briefest of moments.  She asked for some dinner, cause it was dinner time.  She ate some green grass, cause the spring to summer shoots are the sweetest.  She barked at the new car that pulled up, wagging her tail eagerly to see who was coming to visit.  She lay in the grass and watched the world from the porch.  Cause that was what Belle did.

But, when it was time, she closed her eyes and left this earthly existence in the briefest of moments.  She was ready to go.

Tonight, all I hear, over and over in my mind, is the song from Hamilton in which George Washington asks Alexander Hamilton to write his farewell speech.  Alexander can’t believe it’s true initially, but eventually honors the President’s request.

The words that are ricocheting in my brain:

I wanna talk about what I have learned
The hard won wisdom I have earned

One last time, the people will hear from me
One last time, and if we get this right
We’re gonna teach’ em how to say goodbye
You and I
Mr. President- they will say you’re weak
No- they will see we’re strong
Your position is so unique
So I’ll use it to move them along
Why do you have to say goodbye?
If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on
It outlives me when I’m gone

One last time, the people will hear from me
One last time, and if we get this right
We’re gonna teach’ em how to say goodbye
You and I

When any one of my canine companions have died, I choose a song for them that exemplifies their life and my experiences in sharing it with them.  This song has been on repeat all evening, and maybe because Belle dog was a commanding presence, just like General Washington and then President Washington.  She filled up the room.  She had an irrepressible spirit that was larger than life.  And tonight she died with a gentle, quiet wisdom that helped us all to say goodbye.

For Belle dog:

Slainte Belle dog. Slán abhaile.   (Cheers Belle dog and safe home.)


About madranchwife

Mother, Mad Ranchwife(as in--at times-- crazy, nutso, loco, off-my-rocker insane), Veterinarian, Physical Therapist, "Liberal, pinko, gay-loving, Subaru-driving Socialist" (as I've been called), proud to be a totally tree-huggin', climate change believin', granola girl environmentalist, ObamaGirl, Pro-Choice (don't even get me started here...), and in my younger days a feminist vegetarian as a result of time spent at CU Boulder (this lasted approximately 14 months, until all the Jimmy Buffett I was listening to caused me to crave a cheeseburger). #FindingMyVoice #ScienceMatters
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2 Responses to One last time…Belle taught us how to say goodbye

  1. Michele T says:

    Oh. My friend…saying good-bye to any of my four legged family was sadness without measure. For your mom, she was a wonderful energy ball that never ceased to give. For you she seemed unfit but for mom she may have been just what she needed to help with the overwhelming sadness when Scarlet left. You know that Scarlett was sitting on the other side of the rainbow bridge to welcome Belle Dog and forever watch over your mother and you. 💙

  2. Barbara Coyle says:

    my heart was warmed by your tribute to Belle … captured her perfectly.

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