Living, Loving and Losing a Dog

As I write this many friends and family have lost pets this year… unreal.  We all know the loss… maybe in appropriate to say, but the pain is close to losing a human being. Maybe because our pets are really extended people in our life journey.

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inside_dogMy friend, Ann, knowing that I love dogs, gave me the new book Inside of a Dog written by Alexandra Horowitz. I am now finished with it and want to share my feelings and some facts from its contents. I write this a few weeks after other friends lost their fourteen-year-old dog. His name was Dusty and I want to dedicate this to him.

One of my favorite quotes from Inside of a Dog is found on page 241. “I believe I was more worried about her well-being than she was about mine. Still, much of my well-being hinged on her — not her knowing how to fix dilemmas great or small in my life but rather on her unremitting cheer and constant companionship.” Dog lovers would probably agree with me that that pretty much sums it up in describing why we are dog people. Alexandra goes on to explain that the use of the article “a” instead of “the” is very important in her books. She believes that the use of “the” is more personal and less scientific.

I believe that most of us will agree that the constancy of our dogs is important. No waterhole you feel, what kind of abuse you suffered out there in the world or what hour of the day it is, our dogs are there. Walking barefooted over a warm spot where our dogs lay before our return home is comforting. Seeing overturned pillows, even a shredded shoe or the wastebaskets’ contents strewn over the floor emphasizes their presence in the house and in our lives. I am sure we all can relate many experiences like these.

Today on our morning walk, we stopped to share a poignant moment. Our neighbor was out with his fifteen-year-old dog. The dog is now ill, perhaps from a stroke which has limited his movement. He is blind, deaf and no longer walks but stands in one place. We shared observations. Though I could not say anything comforting, I hope my presence was at least helpful, keeping him company while we both felt sad watching the dog’s struggle. I have prayed all day for them, knowing a decision to end the animal’s pain is inevitable.

Dusty, too, suffered similar symptoms. About the same age as the dog above, he steadily lost contact with many things he had enjoyed during his active life. His last days were filled with sleep and inactivity. But he did take a walk with his beloved owner hours before he died, giving her joy. He died peacefully two weeks ago today, on the comfy chair he had shared with Nancy, surrounded by his family.

Another beautiful depiction from the book is found on page 300.

When Pump was nearly at the end of her life and undeniably old, she lost weight, her muzzle grayed and she slowed sometimes to a stop on walks. I saw her frustrations, her resignations, her impulses pursued or abandoned. I saw her considerations, her controls, her calm. But when I looked into her eyes she was a puppy again.

Sharing life with our dogs is an important event filled with adventures even on the most boring of days. I hesitate using the word “boring” because all days of life are precious. But though a dog’s perception of time is not really understood by humans, we know the happiness we feel walking through that door and being greeted, loved and accepted every day. It is with pleasure that I am part of the ranks of dog people. Blessings to Dusty, his family and to all of us who have taken the risk and fallen in love with a dog.

 

About the Author

Maryann Hartzell-Curran, a retired educator and counselor, has written a personal account of her journey through the first year of grieving the loss of her husband in her book, “From We to Me,” to help support those who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Maryann founded a successful family therapy practice and taught in the public and private sectors. She also founded and directed a church-based preschool in Lombard, Ill., and gained experience working with the elderly as director of a senior dining center. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in counseling from Illinois Benedictine University.

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