My Dog, The Teacher

Please, FEEL FREE TO REBLOG THIS POST.  My hope is that it will find its way around the internet, and perhaps change a few minds about what a gift and priviledge it is to have pets in our lives.  And also the importance of  upholding our end of the bargain by providing love, guidance, non-violent training, good food & shelter, and medical care.  All I ask is that you credit the text of this post as being my work.  Not the graphic though; I was unable to track down the source of it.

10 Canine CommandmentsA friend of mine recently posted this on Facebook.

This poignant message immediately brought up feelings of pain, shame and guilt that I will never fully recover from.  Nor do I want to. The lesson it brought home to me at the young age of 18, is one I will never forget and will always be grateful for.

When I was about 5 or 6, a friend of my parents brought home a large breed mix puppy that I strongly bonded with. She was beautiful, highly intelligent and fiercely loyal.  Unfortunately, her human family should never have been allowed to have her in the first place.

The husband was a large, abusive man who taught their son to treat children, women and animals with zero respect, ruling through fear and intimidation.   Their son grew to be as equally large and physically powerful as his father, and learned his father’s lessons all too well.

But I digress; the point is that when I was 12, after years of waiting, hoping and begging, this wonderful dog finally joined our family. She immediately laid claim to me, and I to her.  From that point forward, we were inseparable.

She took her duties quite seriously; always watching over me, comforting me when I cried, protecting me when I needed it, and helping me in countless other ways to navigate those perilous teen years.   The lessons she taught me about love, forgiveness, acceptance and loyalty, are endless.

As dog mothers go, I couldn’t have had a better one.

By the time I was 18, my dear friend was old and her health was failing fast. Age had reared its head a few years before as our walks became shorter and slower.  White hairs began to populate her fur in previously solid black areas.  With her typical grace and dignity, she accepted having to wait more and more on the sidelines as I grew into a young adult.

But those last few months, when it was apparent that her time was nearly up, I started to avoid coming home. Oh, I had plenty of seemingly valid excuses.  I worked two jobs, went to school, had a newly established social life that needed attending to, and even had familial responsibilities that most of my peers did not.  But the sad truth is, all of it amounted to nothing more than a bag of excuses.

Looking back, I could have arranged more time with her, if I had really tried.  But I did not.  Instead, I wasted that most precious of times that I should have spent with her, repaying her for all the many gifts she had given me.

Finally my mother confronted me and said the time had come – either I deal with it, or she would.  So I spent one last night sitting up with her, sobbing and apologizing as she laid her big head on my lap.  As was her custom, I was covered in sloppy kisses, quiet forgiveness and gentle love…

We didn’t have much money; most of mine went to into the household.  But again, that was an excuse I can’t forgive myself for, ending as it did with my having to take her to the SPCA to face those final moments alone.  Scared and confused.

If I had chosen to give up a few nights out with friends, I could probably have managed to take her to vet one last time.  I could have been with her with her the whole time.  Now that the reality of my selfish choice to spend the little money I could have put away for this moment, had come back to bite me. Hard.

I will never forget our final parting…  The staff member now holding her leash, was forced to stop at the door to the back area.  My dog, my friend, my protector…my teacher really, had simply refused to keep walking.

She stopped, looked back over her shoulder at me and stared for a long moment…

I will never know if she was telling me it was all okay, that she understood, or if it was a look of hurt betrayal.  I know what it felt like though. Since that terrible day, I made a promise.  Even if it meant starving, not a single one of my animal companions would ever again have to face death alone.  And I’ve kept that promise.  I am the last face they see before drifting off to sleep.  My hand is the last touch they feel.

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11 thoughts on “My Dog, The Teacher

  1. Thank you. I have been with my fur babies in their last moments. It is the one moment I feel the deepest gratitude and the deepest sorrow. Wishing I could do more and thankful for letting me be a part of their lives.

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    • Yes, exactly. They are gifts and we are honoured by their company. They aren’t “like family,” they ARE family.

      It’s 29 years since I lost my big girl and I’ve been with every one since then. I make sure they know they are not alone, no matter how hard it is for me. Because that’s part of the promise we make when bringing them into our lives.

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  2. Love this. This is the responsibility level I believe is forgotten by so many pet owners. For too many thoughtless people a kitten or puppy is the modern accessory to their urban lifestyle.

    I am not myself a pet owner. I cohabitate with a cat. But one reason I’m not is that I recognize the difficulty of being “the last face.”

    Ted

    This is another comment from a very good friend of ours that I’m also copying from my original short-lived blog.

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  3. I really like this one and it’s so true we will always be with the.

    Arohk

    I copied the above comment my husband left regarding this post from where it first appeared in my very short-lived blog, before discovering the wonderful world of WordPress!

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  4. Okay, this is now my FOURTH attempt to respond to your last comment. Please phone, I’m begging you, let me finish it this time! *angry face*

    Yes, it is a tear jerker of a story. I wrote my memories of her and that last awful day that way deliberately. It was gut wrenching to write and though it’s been 26 years since then, I sobbed the whole time I was writing.

    If by posting it on my blog, I can reach just one person and change their way of thinking when it comes to how they treat animals, then the pain it brought crashing back, will have been worth that and more.

    You’re right, pets really are both the best and worst parts of our lives. Very Dickens of you by the way! 🙂

    It might sound bad, but I’m happy to hear you realize how important it is to enjoy the the time you have with your furry kids. Even with the best of food and medical care, there’s still no guarentee we won’t lose them too young. Of course that’s also true of our human loved ones!

    Well, I’m off now to catch up on all the posts I’ve missed recently…including a couple of yours…gasp! 😉

    Hope your weekend is going well. Hugs to your furry kids!

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  5. Well that was gut wrenchingly sad :-(. Even though my pets are fairly young, I think about this kind of stuff often. I’ve seen enough sadness from others around me when losing theirs that I try to make sure I don’t take any more time for granted. I wish I spent more time in the past with some of course like anyone else, but it’s just something we all must learn the hard way growing up. Usually as children when we lose our own first fish or hamster, or the dog or cat our parents grew old with that we were too young to really remember. Pets are both the best and worst part of our lives. I so dread the day in the future… 😦

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    • Jon, I’ve twice tried to respond to you comment but I am on my cell, which is misbehaving and it’s 4:30 in the morning. I’m tired and cranky so am going to quit for tonight before this expensive little piece of technology becomes a casualty of my frustration.

      I will not smash you to little pieces like some of your distant relatives…former alarm clocks. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t…she chants while swearing in her head… 😉

      I’ll come back again soon and try this again, but on the computer, which seems to like me better than this bloody “smartphone!”

      In the meantime, I hope you, you’re wife and Kit-Kat are having a great weekend! 🙂

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  6. Beautifully evocative post. I feel the guilt and pain you capture so perfectly every day for every animal and all of nature–wherever, whenever I see that patience, love, and trust in the eyes of the teachers and guides we call “pets.” The rampant abuse, neglect, the ignorance towards them makes me physically ill. And the irony that humans are the stewards of the non-human world leaves me gasping with disbelief and despair.

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    • Thank you, Inkandpages. I very much appreciate your kind words.

      And I agree with you on all points regarding the human treatment of other species. It is appalling. Heck, how we treat each is often appalling and sickening.

      Again, thanks for stopping by an commenting. Take care. 🙂

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