You can find out more about my next book, now titled The Silver Swan: Searching for Doris Duke, on my dedicated Doris Duke bibliography page.
There are almost more snapshots of dogs than of people in her at the Rubenstein Library at Duke University: dogs sitting, sleeping, rolling, lolling in the arms of her lover Joey Castro.
Acquaintances who visiting Duke Farms, riding in the front seat of the old black Buick Doris drove, had to deal with dogs in the back seat who sometimes spent the drive licking the passengers’ necks.
Outside her bedroom in that enormous house, a concrete porch enclosed with fencing was reserved for her dogs, with a special entrance into her bedroom. I feel quite certain that whoever came to see her in that bedroom would have had to deal with the attentions of all those dogs.
But today I find myself in complete sympathy with Doris’ passion, even with the uncomfortable assumption that dogs are sometimes better companions than complicated, changeable humans.
My dog Rose died today, eaten up with cancer. I told the vet not to wake her from the anesthesia of the exploratory operation.
By now, the overdose he administered has stopped her heart.
I didn’t go to sit in the waiting room at the veterinarian’s; she would not have known I was there. Next will be the little sack of ashes, and a hole in the sunny space where she loved to lie and sunbathe, especially these last days when she was full of pain.
We had twelve good years together. Years of daily hikes, which she adored, hurrying ahead of me up mountain paths here in the Southern Rockies; days of waiting patiently for the chew sticks she always expected as treats, morning and evening; moments of ear pulling and neck rubbing and belly patting, when she would roll over in ecstasy…
I can’t ask for anything more.
Now that she has gone, so efficiently and swiftly, all I can do is get rid of her worn old bed and her food bowl, and try to prepare for my first night alone without the snufflings and snorings that accompanied my bouts of insomnia, without the gradually dimming eyes that stared with such profound strangeness into my face, as though she was even beyond asking questions as I am beyond providing answers.