Posted with permission from my friend, Brent. We met when they had Toby (aka, The Frisbee King), who died from a brain tumor at six years old.
I am always struck by a dog’s life cut short. I believe older dogs, having had a full life, understand it is time to go – they have given their all to their pack, and it is time for the pack to move forward. But there is something tragic about a dog leaving in the prime of his life.
… Kipling: “…I bid you beware of giving your heart to a dog to tear.” This is something that has always been a mystery to me, even as is the difficulty I face trying to put into words the foreign emotions that take hold. I believe dogs add another dimension to the human experience; that dimension would not exist were there not dogs. We love our parents, we love our siblings, we love our life partner – but why does the love of our dog stand out?
I had always enjoyed dogs growing up, but never actually ‘got’ them. They just sort of followed us around, chased sticks and barked a lot. However, things changed one day long ago when, while hiking, I ran across a woman with 2 Standards. We talked about her dogs for a bit, then I knelt down to greet one of them, and for the first time the ‘connection’ occurred. This lanky Standard Poodle took time out from playing to come quickly and deliberately in front me, stared for the longest moment into my eyes, through my eyes, into my soul, and with a lick of my chin was off and running again. I was awe struck at what just happened to me. It was a life changing event to experience such a connection.
Daily, I take the time to talk to our Rusty in a soft voice, assuring him of his place in the pack, and bidding him to seize to the day, because he doesn’t know how short his days might be. Sometimes he will look off to the side, listening intently, then he’ll return his gaze into my eyes, through my eyes, into my soul, and with a lick of my chin, he’ll settle back into his nap with a deep sigh. We never know how much our dog understands of our love, but I believe he understands enough to know how much we value him. What does he give back? It’s still a mystery to me, but I think he provides an insight into an innocence and trust that humans no longer possess. I believe our dogs help us find it once again within the core of ourselves. And losing a dog tears us to that core.
A quote I remember from when our Toby passed away: “If dogs don’t go to heaven, then I want to go where dogs go.” I still want that more than ever.