BY SHERRY DAVIS, Californian contributing columnist email@example.com
"Dogs' lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you're going to lose a dog, and there's going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can't support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There's such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware it comes with an unbearable price. Maybe loving dogs is a way we do penance for all the other illusions we allow ourselves and for the mistakes we make because of those illusions."
- "The Darkest Evening of the Year" by Dean Koontz
Sometimes I don't know if I can take it again. Losing a dog just sucks the life out of me.
I suppose it would be easier to just break down and let all that anguish out, but I tend to compartmentalize it and focus on work while feeling like my chest is going to burst from the pain.
I lost Buffy a couple weeks ago. There was nothing more her doctor or I could do for her. No more tests, no increasing her medication, no stopping the brain tumor that was growing inside her head.
Three days after I put her down, I read Herb Benham's story on Kenny Reed and his dog, Haggis. I don't know Kenny, but felt his loss. We both had experienced that brief moment where you lay your face next to that of your beloved dog and say good-bye for the last time.
Flash forward another week and I read Lois Henry's beautiful tribute to Buster, the Chevron dog, and get so pissed off because I had known that the company's heartless decision to send him away would stress the faithful animal who had never known another home to his grave. He was old and only had a short time left, maybe just a few more days.
I would have done anything to have a few more days.
It's a running joke with my friends. I sleep through anything. My friend Linda gave me a new pair of smoke detectors when the house across the street burned to the ground and I slept through the noise of the fire truck and ambulance sirens. Then there was last New Year's Day, when during a high-speed chase a van mowed down my fence, barely missing the house. You bet, I slept through it.
The Newfies have never been allowed to sleep in the bedroom. Those slime-slinging hairbags, never! But when Frank and I came back from the Disaster Stress Relief certification, our relationship had changed forever. The old rules didn't apply. From now on he would sleep next to my bed. And what a good boy he is. Sleeps all night without a peep, never stirring through my many slaps at the snooze alarm in the morning or demanding I get up to feed or let him out.
Several weeks ago that change in tradition paid off. I was awakened by an annoying pressure to my face and eyes. Over and over, an unrelenting pushing. I finally became aware it was Frank and of course, gruffly mumbled for him to beat it, pulling the covers over my head. Again, the insistent pushing. I gave up and decided to take him out. When I started to stand up, I swooned in dizziness, my head pounding, and became aware that I could barely breathe or swallow. Holding the wall for balance, I reached the living room, now realizing that the house was thick with gas. Stumbling in the dark, I threw open the doors and got the dogs and myself out of the house.
The source of the gas leak was the antique stove. The pilot had gone out and the gas had been leaking all night. Making matters worse was the fact that it was during that last cold spell, and I had the house closed up tightly.
When the stove was fixed, I was told that it was a miracle that the roof hadn't blown off.
I guess you could call Frank a hero for saving all of us. He doesn't know what that is. He just sensed something was wrong and took action.
He tolerates the new puppy I brought home, and I don't mind the slobber on the walls anymore.
You learn to overlook annoying habits in your best friends.
Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are her opinions and not necessarily those of The Californian.