This morning, a friend of mine lost one of her dogs…a 12 year old dobie, who died peacefully in his sleep. I immediately started crying when I learned of it. The loss of a dog, almost any dog, hits me in the soft spot in my heart where only love lives. And, always, someone else’s loss reminds me of my own and all of the pain and heartbreak feels brand new. I am reminded that the pain and heartache exist because of all of the love.
Before learning of this news, I was already thinking about dogs and aging and illness. Rocco, the 12 year old Greek, didn’t want to get out of bed this morning and I snapped a picture of him after he threw a pillow on top of himself to create one of his little nests. I was thinking about how lucky we have been that he has been so healthy and how, if not for the old man lumps and the graying muzzle, you would never know he was 12. Paul and I also went to visit some dogs early this morning on our petsitting rounds, one of whom was a 14 year old standard poodle and his 4 year old labradoodle brother. The elderly poodle is in fantastic shape, other than being almost entirely blind. The way that he relied on his younger brother through sound and touch was amazing and I couldn’t help but wonder what one would do without the other, because the younger dog was very scattered outside without big brother there, and big brother needed little brother to lead the way.
When I lost Taz, my first dog as an adult, I was hit with such overwhelming sadness and a greater sense of loss than I had ever experienced. Taz developed pancreatic cancer and, though surgery was an option, he was not given a very good prognosis and would likely only live another 3 months. And, those 3 months would not have been easy ones for him. After many conversations with my vet, I decided to let him go, as any other decision would have been about me and what I wanted and not what was best for him. It was the hardest decision I have ever made, and in a card from my vet, she wrote “I know in time, thoughts of Taz will bring a smile to your heart and not a tear to your eye.” Seven years later, I still get both. Last year, Paul and I said goodbye to our Sugar, and my best friend lost 2 of her dogs, one of whom I had the pleasure of living with for a few years. Each of these goodbyes were heartbreaking and I think of all the love, laughter and compassion those dogs brought out in those who loved them.
I think a lot about why I (and so many people I know) love dogs so much, and I think it hit me this morning. I love dogs because it is uncomplicated. Dogs don’t lie, they don’t betray and they don’t deceive. They wear their emotions of their sleeve (or tail!)..out there for all to see. Dogs are a big responsibility and a commitment. In return, if we treat them well, we get wags and kisses and sloppy toys dropped on us and slobbered on and smiled at and, in some cases, like Rocco, we actually get hugged. We are protected by our dogs and we protect them. Dogs are amazing creatures…and I think this quote sums up how so many of us feel:
“There is a cycle of love and death that shapes the lives of those who choose to travel in the company of animals. It is a cycle unlike any other. To those who have never lived through its turnings or walked its rocky path, our willingness to give our hearts with full knowledge that they will be broken, seems incomprehensible. Only we know how small a price we pay for what we receive: our grief, no matter how powerful it may be, is an insufficient measure of the joy we have been given.”- Suzanne Clothier
So, today, my heart is with my friend Helen and I know that her dear friend, Ollie Vern will be met at the bridge by friends who came before him. I am sure that Taz and Sugar will be there, as well.
My sweet Tazzie.
“I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.”
– Gilda Radner
Dog. Is. Love. 🙂