For the Love of a Dog, pt. 2

by Cindi on January 10, 2016

My mama used to tell me two things: that when I get to Heaven, I’ll see God’s big dusty book that has all the bad things I’ve ever done listed in it, and while I’m there I’ll have the opportunity to ask him anything I want. I have always known what I would ask if given that chance:

What happened to my cat Fluffy?

Oh, there were rumors. All the neighborhood children said she was poisoned by an old neighbor lady we referred to as “the witch.” I don’t know if that’s true, but that question has haunted me since I was six. And now there’s another one:

What happened to Mike?

Let me start by saying it was two months ago (today) that I posted about losing my granddog Chance.

And now here we are again. Mike, a young, energetic shelter pup, was adopted a little over a month ago to fill the void left by Chance, and truly he jumped right in, pouncing on Chance’s bed and playing with Chance’s toys.

In a month he would be gone.

But the time between the day he left that overcrowded shelter in Dallas and the night he took his last breath in a veterinary emergency hospital was busy – he learned to trust his people, he learned a few tricks, and he was working on not being scared to ride in a car and climb apartment building stairs. He was happy, the happiest dog you’ve ever seen, and he was a handful: my daughter’s first description was “He’s Marley.”

But this post isn’t about the life of Mike. I don’t have story after story to tell because he was only in our family for a month. I can’t warn pet owners about the cruel thing that sent Mike to the Rainbow Bridge…because we don’t know what that thing was. One minute he was celebrating Christmas, and the next he was sick, well, as a dog.

This post, instead, is about finding comfort in trying times. Who would believe that someone who loves animals more than just about anything and who is an advocate for animals in all kinds of ways (her social media feed is peppered with lost/missing animal posts and shelter residents who need homes) would lose two friends within two months?

What I want to share with her is what I, as an English teacher, turn to when I need comfort.


Rudyard Kipling, for one, gets it right:

The Power of the Dog

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 passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair To risk your heart for 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-time 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?

And another one:

Four Feet

I have done mostly what most men do,
And pushed it out of my mind;
But I can’t forget, if I wanted to,
Four-Feet trotting behind.

Day after day, the whole day through —
Wherever my road inclined —
Four-feet said, “I am coming with you!”
And trotted along behind.

Now I must go by some other round, —
Which I shall never find —
Somewhere that does not carry the sound
Of Four-Feet trotting behind.

Kipling, of course, validates our pain, and helps us see that we’re not alone when loving and losing a fur friend. And although Kipling, who died in 1936, never had the opportunity to receive hundreds of text messages and a thousand social media posts of support from all over the world like we have in the past four days, he was able to find comfort in words on paper. I hope the students in the classrooms of today will continue to recognize the importance of both.
And I hope someday to find out what happened to Fluffy and Mike.

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