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Kindred Spirits
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There are Bandit shrines all over my house: sketches of him hanging from the walls, his plaster paw print in a glass case in the study. He died in 2006, and adopting him was one of the best choices I ever made. And although my heart breaks every day when I look at my son, I don’t regret a single moment spent with him. Ronan, slowly regressing into a vegetative state, has no future, but he is still worthy of every bit of my love. As his mom, my job is twofold: to love him (easy) and then to let him go (the hardest thing I’ll ever do).

Like Ronan, the dogs at Kindred Spirits are alive right now, and they matter, they count, they are valuable not because they’re cute or have potential, but simply because they are living creatures. Like Ronan, they are free of expectations. They are loved while they are alive—given organic food and acupuncture and massage—and after they die, they are celebrated. As the memorials in and around the house make clear, these animals’ time on Earth, however brief, matters.

All of us will watch deeply loved people or pets die. We don’t like to think about it; it seems like the worst thing that could ever happen to us and maybe it is, but it is also an inevitable part of life. At night, I imagine those beautiful dogs, loved and safe, sleeping together under a star-cluttered sky, dreaming their animal dreams. My son sleeps in his crib across the hall and his time, too, is quickly running out. I lie in my bed, sleepless and brokenhearted, and grateful.

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 67: Nov/Dec 2011
Emily Rapp is the author of Poster Child: A Memoir. She teaches creative writing and literature at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. emilyrapp.com

Illustration by Vivienne Flesher

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