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.
A 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.