Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jordan’s Passing

We let Jordan pick our wakeup call time, and she got up at around 6 am. We took all three dogs outside, and I could feel how cold it was. Toni slept on the couch, so he woke up when we came downstairs. At a previous session with Laura, we asked Jordan what she wanted to eat. Dogs communicate in images, and Laura said, “It looks like, well, what you’d put in a taco, like taco meat.” Those of you who know us well may be smiling right about now. We’re very fond of tacos, and when we have them for dinner, sometimes Colten will put a little taco meat in with the dogs’ food. We thought for sure she’d choose filet mignon, which we suggested, but she said it was too hard to chew (makes sense—she is missing two of her canines and several other teeth) and to let Harley and Reggie Love have it. So, we made taco meat for Jordan and steak and sweet potatoes for the other two. Cooked fresh at 6am.

mmmm.... tasty meat!

For dessert, we brought out the Frosty Paws ice cream, and this time made ice cream cones for everyone. We have fond memories of going out for soft-serve ice cream with Jordan, where she always shared a vanilla cone or got her own child-sized one. Barbara came into the kitchen just before the ice cream indulgence began and snapped a few shots. We let them all eat together on an old comforter so they could be as messy as they wanted. Jordan licked hers slowly and intently. Reggie Love was determined to pick hers up and run away with it. Harley ate half of his in one bite, then finished Jordan’s when she was done.

I put down some of her favorite blankets on the chaise lounge in the front room with a heating pad underneath, and laid Jordan down. Sun was streaming in the large picture window. She settled for a little while, but then began to get fussy. Colten suggested that I take her upstairs to our bedroom; a trick we’ve developed to cope with her fussy periods was to simply change locations—it often worked. I settled her on one of her favorite blankets in the bed and laid down with her. Colten joined us after a few minutes and she calmed down and fell asleep. I’m not sure what came over me—the earlier-than-usual wake up call, general exhaustion—but I fell asleep with her.

Resting on the chaise lounge while I wrote out a card to Jordan.

The next thing I remember, Barbara was walking toward the bed. I didn’t feel startled at all, just opened my eyes and saw her. She said, “The vet is here.” (For the record, our vets wouldn’t do this house call, so we had to find someone for this specific thing. Jordan, Colten, and I all met her just once at her office. Even though she doesn’t work on Sundays, and it was Halloween, she agreed to come. It was a forty-five minute drive for her one way. We felt blessed she agreed to do it—and we feel lucky that she brought so much compassion and competence with her.)

I scooped Jordan up in my arms and carried her downstairs into the front room. She was still in a sleepy-dreamy state. I laid her back down on the blankets, which were still warm from the heating pad, and she continued to be pretty sleepy. Barbara tied a long piece of black yarn around her neck. At one end, there were two beads: a black and white granite bead and an obsidian bead from a prayer bracelet Toni brought with him. On the other end, which was loose, was another black and white granite bead and five more obsidian beads. Toni also brought a guardian angel with him for Jordan.

The vet explained that she was going to sedate her. Jordan jumped a little at the prick of the needle, pretty uncommon for her since she has an incredibly high pain tolerance. She jumped again and snapped her teeth together. Then she settled back down began to get groggy. The vet stepped out of the room. Jordan got up, turned around and laid back down. I read a card I had written to Jordan out loud. Then Colten sent her a message silently. Barbara and Toni each took a turn doing the same. She looked incredibly peaceful, the sun shining on her black fur, her in a familiar pose with her face between her paws. Reggie wanted to talk to the vet who was waiting courteously in another room and went and visited her a few times during this period. Harley stayed close. When Reggie came back Colten went to tell the vet we were ready. As the vet administered the final shot, I took the scissors and cut the black yarn in half. Barbara reminded us all minutes before that this would cut the cord of our physical connection, but that a golden thread would always remain and we would always be connected. Jordan continued to look so, so peaceful. So beautiful. Like she was having a wonderful sleep. Colten slipped off the loop of yarn from her neck. The vet had disappeared again, I didn’t even see her leave. We were all crying but it didn’t feel dark. When we were ready, she came back in, Colten scooped up Jordan, wrapped her up gently in a blanket and everyone had a final goodbye and head pat. He then passed her on to the vet and they left. As I write this, I am weeping. There is a heaviness in my chest where my heart is. I miss her terribly.

