Three a.m. is a magical hour in my sleepy Todos Santos town. The dogs have finally stopped barking and gone to sleep, the cocks have yet to crow, and if you lie very still and listen with your heart, you can hear the ocean waves crashing two miles away. That was the hour I awoke, wiggled out from under the sheets and my three sleeping pups, and looked out the window. Through the mango trees, under the canopy of the banana plants laden with ripening bananas, the flame tree, a single yellow hibiscus, and multiple strands of the weeping golden chain tree, Luna’s light was still burning bright, in the form of a single candle that I had planted at the head of her grave.
The day began quite unlike any other day. It had been a rough night with Luna and instead of lingering in bed with a large cup of coffee and my babies, I was up and wandering around the yard. By 8:30, a plumber had finally shown up to connect my grey water drain to the black water drain, completing a project which had begun back in March. It was cool for an August morning in southern Baja, two hurricanes were forming off the western coast of mainland Mexico, the clouds were building up, dark and ominous, to the east, and a warm breeze was blowing. Luna had taken an obligatory walk around the outside of my small bedroom, pausing for a drink of water and a pee before returning to the bedroom and collapsing on the floor. The sky began to cry gentle tears as my friend Teresa arrived. Our plan was to make dried mango that morning. The rain canceled that plan.
Teresa looked into my bedroom at Luna lying on the floor and said, “oh honey, it is time to let Luna go.”
Over the past week, Luna’s gradual decline had become rapid. She was sleeping through the day and anxiously pacing throughout the night, wanting out, wanting in, wanting out, wanting back in, hugging the wall as she turned the corner and sought out her water bowl, then hugging the three remaining corners of the walls outside the bedroom to return to the door. She could barely see, nor could she hear. Her breathing was a bit more labored, she would often get stuck walking the same circle over and over, and when her back legs gave out she couldn’t always pick herself up. Her appetite had dwindled to nonexistent, even mama’s special chicken soup with rice, served up in mama’s fancy Talavera bowl, remained uneaten at times. The last two days she had diarrhea, the night before she could no longer control her bowels and let loose a stream of poo all over her bed. Everyone says you will know when it is time to say goodbye to your beloved pet. For me, I was blinded by the desire to keep her by my side, if only for a few more days.
“Where is your shovel and where do you want to dig the grave?”
Clad in flip-flops, tank top, and simple cotton shorts, Teresa began shoveling dirt as I cut back the branches of the bougainvillea and the flame tree, then picked up my own shovel and began to dig. The light rain began falling heavier and heavier, mixing with the tears, snot, and sweat that were pouring from my own body. Between sobs, we joked about being Victorian gravediggers, working in the pouring rain with nothing but a lantern to guide us. In the two hours we had been working, we had barely reached two feet. Gracias a Dios, my friend and neighbor Moises showed up to dig the remaining two feet. Teresa went off to make arrangements with my veterinarian to come that evening after work, and I returned to my bedroom, where I once again curled up on the floor next to Luna and bathed her with another shower of tears.
At least once every day I see Moises and Clementina drive by on their ATV. Every time I see them it brings a smile to my face. They always have a big smile, wave, and greeting for me, but more than that, they seem so happy in one another’s company. The two of them were born in a small village on the mainland. They are indigenous people, a detail that escaped me until I heard them whisper quietly to each other in their musical native tongue. After he had finished digging, he promised to return and bury her later that evening.
Shortly before 2:00 p.m., Ann arrived bearing four bottles of beer and two packets of peanuts. We sat sipping the beer and nibbling at the peanuts, my only meal of the day, sharing stories of adventures, misadventures, loss, and the Love of Dog. Our laughter was punctuated by periods of silence, followed by sobbing and a new round of tears. As the wind of the hurricane grew, my makeshift tarp awnings flapped harder and harder. Finally, when the wind grew so strong that they threatened to break free of their ropes and sail into the neighbors yard, we gathered enough energy to go out and do a little hurricane preparation. We gathered up all the lawn chairs and other potential flying objects and secured them in the bodega, then I climbed the ladder to the roof and secured the tarps as Ann untied them. As I was descending the ladder, I looked to my right to see the swarm of bees that had arrived just one week before, resting in one of my mango tree while searching for a new home, swarming once again. We quickly returned to my bedroom and shut the screen door. Back in position, with Luna’s head in my lap, breathing what were to be some of her last breaths, my bees packed up their queen and flew away. I want to believe that they took Luna’s pain and agitation with them.
