I was probably eleven years old when our dog, Christie, was put to sleep. As she lay on the veterinarian’s table and her eyes began to close, I wanted so desperately to explain to her what was going on. I just wanted one sentence, “Please God, just make her understand this one thing”. For the next few weeks, I had periods of overwhelming emotion that would cause me to stop whatever I was doing in the neighborhood and run home to cry.
Christie’s death was easily the most emotion I have ever experienced with an animal. I have had quite a few dogs in my life but none of them were ever a piece of my soul the way that I have witnessed them to be in the lives of others.
As I entered my twenties, I listened to my boss’s wife talk about a $3k surgery that was necessary for one of her dogs. I heard one of her family members comment that “It’s just a dog.” Needless to say, that didn’t go over so well.
As a young man, who wanted to be tough, manly, and hard, I would try to get behind the idea that animals are just animals. I would tell myself that there is a line to be drawn between the love you can have for humans versus animals. Of course, life has a way of kicking us all in the nuts and letting us know how tough we really are.
Our family dog is Charlie. Charlie is a miniature schnauzer. Charlie came into my life at the same time that Amanda did, and he goes where she goes. They are a package deal. Charlie is Amanda’s constant companion. Charlie is more than “just a dog.”
There is no appointment that will not be canceled, no vacation that will not be postponed, and no price tag that will not be paid if it means that Charlie will be comfortable and taken care of. At any given moment, regardless of where you are located in our home, the quickest way out the front door (and probably a trip to the minor med) would be to refer to Charlie as “just a dog.”
I think this world is next to impossible to navigate on your own- there is too much sadness, anxiety, depression, and too many difficulties to make it through without the help of someone else. I also think that “someone else” is often a dog.
I watch Amanda as she interacts with Charlie; I am aware of the struggles that they have been through together. They have been through some tough times and they made it through those times together.
I observe how Charlie senses Amanda’s state of mind. He is constantly aware of her level of happiness, sadness, angst, or concern. I watch him as he tries to physically pull what is bothering her and take it for himself. I see his eyes as he speaks (in a fluent language) a love and respect that he has for her. I sense his concern when she is distraught and I can see his excitement when she is feeling well.
Amanda would stop at nothing if it meant Charlie having a better quality of life and the same can be said for Charlie. Those two have a love for each other which is rivaled by few. Those two have been through some shit together and together they are stronger for it.
One of my oldest friends is having to put down to rest his dog of seventeen years today. Luke is much more than “just a dog” and carries a significant piece of my friend’s heart. I know that Luke has been around the block quite a few times and knows more about the importance of just sitting quietly and listening than most of us ever will. Luke has been there when the chips were down, the game appeared to be lost, and the ship seemed to be sinking.
It’s hard to imagine what you wouldn’t be willing to do for something that is willing to do anything for you. It’s even harder to imagine the pain that comes with knowing that the best thing that you can do is to allow your friend some peace and comfort by letting him go.
My heart goes out to Luke and my condolences are with my friend. I realize that Luke was much more than “just a dog.”
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,