Colten made one of my favorite breakfasts, lemon sour cream pancakes, and my pancake was in the shape of a Boston Terrier face.

After breakfast, we took Reggie and Harley out for a walk to the pond across the street. This was another one of Jordan’s ideas from our talk with Laura on Saturday. There were lots of good things to smell and it was good to breath in the fresh air.

Barbara took the beads from our side of the yarn cord. She sewed a bead on both Reggie Love and Harley’s collars (during our last communication session, when we explained the ritual to Jordan, Reggie Love piped in with “Well can’t I have a bead? I need a bead bad Mom,” so we added beads for both dogs).

Reggie's bead is sewed right onto a star on her collar.

She hung my bead on a necklace chain and set another one using some wire for Colten to wear around his neck.

Jordan’s half of the yarn cord with her beads will stay with her remains. We are planning to make a small altar for her ashes. I’ve taken all your emails, blog comments, and Facebook posts and turned them into little cards that will be part of it.

Here is what I wrote in my card to Jordan and read to her before she passed:

You are one of the most amazing creatures I have ever known. No matter what I have done or what I will do in my life, finding you and taking care of you is one of my greatest achievements. You have taught me so much—about courage, resilience, moving forward, unconditional love, patience, acceptance, forgiveness, and happiness. You have grounded me, inspired me, soothed me, and always been by my side. You have lived your life on your own terms and taught me to do the same. You’re one of a kind. You are a gift. I will love you forever.

Earlier that morning, Colten made this piece of art by placing both our hands and Jordan's four paws on the glass of the photocopy machine. I think it's beautiful. (click to see it full size)


  1. That was a beautiful passing ritual - Jordan was lucky to have such wonderful parents to help her move on.

    I'm not sure if you've seen it before, but I wanted to give you guys a link to a copy of the Rainbow Bridge poem here -

    It was sent to me when my closest rat, Crispin, passed away suddenly, and its something that always makes me feel better.

  2. This posting of of Jordan's last day is amazing. I cried and cried last night as I read it. I cried because I'm sad about Jordan. And I cried because I'm sad for you there. And I cried from being touched by the beauty your family and loved ones arranged for Jordan's passage. Really, the intention and dignity and community and unmitigated love and sorrow and generous appreciation incorporated into this day and all the days leading up to it are exemplars of how companion animals are and should be family members, from the first, to the last.

    Oh shoot, I'm crying again!


  3. Oh this is beautiful, and so sweet and sad. You couldn't have done it better.

  4. Thank you for being so intimate with us. I also have two dog loves in my life and I can only hope that their passing will be as respectful and intentional as Jordan's. May his spirit visit you daily.

    (a good friend of Toni's and an old acquaintance of yours.)

  5. I am so happy to have met Jordan, and as I read this post at my desk at my office today, I couldn't hold back the tears. I am so inspired by your communication with her, your dedication to make sure she was happy and cared for, and the intentionality of your ritual. So many hugs and so much appreciation.

  6. Jordan Love, Pup of the Universe, Dog of Light.

  7. That is really, really beautiful - the hands and paws at the end especially so. Hugs to all of you.

  8. This is always hard. I've done it too many times. Yours was beautiful. That you had so many wonderful people and dogs there to do it with is amazing. It's a wonderful irony for me that ice cream is on your list of foods too! I still have etched in my memory the dogs we put down, only *after* they had had their favorite Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. It's a tender, heartbreaking moment. You did it beautifully.

  9. This was beautiful, Tristan. Reading this, the thought and care and love that went into saying goodbye to Jordan, makes me wish that I dealt with death in a way more akin to this than my usual cynicism. When my cat, my Novita-love, had to be put to sleep three years ago I made bitter jokes about it and swore off ever getting another one. Luckily for me Arielle, my Ari-love, brought me a new and perfect familiar a few months later. Perhaps when it comes time for her, my beloved Llama-monster, to go, I will remember what you wrote here.

    Sending you warmth.

  10. Thank you for sharing this. It's so beautiful and the love you all have for each other shines through. Sending lots of love and warmth your way. xo

  11. I'm so moved by your story of Jordan's passing. Thank you for sharing it. Like many of us, I'm sure, I found myself crying as I read because it was sad but also very beautiful. Thank you for being so loving and for sharing it with us. Our family is thinking of yours and doing our best to send healing and comfort your way.

  12. You are such a beautiful, brave family. I love you so much. I miss her too. Glad you had such good people with you.