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Not Just a Dog

December 7, 2009

26th Mar 2008

Two weeks ago, we ‘lost’ our dog Bonnie to Cancer. Those who have never shared their home with a dog often find it difficult to understand the gaping hole left in one’s life when a beloved companion is put to rest or the grief experienced at the painful parting. ‘It’s only a dog!’, they say. To the bereaved human, however, it was NEVER ‘only a dog’ !!!

Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘The power of a dog’ captures to some extent the relationship between dog and owner.

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie–
Perfect passsion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find–it’s your own affair–
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone–wherever it goes–for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ‘em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long–
So why in–Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2009 8:52 am

    I had an old english sheepdog that died of cancer and a jackruseel/yorkie cross that was run over by a car; never again…

  2. Julie permalink
    December 7, 2009 1:14 pm

    I am such a sucker for animals, that no matter how much my heart breaks when they die – there’s always room for another ….

  3. December 7, 2009 3:50 pm

    I can’t imagine life without a few animals around the place. No matter how heartbreaking it is when one dies.

    I still maintain that the two hardest things I’ve done in life are taking our first dog, Bill, to the vet, knowing that I wouldn’t be bringing him back, and making the decision not to revive Copper, my daughter’s pony, after investigative surgery revealed huge problems.

    This comes set against the context of having sat with both my parents and held their hands as they died (not at the same time – before anyone asks!).

  4. December 7, 2009 9:26 pm

    Simon is my first dog. I had 2 cats prior to him, but neither touched my heart as quickly, nor as deeply, as our little Simon P. I dread thinking of the day.

  5. December 8, 2009 4:36 am

    I have cried more and for longer when any of my dogs had to be put to sleep than I ever did when my parents died.

    In part, that may be because since I left home in my teens my parents were folk I saw occasionally whereas my dogs were a part of my everyday life so their loss left more of a gaping hole in my life.

    The other thing is that my parents death was nothing to do with me, whereas I made the decision (on vet’s recommendation) to end the life of my dogs so there was the awful guilt I felt on that last day, taking them to the vet (them trusting me, and me knowing I was going to betray that trust).

    In the early days, I tried not having another dog when I lost one but I was so disorientated without one – my daily routine thrown all out of kilter having no dog to take to the park, the awful loneliness and quiet of coming home to an empty dogless home that I soon got another. Since then we have always had at least two dogs and more often 3. No matter how many times I have to take one to the vet for that final journey, however, it doesn’t get any easier.

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