Tribute to a Friend

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Friends are important. All my life, I’ve heard dogs described as “Man’s Best Friend.” More appropriate language would be “human’s best non-human friend.”

Saying goodbye to a friend—regardless of how many legs they have is difficult. Particularly true for introverts who tend to have fewer but deeper relationships. Two weeks ago, my four-legged companion departed this life.

I’m finally at a point in my grief to reflect on all the good times we shared, and the lessons I learned from him.

A bit over 12 years ago, my wife had discovered the Corgi breed. Some friends were training them to be “companion or therapy dogs.” She fell in love with them. So, when I noticed a sign indicating “Corgi Puppies” were for sale with a phone number; I mentioned it—we called and purchased the last one of the litter.

We learned much later this dog was a “throwback.” One of those rare occasions when the DNA lines-up like one of the intermediary stages in the development of the breed. Throwbacks are slightly longer, taller, and heavier than the breed standard. Apparently, it gave our dog a greater sense of loyalty.

 

I learned that courage has little to do with size. When only six months old, my wife was walking him when a pit-bull charged them. This puppy raised up on his hind legs, lifted his front paws over his head and made a sound similar to a lion. The other dog stopped and backed away. The other dog’s owner came asking, “What did you do to my dog?” My wife responded, “Nothing. But there is a leash law here.”

A popular saying is, “No good deed goes unpunished.”  In K-9 justice all good deeds are rewarded. One time when Phoenix (our name for him) had something caught in his throat. After what seemed like enough time for him to clear it, I used a finger to dislodge it. Starting then, I had a dog. He never abandoned my wife, but he never wanted to be away from me.

 

He traveled with us to Niagara Falls, Brookland, Boston, Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona. Plus, numerous trips to Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and parts of Kansas. He stayed close to me, anytime he could, including during my writing. No more than two feet away while I wrote and revised The Doorkeeper’s Secrets and the first drafts of the next book, The Doorkeeper’s Mind.

I learned about loyalty from this Corgi. He was with me when I fell and broke a bone in my hand. When a dog attacked us, he drew the attention away from me, till the other dog’s owners got him under control. He sensed danger from an angry man a block away—where we needed to pass by. Phoenix refused to budge from the corner until the angry man stomped away—then we walked down the block. He loved walks, children, balls to catch, our cats, us, and food.

I don’t know if he would have behaved differently with a different family, but he functioned as an introvert. He was quiet and calm. Told us when he needed something and waited patiently (most of the time) for our response. He was protective not only of the people but the other animals in our home. The cats and eventually the puppy we brought in four years ago to keep him from getting lethargic and stiff fell under his protection.

One final lesson from him is about dying. Rituals are important to dogs as well as people. One of our rituals was a trip outside before bed. Most nights it involved a walk, of at least a block. The walks for his last week had been only a few houses. On what would be his last night, he did not leave our yard. He sat in the cool grass for about 20 minutes. I now realize he was surveying and probably remembering all the changes in his home.

The next morning it became clear it was time. We called the vet who comes to the house for such times. But Phoenix took care of that as well. He refused to eat, only drank couple sips of water. He was surrounded by our two cats, our younger Corgi and us. We each had our time to say our farewells. Even the cat who never liked either of the dogs sat four feet away and watched (with what we interpreted to be respect).

It’s hard to say goodbye. Write these words is hard. But the memories of one creature’s unconditional love for another is helping us get back to a degree of equilibrium. Later in the day, my wife said it best, “We seem smaller—as a family.” It feels like we are diminished—shrunken by an absence.

I write these words so having said them—I can move on—return to subjects to make tomorrow brighter, or at least shine a little light on our future. Much of the light I’ve been given come from my companions—human or otherwise.

Friends are important. All my life, I’ve heard dogs described as “Man’s Best Friend.” More appropriate language would be “human’s best non-human friend.”

Saying goodbye to a friend—regardless of how many legs they have is difficult. Particularly true for introverts who tend to have fewer but deeper relationships. Two weeks ago, my four-legged companion departed this life.

I’m finally at a point in my grief to reflect on all the good times we shared, and the lessons I learned from him.

A bit over 12 years ago, my wife had discovered the Corgi breed. Some friends were training them to be “companion or therapy dogs.” She fell in love with them. So, when I noticed a sign indicating “Corgi Puppies” were for sale with a phone number; I mentioned it—we called and purchased the last one of the litter.

We learned much later this dog was a “throwback.” One of those rare occasions when the DNA lines-up like one of the intermediary stages in the development of the breed. Throwbacks are slightly longer, taller, and heavier than the breed standard. Apparently, it gave our dog a greater sense of loyalty.

 

I learned that courage has little to do with size. When only six months old, my wife was walking him when a pit-bull charged them. This puppy raised up on his hind legs, lifted his front paws over his head and made a sound similar to a lion. The other dog stopped and backed away. The other dog’s owner came asking, “What did you do to my dog?” My wife responded, “Nothing. But there is a leash law here.”

A popular saying is, “No good deed goes unpunished.”  In K-9 justice all good deeds are rewarded. One time when Phoenix (our name for him) had something caught in his throat. After what seemed like enough time for him to clear it, I used a finger to dislodge it. Starting then, I had a dog. He never abandoned my wife, but he never wanted to be away from me.

 

He traveled with us to Niagara Falls, Brookland, Boston, Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona. Plus, numerous trips to Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and parts of Kansas. He stayed close to me, anytime he could, including during my writing. No more than two feet away while I wrote and revised The Doorkeeper’s Secrets and the first drafts of the next book, The Doorkeeper’s Mind.

I learned about loyalty from this Corgi. He was with me when I fell and broke a bone in my hand. When a dog attacked us, he drew the attention away from me, till the other dog’s owners got him under control. He sensed danger from an angry man a block away—where we needed to pass by. Phoenix refused to budge from the corner until the angry man stomped away—then we walked down the block. He loved walks, children, balls to catch, our cats, us, and food.

I don’t know if he would have behaved differently with a different family, but he functioned as an introvert. He was quiet and calm. Told us when he needed something and waited patiently (most of the time) for our response. He was protective not only of the people but the other animals in our home. The cats and eventually the puppy we brought in four years ago to keep him from getting lethargic and stiff fell under his protection.

One final lesson from him is about dying. Rituals are important to dogs as well as people. One of our rituals was a trip outside before bed. Most nights it involved a walk, of at least a block. The walks for his last week had been only a few houses. On what would be his last night, he did not leave our yard. He sat in the cool grass for about 20 minutes. I now realize he was surveying and probably remembering all the changes in his home.

The next morning it became clear it was time. We called the vet who comes to the house for such times. But Phoenix took care of that as well. He refused to eat, only drank couple sips of water. He was surrounded by our two cats, our younger Corgi and us. We each had our time to say our farewells. Even the cat who never liked either of the dogs sat four feet away and watched (with what we interpreted to be respect).

It’s hard to say goodbye. Write these words is hard. But the memories of one creature’s unconditional love for another is helping us get back to a degree of equilibrium. Later in the day, my wife said it best, “We seem smaller—as a family.” It feels like we are diminished—shrunken by an absence.

I write these words so having said them—I can move on—return to subjects to make tomorrow brighter, or at least shine a little light on our future. Much of the light I’ve been given come from my companions—human or otherwise.

One thought on “Tribute to a Friend”

  1. Such a tough time for everyone when a fur baby goes to Rainbow Bridge. Stubby taught us lots of lessons but the greatest was unconditional love/forgiveness. Thank you for sharing. http://www.petloss.com is a great website to help with grief.

    Like

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