Lately, it seems like many of my friends are saying good bye to their own dogs and cats, and I relive my personal experience each time I hear of their sad news.
When Hooper passed quite unexpectedly, a year ago Tuesday, I was surprised when some told me to just go and get another dog to help ease the loss. My husband, Rich, said, “No way. We are never going to go through this again.” After a while he spoke of having another Portuguese water dog. Just three weeks after our loss, we participated in a Puppy-mill awareness event, surrounded by so many dogs and dog-related vendors. I recall Rich taking note of a dog park in the immediate vicinity. I became distracted and realized Rich was not around. Remembering his comment about a dog park, I looked in that direction. There I saw him bending down and petting…a beautiful black and white Portie pup. It was heartbreaking. I watched as he conversed with the dog’s owner, knowing full-well what was being said.
Five months later, I tried my hand at fostering dogs. I believed that this would be a great way to welcome dogs into our lives, do something good, and not fully commit to full-time dog “ownership.” But, as fate would have it, I “failed” as a foster with my second “ward,” a sweet black and white shih-poo mix named Teddy. As most of you know, Teddy was the “Stray who came to Stay.” He has become a much-needed friend for Rich after a somewhat challenging year.
The other day I told a friend how much I still missed Hooper. She said, “But look, you have Teddy.” That is true for we love Teddy beyond words. But no dog can take the place of another, truly. Each dog has its unique personality. Hooper was scared of her own shadow, Teddy is one of the bravest dogs I have met. Hooper loved humans, but did not love other dogs. We call Teddy the Mayor of Dogville. Hooper was a drama queen and a diva, never a dull moment with her around. Teddy is as cool as a cucumber. Teddy has a good barker if need be, but he is pretty quiet most of the time. Hooper, a typical Portie, had a whole litany of vocalizations for all occasions. I remember one occasion when she had a particular “ruff” day (by dog standards). She came into the room and started her conversation. “Whoa, whoa…whooooa, Woah…it went on for some time. With her big portie rudder tail wagging away, I called that scene, “Hooper’s Tail of Woe.” I never could figure out what the problem was, but that was how she rolled. She always had a story to tell and we always were ready to listen.
Each dog has a gift and a lesson. They come to us when we are ready and leave when their work is done. The best advice
I ever got on the occasion of losing a beloved pet was to always remember the happiness they brought us and the good life we were able to give them.
I leave you with this classic and moving essay on losing a good dog.
“There is one best place to bury a dog.
“If you bury him in this spot, he will
come to you when you call – come to you
over the grim, dim frontier of death,
and down the well-remembered path,
and to your side again.
“And though you call a dozen living
dogs to heel, they shall not growl at
him, nor resent his coming,
for he belongs there.
“People may scoff at you, who see
no lightest blade of grass bent by his
footfall, who hear no whimper, people
who may never really have had a dog.
Smile at them, for you shall know
something that is hidden from them,
and which is well worth the knowing.
“The one best place to bury a good
dog is in the heart of his master.”
Ben Hur Lampman —
from the Portland Oregonian Sept. 11, 1925