Home to Beautiful Borzois in the Watchung Mountains in Mountainside, New Jersey

The Death of Opal

We dared to believe.  We dared to hope. Opal appeared to be miraculously restored to health. She was eating and gained back all of her weight, and she had energy to play again.  Dr. Witham,  the veterinarian who tended to her, saw her and was surprised. Well, you just never know.

I dared for one wish: that Opal could return to Raynbo, the kennel where she was born, and could see Roni and Jennifer Zucker, and spend time with her litter mates one more time before she died. However, many obstacles presented themselves making this wish difficult to accomplish.  Then, the Borzoi Club of Central New Jersey scheduled its Annual Club Fun Match to be held at Raynbo on Sunday, June 25th. I thought it might just be possible to bring Opal with us, and once there, my wish for her could be realized.    When the day arrived, she awoke strong and happy. We put her in the van with Paris and set off on our way to Raynbo, in Moscow, PA.


Opal's arrival at the Club Match, a huge borzoi social outing, was a  big surprise. Opal was very happy to be there with us.  Roni and Jennifer were not only thrilled to see Opal again but especially happy to see her  looking so well. We felt very lucky.  The day marked a celebration of Opal's restoration to health.

We returned home and life resumed. However, by the end of the week, Opal’s condition rapidly changed. By Sunday, she was not eating, and had visibly lost weight and condition. It was as if the month of June had never happened.  Her condition returned to where it had been at the end of May. Eating became difficult for her although we did our best to feed her what she could tolerate. Her weight dropped dramatically to below 60 pounds. We made an appointment to see Dr. Witham on Monday July 3rd.

That day, Opal seemed lethargic and depressed. When Dr. Witham saw her, he ordered tests that indicated a further decrease in her kidney function. It was clear that we had to make a decision. After some consultation, what may as well have been planning our own funerals, we decided to return on Friday, July 7th one last time. Opal had struggled with this disease too long.  In the meantime, and only once, Dr. Witham administered fluids to her under her skin.  Because this procedure has the effect of a dialysis treatment,  Opal  felt much better afterwards. This gave her a good quality of life during her last few days with us.  Opal felt well and  happy.  I particularly noticed her mind was keenly alert. At the appointed hour on the designated day, with heavy hearts and broken spirits, and with Paris, Opal's favorite companion at our sides for comfort, we brought Opal to the veterinarian's office for the last time.

When Opal had nearly finished her alloted gift of time to be among us in this world, we all stood around her, and Paris stood close, standing over her.  She was lying on a blanket where she had been placed on the floor.  I was sitting on the floor with her, and her precious little body - for she truly was very small then -  was laid across my lap.  I was bent over her, embracing her, comforting her. For a moment, she was frightened, for her keen intelligence never left her - she knew.  I embraced her, and whispered, "It's alright, it's alright..."  I felt her  give in to exhaustion and relax, and she calmly rested against me.  Again, I held her close to me and once again I felt her soft head nuzzle me beneath my chin as it did that first day when I met her as a pup at Raynbo in the cold kennel.  I comforted her again and she relaxed just enough.  At that moment, I knew she trusted me with her life.  Yet, I allowed the vet to take it from her.  And I allowed the vet to take me away from her, whom she loved most of all.  That memory, a twisted dagger, will remain  in my heart for the rest of my life.

Then, my eyes met those of the vet as he worked.  I was aware of sobbing and a heavy silence around me.  The stethoscope was on her breast bone. Scott seemed lost in concentration.   That moment endured for an eternity.  I remember imploring Scott in my mind, "Let me go with her, I want to go with Opal."  Instead, I said nothing as I watched him perform his required task.  The moments of eternal silence passed. I missed my chance to die. Scott continued listening and never moved, as if paralyzed. Finally I asked, "Is she gone? Is she gone?" Briefly, his eyes met mine. They were as sad as death. "Yes", was all he could say. I succumbed to tears and grief over her body as he rushed from the room.