Dr. David is the closest thing I will ever have to a Family Doctor. Luna first met him less than a month into our first visit to Todos Santos. I had just traded Pequeña for a sack of dog food. I tucked her away in my book bag, just her wee head peeking out, and the three of us trundled down the hill and into Dr. David’s office for her first round of puppy shots and her deworming pill. Dr. David has been there for every one of my babies, and some of my babies who are now somebody else’s babies. He rescued Loquita from certain death of dehydration and sunstroke. He kept Jalisco overnight when he was new to me and suffered from eating bad pork from the garbage pile of his first home. Amazingly, he was able to give Luna her last round of vaccinations without too much stress. He didn’t even complain when she bit him for trying to draw her blood. In truth, it was more of a gumming than a bite, as Luna’s teeth were worn down to nothing more than nubs.
David was scheduled to come over after he closed his office, sometime after 6:00 p.m. He was late, but I felt that every second he was late was one more moment with my sweet Luna. I wasn’t sure if he was going to arrive. I wasn’t sure I wanted him to arrive. Yet I knew I could not let Luna suffer another anxious night. He drove up close to 8:00 p.m. and the babies all ran to greet him. He entered very cautiously, but they just smelled him up and down then fell into line at his heels and followed him to my bedroom door like puppy dogs, where I left them. Inside, I gently picked Luna up off the bed and placed her on the sheet that would become her shroud, folding myself over her like an accordion, my face in hers, stroking her beautiful face, tears streaming down my cheeks and soaking into her fur. David first injected her with an anesthesia. I watched the pain leave her eyes, then she began to snore softly. I had forgotten how much I loved her sweet snoring. She has been so agitated in the nights that I don’t remember the last time I heard her snore. My Luna was a fighter to the end. Completely knocked out by anesthesia, she still had the strength to pull her leg away when David tried to insert the needle into her vein. Dr. David stayed with us, stethoscope pressed to her chest, listening to her heart until it beat its final note. He quietly packed his bag then lingered as I sobbed over her body. I sensed he didn’t want to leave me alone so I finally pulled myself together enough to escort him to the gate. Returning, I let the babies into the bedroom with their mama. They each sniffed the length of her then found their place on the bed, except Pequeña. She put her snout into Luna’s face, I thought she was going to bark at her, telling her to wake up, instead she slowly moved away and climbed onto the bed with the rest of her diminished pack. I lingered, and shed more tears. Her body was merely an empty shell, but I wasn’t ready to let her go just yet, she was still warm. I buried my face in her fur trying to suck her scent so far into my being that I would never forget it.
I almost didn’t have the energy to call Moises and tell him the time had come. I was sorely tempted to put her in her grave and wait until the morning. It took all my will to wrap her neatly in her shroud and gather her in my arms, as gracefully as you can gather 50 pounds of dead weight. I carried her across the yard and to her waiting grave. Once there, I clumsily sat us down on the edge of the hole, rocked her in my arms and kissed her beautiful face for the last time, trying to work up the strength and courage to lay her body in the ground and truly say my last goodbye.
Moises arrived, with Clementina by his side, shortly after I had arranged her body and covered her with flowers. Clementina gave me a beautiful bunch of flowers, then wrapped me in her arms, hugging me heart to heart, as I sobbed into her long, black, freshly washed hair. Before covering Luna’s body with soil, Clementina insisted on saying a prayer. She held my hands in both of hers and began the prayer. Moises joined a moment later, praying imbroglio, the song of angels hovering around us. The rain was nothing more than a gentle mist, the howling winds had subsided to a whisper, and the candle alternately flickered and shone brightly.
Luna’s exit from my life was dramatically different than her entrance. I met her at the Berkeley Humane Society, locked in a room of chain link walls, a concrete floor, a crate for sleeping with nothing but an old towel, a cacophony of barking, whining, crying dogs, the smell of fresh urine and feces, and a sign that read, “Leash Aggressive/Not Good with Children.” She had grown fat on the treats that visitors carefully shoved through the fence, but she was starved for love, attention, and human contact. Luna lived a life that many humans merely dream of. She explored every nook and cranny of San Francisco, Golden Gate Park, and Fort Funston. She ran wild in the hills of Oakland, and every other place she went. She traversed the length and width of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Utah. She traveled the Pacific Ocean, sampling the beaches from Vancouver B.C to Costa Rica. She even tasted the waters of the Caribbean. She licked the calves of unsuspecting bike racers and gave holy hell to grifters at the borders of Central America. She shared morning coffee and treats in bed and took long strolls on the beach at sunset. Her life was blessed with friends, both bipedal and quadrupedal, too numerous to count. She was my constant companion, by my side almost every hour of every day for the past 13 years, six months, and 11 days. She died cradled in my arms, her head against my breast, snuggled amidst a plethora of soft pillows, surrounded by her babies, snoring her sweet and gentle snore. In the end, she had come home, to her final resting place, her very own Finca de La Luna.
Luna Tickle Moon
7 September 2004 – 7 August 2018
Romp with Angels My Sweet Love