1 safety harness
5 bags of snacks
6 pairs of socks
We met him when he was just a baby and it was love at first sight. The bond was immediate. We cleaned him up, got him the medical care he needed and began teaching him language skills. We taught him right from wrong and as he grew, he learned to trust and became a key part of our family. Rich took him everywhere. He loved to travel and would sing along with songs on the radio. He was sweet and mellow and while he wasn't gregarious, he was friendly to everyone he met. People regularly remarked on how handsome he was and how well behaved he was. We took him golfing with us and he loved to ride in the golf cart and sing. As he aged and time began to take its toll, Rich put up a ramp for him and modified his diet. When he got sick, we cared for him. When he had an accident, we cleaned him up and assured him that everyone had problems sometimes. When he didn't feel well, Rich made him special food. After his stroke, he stayed in a baby's playpen for days so he wouldn't try to walk on his own and hurt himself. He rebounded from that and while he was never quite the same physically, he was always just so happy. Even when walking became more of a challenge, just the idea of going for a ride led to him do what we called The Happy Dance as he leaped and bounded toward "his" truck with joy. He was with us for 17 years.
If you didn't know me very well, you may think I was talking about our child. And he was our child. He was a dog. But he was just as much a child to us as any human child.
When we say Aspy was our child, some people either bristle at the notion or they just don't understand it. Love for the human species and love for other species are not mutually exclusive. I can love my spouse with all my heart, as I truly do, and still love a dog with all my heart. And to say that our dog was our child does not mean that we humanized him. We did not. It means that much like a human child, we cared for his every need. He had the cognitive function of a child. He was with us from the time we woke up to the time we went to sleep and sometimes during the night if he needed us. His presence was as woven in the fabric of our lives as any other child. And as we try to find our way forward without him, we grieve for him and we miss him as we would any other member of our family, human or canine.
I know there are people who have animals and those animals are mostly just present in their lives. They may appreciate them in some ways and be annoyed by them in other ways. But to truly bond with an animal is a unique experience in life and if you have shared such a bond, count your blessings. Anatole France once wrote that until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. Yes, yes and yes.
If you have had to say farewell to a beloved dog or cat and you sometimes cry over that loss, even years later and for no obvious reason, you are lucky. If there are days when you think you hear them or see them, you are very fortunate. If you sometimes find your mind wandering to the years you shared and the unconditional love provided to you, you are blessed. Some people will never know that love or that type of bond. I've come to understand that as much as the grieving process tears us apart, it is also something we must honor. Grief is an emotion which is as powerful as the love which creates it.
I love our boy. I miss our little man. He was our child.
1 Christmas stocking
2 rain coats
3 tooth brushes
4 travel bowls. . .
our heartfelt thanks to Ron Wasserman for this lovely piano composition about our loss
simply entitled, "Losing a Friend"
I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson