Thursday, March 26, 2009

Losing a "Pet"

I was just at the vet and a couple of ladies brought in their 8, 6-week old, Springer Spaniel puppies. Because of that connection to Dad, I had to come back to this...

There are "pets" and there are "pets" and we can discuss the root word and the various popular usages and accepted definitions however, I'm talking about those companion animals who live with us, some lucky few of us, all day every day. One such is our Bailey shown at left.

Bailey is a miniature schnauzer, 6-years old (now 9) and has been with us since she was 8 weeks old. She has traveled the U.S. with us, riding hours in air conditioned comfort in her crate, sniffing her way across 20+ states. She spent nearly 2 years "on-duty" with the National Guard as I worked in my office. She visits with the neighbors, watches her "nephew"/our grandson carefully when he visits, and raises the alarm whenever a stranger approaches. She also welcomes each of us home so that the other knows we'll soon be reunited. She has even done public relations work at The Spoils of War! She is a nearly constant companion. I am not looking forward to that sad day...

What brought this to mind is that a friend lost his friend. This is common, unavoidable and never any fun at all. Nobody I know has been glad to see their pal die. If you read the various shooting/hunting forums, you know this happens most every day and that some/many have to have their buds euthanized/put-down. A sad situation indeed. That they feel a need to talk about it publicly shows just how difficult this is for them.

So it was for my father. On the day he died he had to talk about his "favorite", Donna. Donna was an English Springer Spaniel Dad had raised from birth (he'd been breeding ESPs).  Donna apparently died while Dad was in Italy in 1946 or 1947. He had a photo of Donna (when we only took photos of important things) and had a portrait painted of the dog. Even after 53 years when he spoke of that dog it was clear that Donna's passing still affected him. In fact, he spoke of Donna in much the same way he talked about my brother who died when he was 8-years old (in 1981). This seems illustrative to me of the impact a companion animal can have.

What do I believe? I believe that heaven can't be heaven without dogs (and perhaps, cats) and I'm anticipating seeing all our dogs in heaven. Some others, and not a few, feel the same way. Somebody among them authored the following.

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water, and sunshine and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who have been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly, he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together...

and there is Kipling

The Power of the Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your hearts to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie -
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk you heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years that nature permits,
Are closing in asthma, or tumor, or fits,
And the Vet's unspoken prescription runs
to lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find - it's your own affair
But - you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent
At compound interest of cent per cent,
For when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short time loan is as bad as a long -
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

When the body that lived at your single will,
When the whimper of welcome is stilled
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone - wherever it goes - for good,
You soon discover how much you care,
And give your heart to a NEW dog to tear.


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