Monday, April 1, 2013
I said goodbye to my dog today
BEST DIVORCE TIP I EVER HAD!
Reader Warning: The material ahead contains significantly sappy thoughts, at least everything after the first paragraph does. Read at your own peril.
The picture above is, Wwhhat, my dog for fifteen years. Snoozing on the floor, in the middle of the room, her favorite place to be.
If you have read my book, you already know the story about my dog, and the fun day my son and I had naming her the silly name we selected. And when you get the second volume, there are enough dog and cat stories there to let you know how much I enjoy having pets. When they are well trained. Anyway, I’ll offer up the great tip first, that way you don’t have to read it all to find out. A couple of friends were concerned for me when I was faced with divorce (actually more than a couple). They were especially sensitive to the empty house I was in alone, with the kids only around on that terrible thing called a “shared parenting schedule” (or visitation some say). That is probably the worst fallout of divorce…but that will go into my discussions on children.
Anyway, so my friends decided I needed something to keep the house from feeling so empty, and one knew a person whose dog has just had beagle puppies (and I always wanted a beagle anyway!), so a little beagle puppy found her way to my home, and I was not alone again. My wife also talks about the dogs keeping her company and protected, too.
SO THE SIMPLE TIP IS: if you are new into the divorce process and feeling the emptiness and loneliness of echoing walls in your home, it can be a GREAT thing to get a new pet. Not for the kids, for you. I prefer cats or dogs, maybe you like something else, but studies have indicated the stress reduction that comes with owning a pet (despite those times they can drive you NUTS!!!), and the companionship of a walking in the park with a dog or having a cat purr on your lap is incomparable. So that’s the tip. Well, it may not really be the BEST tip I had, but it certainly turned out to be a very good one. Of course, the downside of the tip is that if your finances are tight, unless you are a vet your will have the expenses of shots and spaying/neutering (which I STRONGLY urge you to do!) But if you have the cash, the joy is well worth the investment. (Okay, the sappy part is about to begin, you can bail out now if you’d like.)
Today I closed a chapter of my life, and it was a chapter that was difficult to close. In the grand scheme of things, it seems almost ridiculous that I would consider this significant, but many of you will know exactly what I mean. I mean, it is not nearly as big a deal as when my uncle or my mom passed away last year. But today’s experience might contain something helpful for you, if you are struggling with divorce, and so I will share some memories with you.
Today I had to put my dog down. She was 15 years old, almost to the day. Within a month or two of the beginning of divorce proceedings, she came into my life, tail wagging, mouth smiling, nose nuzzling and full of life. I’d say she was the best dog I ever had, but I have had some really great dogs in my life and each has been special in its own way. But this dog was clearly mine. When I was alone, she and I would go to the park, and she would run and play (never really got the hang of fetch, though), and I would laugh and play with her on my hands and knees. She was a companion for many, many years. She never bit anyone. She rarely growled (I don’t remember her ever doing it, actually). She loved treats and her eyes lit up whenever I came around, always hoping we’d go for another walk or have a special treat. And she went walking a lot with me and the woman who later became my second wife and her dog, as a frequent simple date when she and I would visit and laugh or cry.
For the last three years she has been living at my dad’s house. Not because she wasn’t welcome at mine, but since dad has been alone much of that time, he has wanted to keep her there. So even in her old age (the vet said life expectancy for a dog like her would be 12 years, not 15) she was still doing in important job by serving as companion and guard for my dad. Although she couldn’t really hear much of anything lately. And her eyes were getting weak. And her back has some serious problems. Though the precipitating cause for putting her down was that she developed an illness that would require surgery risky for a dog her age, and that would probably continue to return even if this was successful. So instead, after some discussion and thought, I decided to let her go now, while she hasn’t had to suffer long, having had a good and very meaningful life.
Frankly, I don’t know how I would have made it without her. And I mean that seriously. And as I said goodbye, she enjoyed some last special treats and Easter leftovers. We had a hug and a picture. And then my heart was filled with gratitude to God for her and my mind was flooded with memories of times together. Then she was buried in a place that also has special memories in my life. And when I came home, my son’s dog (who we are dogsitting for a few months or years and who is also nearly as old as mine was) came over and greeted me, nuzzling up to me arm as if she knew we had both lost an old friend. (Every once in a while back when, those two dogs used to get loose and would go visiting all the neighbors and friends, as well as a little sightseeing in town until I would track them down. At that point, they would joyfully come running and hop back into the car to go back home. Good memories.) And, as you might be able to tell from this blog, I have a soft spot for movies like “Marley and Me,” “Beethoven,” “Old Yeller,” or “Homeward Bound.” I’ll have to see what the next chapter brings, and whether or not another animal will take the role of my beagle or my Siamese cat, both of which are now gone as is the way of life in this world.
What is it that brings joy to your life and home? In what HEALTHY ways do you fill the voids of loneliness? I once had a young child ask me whether or not there would be dogs in heaven, whether or not their pet would be there to greet them when they grow old and die. I found some scriptures and gave an answer I won’t share here (all of which was before the movie “All Dogs Go To Heaven” came out.) So while I won’t say anything about whether dogs go to heaven or not today, I will say this: a good dog brings a bit of heaven to us here. At least, mine sure did for me. And my wife’s did for her as well. I will never forget how God used something as simple as my beagle to bring me the joy and hope I needed at one of the lowest points of my life. So much so that had my son and I not come up with our silly game to name her, she would have been named, “Hope.” Perhaps the same idea could be useful for you, too. So thank you dear friends who had the foresight to insist I get my puppy. And thank you, God for sending them and for creating such a delightful animal to share 15 years of my life. And thank you, my dear little beagle for all the things I will never be able to express or repay. And thank you, blog reader, for allowing me to share this silly little reflection.
TL: sorry, no shortcuts today.