A Tribute to My Best Friend
When I moved to my current home, I inherited a Shepherd mix. I grew to love him as much as I did my own two dogs, but he missed his prior owners – they had left him behind. He lay at the end of my new driveway and moaned a horrible moan for for weeks on end. I coaxed and petted, but he refused food more times than not. Then one day, at what exact hour I can’t be sure, he stopped moaning and accepted my dogs and I with his tail a wagging. We frolicked through the pasture and hills that surround us. We walked to the pond to bob for frogs. The bounce returned to his step and he showed me and my dogs his territory with confidence and pride. The pain of his past was behind him, and for the first time in my life, I was quite CERTAIN that dogs had a soul.
The Shepherd had a name I heard from the neighbor but it seemed he had turned to a new chapter in his life. I re-named him HD which is short for "House Dog” (so named because he came with my ‘house’). We shared several wonderful years together, the four of us, then HD became terminally ill. He suffered miserable pain from his condition and yet, he NEVER once complained or moaned about that. Instead, he sought constructive ways to remedy his own pain and noticeably worked to ensure he was not a burden to my dogs or I. For instance, one day we found HD in the pond trying to escape the heat. All that was left showing was his snout -- he was just too weak to get out of the pond. We rescued him that time and others. He made it easy to want to help him because he was so fierely independent. Yet when we did offer help, he readily accepted it with gratitude not belligerance.
As his last days approached, I wanted to be there for House Dog, but could do little to heal or console him. So I slept with him on the basement floor until he passed. And then I wept. All I could do for him was be there.
Although I only spent the span of a few short years with him, I observed House Dog's outlook on life to be playful, appreciative, appropriately serious and definitively survivalist. He taught me a lot about life and I quickly saw how well a dog's attitude transcends human behavior. I aspired to be more like my dogs, as silly as that may sound.
House Dog’s fate was inevitable, but his journey was not. He made choices. Those choices were to protect his family by lying on the hilltop each night to ward off the coyotes; to downplay his pain or suffering, rather than elicit sympathy; to appreciate being loved and the short time he spent with my dogs and I. He enjoyed his life without complaint. Even in the jaws of death, he did not moan. He just tried harder to be independent. He chose to experience all four seasons of his life and when it came time for him to pass on, he did it with the utmost dignity and no regret.
This is my tribute to House Dog. There is always pain in death, but more appreciation for what’s been given in life. There is always loneliness, but memories to carry us through. There is always pain and uncertainty, but there is more clarity when you accept it with grace, rather than rebellion. Every day is a chance to forgive and start over. Amazingly, a dog can show us how to put the pain of life behind us so that our final moments can serve to clarify us, rather than confuse the short time we have left to live.
May you rest forever in peace, House Dog. You live forever in our hearts.
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