Lughnasa Waxing Back to School Moon
9 years ago Kate and I bought two small whippet puppies, sisters, and named them after two towns on one of our favorite spots on earth, the Big Island of Hawai’i. The larger of the two, Kona, took her name from the west facing town on the Kohala-Kona coast, the side of the Big Island which has some of the most luxurious resorts in all of Hawai’i. Hilo, the smaller girl by about half, took her name from the east facing island town of Hilo, a blue collar town of Japanese and Hawai’an workers, a bit rough around the edges and the site of more than one tsunami, the most recent in 1964.
We held them on our laps a lot when they were puppies and even after they were grown they would, from time to time, lobby for us to hold them that way again. Hilo would hop eagerly into my lap, sit there for a minute or maybe less, then stand up, moving here and there, trying to achieve some location that felt right to her. Most often she would jump down. She had her opinions about all sorts of things and acted on them.
In the morning before we opened their crates Hilo would lead Kona in a high pitched whining chorus with dips and doodles, plaintive and loud. When upstairs she would bark to be let out and to be let back in. Though the smallest of all our dogs, she let none of the others take her spot on the couch or get near her food. She was not ornery, but she was clear about boundaries.
When I went outside to garden, Hilo went with me, sometimes standing right where I wanted to work. I would gently lift her out of the way and continue. After I got the bees, Hilo would come right into the bee-yard with me while I worked. She would stand there, bees buzzing all around and watch me, sometimes lying down in a sunny patch.
An enduring memory from her young puppy hood came when she and Kona dug under the southeastern corner of our fence. I discovered her not long after they escaped, but she was on the other side of the fence. I called her name, Hilo. She looked over her shoulder, gave me a sweet, delighted look, and took off on a path through the forest–away from me–at a full suspension gallop. She was so happy.
She had some negative kidney function numbers earlier in the year and by the time of her physical in June, they had gotten worse. Roger Barr told us she had probably two months, nothing to do but allow the disease to play itself out. We changed her diet, starting giving her rimadyl for pain when she started wicketing. We extended his two months to three, but she died this morning, just over 9 years old.
Hilo was my friend and close companion. Often, she would take a nap with me and curl up in the crook of my arm. When I was outside, she was, too. She came when I called her, after those early days, and sat with me while I read. She was a vital, distinctive voice here and I’ll miss her.
Grief is a price you pay for love.