Tens of thousands of years ago, no one knows exactly when or where, a wolf made a fateful decision. She was cold, she was hungry, she saw a fire, she could smell meat, and so she drew to the edge of the firelight…and she watched.
Whether she inched in closer, or whether men tossed out meat to her, eventually a bond formed, and the bond was deep, because there are few loves as total and unconditional as the love a dog has for his master. Every dog selects that one person, their person, and in my life, I have been selected many times by many dogs, and I tear up thinking back on all those dogs I loved, how they often grew old and died in my arms. How they sometimes died tragically, by accident, by sickness, and the moist haunting of all, how they were sometimes lost, sometimes for days and weeks on end, sometimes forever, and every night you would go to bed wondering where your dog was, what was happening to him at that very moment, was he even still alive.
Recently I lost my dog Stewie for 16 days. The kids left a backyard gate open. We looked everywhere for him. Animal Control never found him. A person online said they saw a dead dog matching his description lying on Omaha Street. I rushed over there but there was nothing but a large blood stain. We could not find out what happened to the dog’s body. After a day or two we just accepted that was probably Stewie.
It was more than a week later when Stewie did return, emaciated, limping, and it took more than a week to nurse him back to health. I had lost Stewie once before, this time for 90 days, when I was in the hospital with COVID. There was no way Charmaine could tell him where I was or that I was coming back. How he felt when he finally saw me was how I felt when I finally saw him after 16 days.
What years I have left, are still potentially much more than what Stewie has left. So, I will eventually lose him for good. It is important to say goodbye properly to your dog.
When Charlie poisoned himself by chewing on the wrong thing, I was able to kiss him goodbye at the Vet’s. But when Raz died, I was in bed, and she came up to me and poked me with her nose. I shooed her away because I did not realize she was trying to say goodbye. She went into the living room and curled up on my chair, and that is where I found her body the next morning.
I never thought anything could kill Spot. He was a rugged Pit Bull/Labrador mix, and he was a force of nature, no germ had the nerve to try and infect his body, so he was never sick a day in his life. But Father Time caught up with him, and on the day he died he crawled from his death bed, across the room, to the base of the steps, like Raz, seeking me out with what strength still remained in his body, and that is where we found him.
I don’t think dogs fear death. They are desperate to be sure, when the end is close, but what they fear is losing their person—the one thing that mattered most to them in life was that person’s love.
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