Yesterday, I was talking to my sister on the phone while I was walking my dogs. In my case, there should be a law No talking, while walking because my dogs are able to sense that my attention is elsewhere and usually act out. Vern takes every opportunity to go right, when I go left and Fudge ups her hunting skills to expert level. At some point in our conversation, I told my sister I had to go because I needed both hands free and I told her to remind me that I was never getting another dog after Fudge and Vern. She started laughing and said no one believed that statement and it was as absurd as me telling her earlier that I was cutting back next Christmas. Who needs the truth from a sister, so I wisely hung up?
Recently on DK we have lost many of our beloved dogs. At the end of the year, I am reminded of the In Memoriam part of the Oscars where they bring out a beautiful singer and show the faces of the famous who died that year. It is starting to feel like that on DK and I don’t like it one bit. Just like the Oscars make you start to sense your own mortality, the list of our precious Doodles who have passed on start making you think about your dog’s mortality.
Rarely do our dogs outlive us and so many of us have lost a dog in the past, yet we are willing to put ourselves through it again and again. Do we even think about it when we go to pick out that cute puppy? I know I didn’t. I just knew I needed a dog and then another dog. Why are we willing to put ourselves through the business of getting a dog, falling in love with a dog, and losing it before we are ever ready? The only answer I can come up with is because there are just dog people who only feel complete and settled if they have a dog.
I know when I lost Hershey, I declared it loudly and often that we were never getting another dog. Hershey didn’t get the best of me and I often feel guilty about that. I didn’t want a dog at that time in my life, but because I was stupid enough to make a promise to our oldest daughter, we got a dog. Of course, despite all the promises that Megan would do everything for the dog, it quickly fell on me to add taking care of a dog to the long list of things I had to do. And without any training or much effort, Hershey turned out to be the best-trained dog I have ever had and the easiest dog of the ones I have had in my adult life. She became my youngest daughter’s best friend and will always be her heart dog. When she died, I was done. It took a few weeks for me to start looking for another dog and that brought crazy, and I mean truly crazy, Honey into our fold. When she died, I was so done. I wasn’t getting another dog ever. It was too much work, too much time, too much worry, too much responsibility, too much heartbreak, just too much.
Now, I have two dogs. Why do I keep getting myself into these situations where I know it can’t end well? The odds are I am going to outlive Fudge and Vern and the selfish part of me is glad about that, because no one could love these dogs like I do and know how to take care of them like I do. Whether that is true or not, I totally believe it. So, here we are. I have given my heart away to these dogs and because I understand how completely that can happen, I share the heartbreak with my friends when they lose their dogs. I guess I have to ask the question again…why do we do it?
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough is one of my favorite books of all time. I read it when I was much younger and have never forgotten the ending. “There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one. Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, it rises above its own agony to outcarol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain… Or so says the legend.”
To me, this is the answer. What a dog brings to our life is worth all the pain in the end of losing him or her too soon. It’s why we are willing to risk our heart time and time again. It's also the beauty of the human heart. It can bend and stretch to make room for all the dogs that find their way to us.