Weekly High-Five Report: The love of a good dog

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Rocket and Kim at Work

A good dog will ruin you. Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows this. Even bad dogs can be ruinous. They bury into that tender spot just beneath our heart and stay there, like a chigger or a tick. Each time we leave them at home, their noses slashing smudges on the window beside the front door, that small place under our heart breaks open. A new and larger scab forms over that spot, and each subsequent leave-taking grows more painful.

Dogs know this. They know how to make us love them beyond anything rational. We constantly try to remind ourselves, “he’s just a dog. At least he has a warm house to sleep in while I’m away.” But it doesn’t matter. We know that the dog has vowed to be part of our pack, to find his place in our lives, to fit around our daily tasks like a pool of still-warm jello until it finally hardens and he becomes part of us.

Rocket was the dog that ruined me. When he died a few years back, I wasn’t sure I could love another dog, and so far I haven’t been able to. We called him Rocket Dog, Rocket Ship, Rock Star or, at the end, just Rock. We made up songs about him to the tune of Elton John’s “Rocket Man“. He was an avalanche rescue dog, and I took him to work with me every day. He would sleep below the bench in the patrol room quietly, but the moment I would ask him to “go to work,” he’d pop out, his nose wet, his tail wagging.

Hoot in her element

My mom’s dog, Annie, passed away yesterday. She was a golden retriever. A little bit spazzy and she breathed too heavily on me when I visited, Annie was the most loving dog I’ve ever met. She had many nicknames; we rarely called her Annie until she got sick. Instead we called her Spaz Dog or Hootenanny or, most often, just Hoot. She only wanted to please her people, and would usually run out onto the street to say hello to a passing human.

She also loved the elk that patrolled around my parents’ cabin, and would often try to blend in with them. On several occasions she narrowly escaped a vicious kick from an elk; but like any golden retriever, she wasn’t deterred from negative feedback. She just couldn’t believe that another living thing didn’t love her. She just wouldn’t buy it.

The love of a good dog is a blessing like few others in this world. It is untainted, unbiased and completely unconditional. It is a gift.

But there’s a catch. Dogs don’t live long enough. They leave us just when that scab has grown too large, just when their jello has hardened around the routine of our lives; without them we feel loosened and off-kilter. Old leashes gather dust in the garage of our heart, but we can’t bring ourselves to throw them out. Perhaps the fact that dogs die too early is a lesson reminding us that nothing in this world is perfect. Even the perfect love of a dog is not permanent. This would be a helpful lesson if I was a Buddhist. But I’m not. I’m just another ruined dog owner.

Goodbye Hootenanny. Your love made the world a little brighter. Bravo girl.

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13 responses »

  1. Kim, This was so beautifully written. My condolences on the passing of two amazing dogs. You are right–they do leave us too soon, but they leave us better for having had the luck to know them.

  2. Maybe I should have waited to read this till I had the box of kleenex next to the computer! So sorry to hear about Annie – she followed me around the loop many a morning πŸ™‚ I think this is one of the reasons I waited so long to own my own dog …and now I have TWO…can’t bear the thought of losing them! Every time I see Ari’s chin turning grey I realize that I too will have to endure the pain of the “scab”…. RIP Hoot

  3. Annie was special and not just in the “Special Ed” kind of way. She passed away peacefully and fully loved with her head on her Dad’s foot and me laying at her side. We are trying to move through this day and in to the next knowing that good dogs do go to heaven! Thank you, Kim, for all that you have said and done for our Annie and thank all of you who have responded so kindly.
    Mom

  4. You know everyone needs a dog and a cat because together they provide the perfect balance of hubris and humility…. the dog to adore you and the cat to ignore you πŸ™‚ Annie surely was a sweet one. I know Clare and John will miss her a bunch.

  5. Clare and John,

    So, sorry to hear about Annie Girl!! She was a special dog, friend and companion. She always remembered me no matter how long it’s been since my last visit. I know that she will be deeply missed by many people. I remember my visit in 2007 after Lynn had passed away, Annie Girl was my comfort and pillow when I would return from the slopes. The walks in the woods and throwing the ball until she would wear you out. Rest in peace Annie and now go find the ball in the white clouds instead of the white snow!!

    • I remember that so clearly Gina. I believe that dogs have a sense about human loss. I remember when Rocket licked the tears from my cheeks after a hard day at work in which we’d lost a skier to an accident. He just knew.

  6. Such a touching post. I’m so sorry for your loss. I love my yellow lab, Tucker, so much. He’s helped me through so many tough times and it’s so hard to even imagine what my life will be like when he’s gone. I grew up with a golden named Annie too and we tended to think she was a bit of a “spaz”. Still loved her so much though, that’s what makes them so special and unique. πŸ™‚

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