Friday, July 9, 2010

On the pact we make with dogs

The heat broke today.  The air remains a bit thick, but the breeze is off the lake and holds the promise of a cooler night.

On Facebook I read that a friend's elderly dog died today.  They'd been together fifteen or sixteen years, done obedience and therapy work, comforting the ill and encouraging children to read aloud.  Their partnership was legendary.  Just recently they'd had a health scare, but were given the precious gift of a few more weeks together.

My dogs each got a walk this evening, something we have not done in a week or more.   On returning home I heard that a friend's 7 month old puppy was hit by a car and killed earlier this week.  He'd been such a joy, so full of promise.  Struck in front of their house.  She said she's spent the past two days curled in a ball, apologizing to him.

We take on such responsibility when we bring a dog into our lives.  As domestics they cannot feed themselves, or groom much on their own.  They work to fit into our world.  Truly domestic -- they serve our needs.  And the biggest need they serve is our need to have someone to love.

It's the pact we enter into.  Let me love you and I will feed you.  Let me love you and I will take you to the park, and for car rides.  Let me love you and I will throw the ball.  Tangible gifts.  But we can't say let me love you and I will protect you from all danger and keep you with me forever.  Because that is not possible.  We cannot make that pact with dog, nor man.

And sadly, we are reminded throughout life that this pact may never be entered.  The strongest, healthiest dogs live only fifteen or sixteen years with luck.  But disease or accidents take them much younger.  Despite the love.  The tremendous love we use to envelop them, our beloved dogs, and hold them close.

Oskar had a cancerous growth removed earlier this week.  We did not know it was malignant until after the surgery.  Now we must watch and wait to see if it returns.  He will be twelve in a few weeks.  Each evening now I find myself saying to him, let me love you one more day, and I will brush you gently.  Let me love you one more day, and I will take you for a walk.  Let me love you one more day and we will sing Suppertime.

And for now, he lets me love him.

Addendum.  Click here to see a lovely tribute to Shandy, my friend who lived 16 great years.


MaryEllen Schneider said...

Such a beautiful sentiment, Johanna. Thank you for your loving, thoughtful posts. I am honored that you wrote about my beautiful Shandy girl.

My condolences to your friend who lost her puppy. A young life struck down is very difficult to reconcile.

Anonymous said...

....this is beautiful and somehow applies so much at the moment as we have Nell, whose history we simply do not know. Where was she for the first 5 years? Did someone love her and have to give her up? Or did they die and have to give her up? I wonder every day about this so your pact, so beautifully written , seems particularly poignant

Heike Trozzo said...

SIGH .... very beautiful thoughts.
Crossing fingers that Oskar will be around for many more years of loving and cuddling.
But even when the time comes to let our furry friends go, the love continues. Not that is makes it easier to part from them :-(

Anonymous said...

O.K.--now you made me cry.......that was a beatifully written entry that struck at the heart.
No matter how long we have them with us, it is not long enough. No matter how they leave us, it is always, always just awful.

Anonymous said...

Oh Johanna! What a beautiful piece you have written. So true, but so sad! Tissue time again! Thank you for writing it and for sharing it with us!


Trish said...

Oh so true. I grew up with dogs that lived outside like wild animals and never thought too much of them. But once you bring them into the house and they are like your child, sister and best friend it changes everything. I'm so happy to have little buddies - your post was a wonderful read.

TKC and Briards World said...

Beautifully written and oh so true. We have recently had similar experiences. Thanks for sharing and enjoy every day with Oskar.

Unknown said...

That was just beautiful, Johanna. Just an hour ago I learned of the loss of the young dog. I've only ever seen pictures but already knew how very special he was. Who knew he would be so special as to be called home at such an early age and teach us all something so important? You put it beautifully. Thank you!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mom said...

that was remarkably lovely. It says so much about YOU. I am proud to be your mom.
love, mom

Charlie said...

Johanna, that was lovely and am so pleased to have read it. My niece Marta just had to put her dog down Thursday night ( the night before her Birthday) so I sent this on to her as she will have the hardest time dealing with it as of her three dogs, Hunter was her real baby . . . .thanks C

Carol said...

Johanna, I just read your blog and again the tears are flowing. I think these tragic events are reminders of how little control we have over our lives, and that we should live each day to the fullest. Our furry kids mean the world to us, and as usual, you found the perfect words to express it. Thanks, Carol

Marta said...


Thanks for the lovely message about loving your dog. I am Charles' niece who just lost her dog. My uncle was right, my dog Hunter was my baby. I had 3 dogs, and now have 2 left. Each dog is very special in its own way. I had Hunter for 13 wonderful years. You develop such an incredible bond with your dog. It is felt between you and your pup and is not shared with anyone else.
Thanks again for your message, and a special thank you to my wonderful Uncle C.


Sallie Ann said...

This was so beautiful, and so perfectly said what I've thought about so much over the 1 year, 4 months, and 17 days since I sent Roux to live with someone else. I was recently in N. Carolina and so wanted to see him, but was told by his former vet it would be confusing to him, and just send me into another depression. I wonder if he knows how much I love him every day. I know Oskar knows how much you love him. He is a wonderful gift. I'm so glad you have each other.


The JR said...

Sorry to hear about your friends losses.

My house dog Country is 15 or 16 now. She's still doing okay now, but the signs of her old age are showing more everyday.

I can't imagine having another house dog after her.

Nancy K. said...

Thank you for the reminder that we have these dear friends on loan. I think I'll take my dogs for a late walk before I go to bed...

Shirley said...

That was a beautiful post and oh so true. I'm going to go give Rocky an extra hug before bedtime.