Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dante's Golden Tail

My parents got their first giant breed dog when I was 16 and their last when I was 35. I mark to you the passing of their beloved Dante, who was a rescue Newfoundland. A wild-eyed yearling when they got him, he aged into the calm elegance of the breed, a true gentle giant with nothing but love in his great heart which finally stopped last night at the venerable age of 12.

Newfoundlands were bred as rescue swimmers, and their love of water and concern for people is a deep instinct. A Newfoundland was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and Lord Byron famously wrote of his Newf,
one who possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the Virtues of Man, without his Vices.
This community knows the "golden tail" reference, which was Martin Luther's promise of resurrection to his little dog. But I found another golden tail, in Pablo Neruda's poem "A dog has died",
Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds
filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea's movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean's spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
And that is how I will remember Dante, who in his prime, loved to swim in San Francisco Bay or Lake Anza in the Berkeley hills. Once I went to the beach near Bodega Bay with my parents and their dogs, and Dante plunged into the surf, his massive head fording the waves, his immense tail stretched behind as a rudder, his webbed feet sturdily propelling him, as he set sail for Japan (and was only enticed back with some effort).

Swim strong, dear boy.


BP said...

I am very sad that I will no longer experience his not-so-subtle "requests" for (continued) belly scratches, nor his companionable snoring as I knit in the play room. Heck, I'll even miss finding stray black hairs woven into my project...

Mostly I'll miss the immensity of him as he would sit quietly for a hug.

So long, sweet one.

IT said...

And the way he leaned. Newfoundlands always lean into people which, if unexpected, can cause problems as they weight 120lbs plus.

JCF said...

Awww. :-(..

Wag "Howdy" to Mitzi and Sasha, Dante (companions in color, and E Canada roots, i.e., Labradors)

{{{Hugs}}} to you and your parents, IT (Do your parents like cats? Have they met sweet Bubba yet?)

Grandmère Mimi said...

Beautiful tribute to Dante, IT. My sympathy to your parents and to all who love Dante.

What a lovely poem by Neruda.

IT said...

Neruda's poem also says,
I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

IT said...

JCF, Mom and Dad also have two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, as they have downsized dog-wise. In fact, the photo I used of Dante, I cut out one of the spaniels who was sitting companionably under Dante's chest. The spaniels loved Dante and he was very protective of them.

They do not like to swim, however.

Mom and Dad have not yet met Bubba.

Ann said...

Thanks -- brings tears to my eyes for all our beloved dogs gone by. There is always one who knows you best - and leans into you when you need them

Ann said...

test - checking the email comments

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Prayers asending for you parents! and gratitude for these good servants and messangers of God!

EHC said...

Our two Cavs were in an obedience class with a Newfie when they were 6 months old. I turned my head away for a minute, so I can't be absolutely sure what happened, but Winston's head was entirely wet. I think that Bucca, the Newfie, had put Winson's whole head into his mouth. Winston had a look on his face that said, "I don't know what happened, either, but I think I'm in love."

What sweet, strong, gentle dogs Newfies are! May Dante rest in peace and rise in glory with us all.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Lovely, IT--your remembrance and the Neruda. I'm so sorry for your parents' loss.

Twelve years is a good run for such a big dog--but it never comes close to being enough because we fall so in love with them...


Cathy said...

Dante has a gorgeous face - what a beautiful dog.

How sad for your parents, IT. I hope they and you are okay.

IT said...

Thank you all. 12 years is a very long life for a giant dog, but still not long enough.