We would like to acknowledge our gratitude to the Westfield Veterinary Group for the excellent care provided to Opal during her illness. In particular, we are grateful to Opal’s wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Scott Witham, who took such good care of her and guided us so well. He advised us in such a way so as to minimize Opal's suffering. As difficult as it was to say "Good-bye" that day when she seemed not so terribly ill, she was spared the end-stage horrors of her disease. I know he grew to love her and did not want her to suffer. We are also grateful to his assistant, Maryann Conran, a borzoi breeder, of Carousel Borzoi. Maryann comforted me in my deepest moments of grief when I needed it most - when I wanted to follow Opal into death. She pulled me back when I might have gone. I owe her an enormous debt. Bob and I would also like to acknowledge our dear friend, Renee Thomaier, who accompanied us to the veterinarian’s office with Opal to perform the saddest of missions. Renee loves all of our animals as though they were her own and she proved it that day. No family members accompanied us that day.

Maryann said that Opal would not be left behind, in the vet's office, but that I would be taking her home with me where she would always live in my heart. She pulled me back from the abyss of grief that enabled me to move on, at least at that moment. Today, although I miss her so much, I know she lives in my heart through my happy memories and the collection of beautiful photographs we have of her.

I will never forget those days, too brief though they were, when Opal was our dog ~ halcyon days ~ now lost forever. Taken by the inexorable passage of time and space, she crosses an intransversible chasm to eternity - she is gone! Yet, how vividly she is recalled in our memory. Like magic, we can see her still. A most exquisite creature of beauty walks through our home as if she were alive. And when we look to heaven we see her outline in the stars, like the angels in Handle's opera, Jephta.

Waft her, Angels, through the skies,
Far above yon azure plain,
Glorious there, like you to rise,
There, like you, forever reign.

(February 26, 1752, Covent Garden)

Loved by all, Opal had a star quality. It was as if she had a light that shone from within and blessed all that it touched upon. My friend, Elaine Earlywine, said to me one evening in handling class, that Opal's eyes ..." shone like luminous pools of light. " How accurately Elaine described her. Opal had beauty, a beauty that was so unique, especially her eyes, and the way they looked at you, so expressive, almost human. No one knows more acutely than we how much we lost by losing her.  Every day without her we are reminded of that loss by the absence of her gifts: beauty, light, love and joy.

Opal was the best creature I have known, a rare dog with a true sweet and gentle nature.   She was a dog that you felt crossed the human-canine barrier and entered the human world, she understood so much.  She had nothing but love in her heart, not only for us, but  for her fellow creatures.  At home, she was welcome in the cattery, and the cats walked up to her nose for a kiss.  In return, all who knew her loved her.  She was everything that was dear and special and good in a dog.  She had no equal in the depth to which she was capable of love.  She had a Majenkir style of beauty that was hers alone; it was unique.  It took my breath away every time I saw her.  I could never accustom myself to such beauty as was Opal's: her shimmering white coat, her chiseled face, the way she held her head high, her long limbs and swan-like neck, and flowing, curvy silhouette with a floating like movement ~ that infinite grace that only a Majenkir bitch can possess.  God must have seen her from Heaven and decided he wanted her for himself.  Opal was such a beautiful dog. 

The Death of Opal ~ Opal's Prayer

Unable to decline His request to take her,
Opal lives in Heaven now.
How? Why? Thy Will Be Done.
Dear God, Opal is Yours now!
Please take care of her every day.
May we meet again, Dearest Little One.

I search for Opal far and wide
but she can not be found,
I turn my gaze heaven bound ~
A white hound by my side.
May we meet again, Dearest Little One.

I pray for  the return of those days
when Opal was our dog
Halcyon days ~ now lost forever!
May we meet again, Dearest Little One.

A life for me but none for her.  Therefore
It was meant to be
Just Opal too brief and Opal no more.
May we meet again, Dearest Little One!

Four years ago today and you were gone
My life became an endless quest
I lied and said you were walking by my side
the only way I could go on.
May we meet again, Dearest Little One!

Gone but not forgotten ~ Angels weep for Thee!
Opal waits in constant vigil at the Gate for me.
May we meet again, Dearest Little One.

July 7, 2006
Lorene Connolly