Congo held on through the spring and into the summer. I began to panic -seriously panic - when I realized that our summer holiday was booked and I would not be present for my dog’s passing. For more than thirteen years I had been living and breathing with her. Not being there for her last breath was an incredibly painful pill to swallow. This was not the way it was supposed to end. This was not “The Plan” I had in mind and yet, and yet…there is never a plan.
Congo spent the summer as she always did - with my brother John and his partner, JP, at their home in Virginia, a place she knew well and loved, having spent six summers there with her two sons, Trouble and Noir. Her final weeks were spent taking part in happy, relaxed moments together with all "her boys" and adoring friends. I am deeply moved by John and JP’s deep commitment and love for her, and for me. They lovingly picked up where I left off and helped us through this difficult time. I have written about it in a separate blog post [here].
Man’s love for his dog is boundless. It is as complex as it is pure and simple. For me and Congo, and for countless others, there is always a bit of magic wrapped up in it, too.
Shortly after my husband and I married, we sold our townhouse in London. Together with Congo, we moved to our home in the South of France, for the proverbial year [or two] in Provence. It wasn’t long before Congo and I both fell pregnant. Unbeknownst to either my dog or me [or my husband], our village of Cotignac has a reputation for making ladies – and Queens - fall pregnant, and this is where the “magic” comes in to play, as ancient village lore threaded its way through our lives.
The story of Notre Dame de Grace in Cotignac began in 1519 on August 10th and 11th when the Virgin Mary appeared to Jean de La Baume and asked him to build a chapel there. Et voila! The townspeople agreed and the chapel was built. Over a century later, on October 27, 1637 the good Brother Fiacre had a revelation that The Queen, Anne d’Autriche, wife of Louis XIII, needed to make three novenas to the Virgin in order for a son to be delivered to them – the first of those three was sent up to our village’s Notre-Dame de Graces en Provence. The queen then prayed with Brother Fiacre from November 8th until December 5th. Exactly nine months later, Louis XIV was born on September 5, 1638 and Notre-Dame de Graces en Provence is now, and not surprisingly, a noted pilgrimage.
Key dates from the story of our village chapel overlap with my own and Congo’s. I find myself compelled by the coinciding dates and how they provide some “glue” to the age-old mystery of Love and Loss. There is comfort to be found in context and connection, especially when confronted with loss.
It is possible [but not proven] that Congo fell pregnant on October 27th, 2002 - 365 years after Brother Fiacre's revelation and 66 days before she gave birth to nine puppies on January 3, 2003.
Congo had been deteriorating for over a year yet she held on through a crushing winter and spring in Massachusetts and eventually died in the state of Virginia [!] on August 11th, 484 years to the day the Virgin first appeared in Cotignac and as it happens, the same week that our baby daughter died there eleven years earlier, on August 15th – the day of the Virgin’s Assumption in to Heaven.
August is definitely my month for angels in France. Our home there is a quiet place of peace and reflection for me. As much as I resisted leaving my dog in her final days, it seems oddly fitting that I was in France when I received the news of Congo’s passing under the bright light of a super moon.