This is the eulogy David wrote for Tarragon:
Tarragon passed away Monday, June 5. Tana was walking her in our neighborhood park when she stopped to take a phone call from me. Tarragon took that time to lie down in the shade on the walking path. Shortly after she became unresponsive. Attempts to resuscitate her at our nearby veterinary clinic were unsuccessful. She likely had passed into the morning light right there at the park. We wrapped her beautiful body in her blanket and brought her to a pet cremation facility where we said our last goodbyes. We told her all the things that were undeniably true. We told her what a wonderful and beautiful dog she was and thanked her for all the times she made us laugh (which was virtually every day). We told her how sorry we were that she had to leave us at the young age of eight.
Zara, our other yellow lab, is sixteen. We were emotionally preparing for Zara’s eventual passing, but never could even dream that Tarragon would go first. Cancer is cruel and indiscriminate. We had received the diagnosis of mast cell cancer less than 48 hours earlier. For the latter part of May she had been having on and off digestive problems. She was prescribed the requisite doggie meds and put on the usual bland diet regimen (This kind of thing was nothing new and Tana actually kept some homemade frozen “sick puppy” food in our deep freezer just in case). But things didn’t seem to get better, despite subsequent tests looking seemingly normal. She would rally for a couple of days, nudging us to go to her toy closet so we could pull out a stuffed animal that she could eviscerate or one of her rubber squeak toys she could run around the house with, baiting us to try and catch her. But in retrospect she was probably doing her best to act as if everything was fine (sorrow and self-pity were not part of her vocabulary). She would soon relapse again into the nausea and vomiting. Finally an ultrasound revealed swollen lymph glands in her abdomen and biopsy results the next day indicated the presence of the cancer cells, which likely could have already spread to other parts of her body. This could not be happening. Tarragon was too young, too vibrant, too puppy-like and full of life to be dealt this cruel blow.
I first met Tarragon in December of 2009. She was a Guide Dog for the Blind puppy in training being raised by my former student Jeffrey who was attending college at the time (with Tarragon). We were on our way to see a colleague of mine and former teacher of Jeffrey’s who was recovering from brain surgery at OHSU. I was struck by how adorable this pup was, and how game she was to ride buses and light rail and even the tram connecting the science center to downtown Portland below. She could light up any room and was more than amenable to jumping up on hospital beds, a technique she would have the opportunity to employ in future years to come. Tarragon ultimately did not make the final cut to be a guide dog. She was perhaps a little too gregarious and had some difficulties staying focused on the important tasks that the role required. When Jeffrey informed Guide Dogs that Tana and I were interested in adopting Tarragon they gave their nod of approval and for the next nearly seven years our home was blessed with her sweet and rollicking presence.
She seemed to embrace everyone, often greeting people coming into the home with her black rubber bone, which she would promptly drop on their foot. She would get so excited when guests would come that she would often run circles in the house and then plop her head in their laps once they’d taken a seat. One of our mail carriers would sometimes give Zara and Tarragon treats and from then on she was in love with anyone in a postal uniform. If she noticed one while on a walk (she could spot the uniform from blocks away) she would pull unrelentingly to try and greet them.
She was wonderful with people, particularly children. Zara was a certified therapy dog and on Wednesday evenings Zara and I would do the “Read to the Dogs” program at the nearby library. Children would bring their books to read to her. At the end of each child’s 30 minute session they would receive a bookmark and a treat to give Zara. When the library staff met Tarragon they asked if we could bring Tarragon also as a “Therapy Dog in Training” (a term that really didn’t exist). Zara had been doing the gig for over five years and listening to passages from “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Green Eggs and Ham” were perhaps starting to get a little old for her. But this was all so new and exciting for Tarragon and she relished her role as a therapy dog imposter, enjoying sitting on the kids’ laps (and sometimes the parents’) and receiving her eventual treats.
Both of our dogs were very sweet, but sometimes in different ways. Zara is also thoughtful, organized and routine-oriented, traits similar to Tana’s. Tarragon had a tendency towards goofiness and could be easily distracted, traits she shared with me. She was stunningly good natured and was willing to spend just about every evening on a bed down in the basement with me, while I watched games or highlights of the Mets and/or Jets finding new and creative ways to lose a game. In that regard she was remarkably patient.
Upon hearing the news of Tarragon’s diagnosis, friends came in numbers to the house bearing wine, beer, food, and suggestions for good veterinary oncologists. Portland is a lovely animal-friendly city. With all of its parks, hiking trails, and multitude of nature areas, it was a wonderful playground for Tarragon. We loved her so and counted on having her for many more hikes and doggie walks to come. But that was not meant to be, and keeping our little girl with us longer, given the breakneck speed at which her cancer had progressed, would have been as difficult, as the Irish would say, as “lighting a penny candle from a star.” We grieve so hard now because it is an important part of healing. But it’s also part of how we remember her, how we thank her, and how we say goodbye. Shakespeare once wrote “Give sorrow to words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.”
The evening of Tarragon’s death, Tana gathered up flowers and I put together a makeshift cross made from a little branch and some of our jasmine vines and we placed it at the site where she took her last sweet breath. We plan on sprinkling some of her ashes there. We will have a little remembrance for her on Saturday. To all of our friends who knew and loved her please come join us. We will meet at the house at 7:00, then we can walk to the park shortly after. That was her favorite thing to do.
A donation was made in Tarragon's memory and the memorial was created on July 11, 2017.