Around the Bluhmin’ Town
Do all dogs go to heaven? Yes, of course they do, along with all of our other beloved pets. Sometimes, they just get there too quickly, leaving us bereft and broken. My neighbors stopped by last week to tell me that their wonderful black Lab, Ruby, had unexpectedly passed away. Ruby was only eight years old and she represented all the things we love about our doggies: she was full of energy, love, and joy, jumped and ran like the wind, wagged her tail, and licked your face in an unrestrained display of affection.
Maybe we love our dogs so much because they love us so unconditionally and completely, flaws and all. They don’t seem to notice our bad moods and never hold a grudge if we are ever short with them. They show unbridled excitement every time we walk in the door! They eat the same (boring) food all the time, but never complain. They love walks and rides and anything that involves us. They are the children who get older, but never grow up. And they know how to make our days slightly better.
My daughter, Kelly, is in a wheelchair and has a small Shih Tzu dog named Chopper. He is ten years old and believes that his sole purpose in life is to protect Kelly from danger. He “guards” her by sitting under her chair, barking (perhaps growling) if people come too close and watches her carefully when she transfers out of her chair to shower. Not sure exactly what he thinks he would do if Kelly fell, but he certainly acts as though he would break her fall. He is ten pounds of devotion. When I come over to visit he runs to greet me, gives me a thorough sniff, then he scampers back under Kelly’s chair, walking along as she wheels places. He is one heck of a doggy.
I know that my last yellow Lab was a ninety-pound dream girl named Molly who never wanted to leave my side. For a big dog, she could make herself squeeze into tight places, under tables, next to chairs, in the horse stalls, wherever I went Molly was sure to be there. Because at some point in her life, she decided she never wanted to be more than two feet away from me. She had separation anxiety! But the day Molly died was the day I felt the full force of separation and loss. Forget anxiety, I went straight into depression.
Ruby, my neighbor’s dog, could run like a greyhound. She would barrel down the road far ahead of any humans who were walking or riding, pausing to sniff around while the family caught up, only to run again. I have a colleague who is a serious runner, doing about eight to ten miles a day. He said for twelve years he had his dog, Max, running with him and it wasn’t until Max died that he realized how blessed he had been. The first time he went out without Max, my friend said he fell in a heap crying about two miles before he got home. Yes, we miss our dearly departed pets.
Some days if I need a pick-me-up I just go to YouTube and watch funny pet videos. Marla is a Golden Retriever who lets two parakeets sit on her back, practically all day long. Or Murphy, the German Shepherd, who was run over and now has two prosthetic back legs and runs around like a puppy. And Faith, who hops around because she only has two back legs and she goes into nursing homes to inspire residents to keep their chins up. Every day there is some new fascinating video clip to show us the joy that animals can bring us.
My friend, Jane, found a small black abandoned kitten sitting by a dumpster outside of a Japanese restaurant. Jane was going through a divorce, a huge life change and not interested in a kitty. But she brought the kitten home, named her Sushi, and for the next sixteen years had a “kindred spirit” who slept with her every night. Sushi had the habit of snatching items and putting them in odd places around the house. Jane would find a sock from the laundry basket under the bed, or one of Sushi’s numerous soft toys stuffed under pillows or behind sofas. When Sushi died, Jane was in the midst of a huge job change.
One week after Sushi passed, Jane was sitting in the lobby of a new law firm, waiting for her second interview, feeling despondent and sad. Nervously Jane reached into her briefcase and in the side pocket was stunned to feel a soft, gray mouse toy that Sushi must have hidden there. Jane said a calm came over her, she felt so loved and confidently walked into the conference room to nail the interview, get the job, and seize the moment! After being offered the job, one of the senior partners asked Jane if she would like to stay for lunch and did she like sushi. So in an amazing twist of fate, Jane’s first words at her new job were, “I love Sushi.”
And so it goes. Life is better when we have had the love of a pet. All that licking, running, jumping, wagging tails, cuddling, purring, barking, yipping, and playing is the gift that keeps on giving. We can be alone with a pet, but never lonely. They offer us everything they have to give and ask for very little in return. Their world lights up by seeing our faces, hearing our cars, and they dance around like a lunatic at suppertime. Where can you find love like this?
When a dog dies, the Vet (and other kind folks) may offer comforting words by saying that each year a dog lives is like seven human years. So your old pet may be ten years old, but actually seventy. But does this make us feel better? Probably not! So maybe, as my neighbor says, the real measurement of love is not in dog years….but in the number of dogs we have been lucky to have in our years.