You relax because you see your dog is relaxed.
Just about anything your dog does you find entertaining.
When talking to your dog, you keep the conversation going no matter what your dog’s response is.
You happily anticipate your dog’s greeting when you come home.
You read labels on dog food more diligently than you do on human food.
You feel guilty if you fail to walk your dog.
You feel a sense of accomplishment when your dog pees or poops (outside the house, of course!).
You feed your dog before you feed yourself.
You spend more attention (and money) tending to your dog’s health than you do to your own well-being.
You don’t mind the fact that the floors in your house are littered with dog toys.
You have a dog despite the fact you’re allergic to canines.
You excuse your dog’s bad behavior more easily than you do any human’s.
When your dog destroys furniture, you keep the dog whether or not you get rid of the furniture.
You don't worry about where their tongue might have been immediately prior to slobbering all over your face.
You don't kick your dog off the bed; you make room for them.
I’m sure I missed other tell-tail (misspelling intentional!) signs. Can you add to the list?
My wife and I rescued Lance, a border collie that had lived in no-mans-land for a decade and Buddy, a four-month-old poodle/beagle that was about to be taken to the local shelter. Both are physically gone but never, never forgotten. I hope this essay helps to ease some of the pain you may be feeling from losing your canine best friend(s).
The Rainbow Bridge
For a moment, everything went dark. Then, Buddy opened his eyes and was immediately dazzled by incredibly bright light. Coming from a short distance away, he heard barking. Buddy sprang to his feet and ran in the direction of the canine crooning. In a matter of seconds, he reached one end of a huge bridge that was surrounded by the largest rainbow he’d ever seen. There was a black and white border collie waiting to greet him and escort him into the world that began at the other end of the bridge. This was Buddy’s new home. His final home.
“Hi, Buddy! I’m Lance.”
“So, you’re Lance. Mom and dad used to talk about you a lot. Boy, did you make an impression on them!”
“I hope they said good things about me.”
“Oh, they did. They said you were a handful, but they’d do it all over again if they had to.”
“That’s great to hear. What a relief! The way I grew up I was never sure if anybody really cared about me. I mean Anna was nice to me, but she’d always come and then go. As for the Schmidts…Grr! Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot. Up here, there’s never any need to growl.”
“What does everybody do around here? Down on earth, I spent the whole day getting spoiled by mom and dad. “
“They spoiled me too, or at least as much as I’d let them. I just could never quite get my act together to fully enjoy the good life. You were lucky.”
“I realized that after I heard mom and dad talking about how you lived before, they got you. Wow, you went through a lot!”
“Well, it finally did get better, but it took some doing. You know, I wonder what dad was thinking about when he walked me and then stuck me back on that darn run again. I mean, I broke loose and showed up at his place not once, but twice and he still didn’t get it! I’d say he was a little thick between the ears, but then again, he’s only a human, not a border collie.”
“Believe me, he regrets not helping you sooner.”
“Well, that was then, and this is now. I’ve been waiting for you because the word was out that you’d be “coming home” any day now. It’s a pretty good set up. They’ve got the largest field you’ve ever seen and there is a river, a pond and even a gentle stream for the less adventurous dogs. Whenever you’ get thirsty running around a fresh bowl of water magically appears right in front of you. Nobody gets sick here either. “
“So, Lance, how long have you been here?”
“I’m not sure exactly. Anyway, time is unimportant here. All I know is that I got treatment before they let me go across the bridge. You know, since I was a problem dog, they had to make some adjustments to my thinking. No medication and no operation were needed. It’s like everything else around here—a miracle. I had to come here to finally find peace of mind.”
“It seems like a nice place, but I miss mom and dad, especially mom.”
“Buddy, on the other side of the bridge you’ll see lots of doggy parents. The same thing that happened to you and me and all the other dogs here, happened to them and they came here to reunite with their pets. This time it’s forever. Only the good dog owners, of course. I’ll never have to fear the Schmidts again—not ever!”
“But when are mommy and daddy going to get here?”
“You and I will have to wait for a while. They still have work to do down on earth. You know, like find another dog in need like you and I were. Enough of this small talk. What do you want to do—take a walk, go swimming, meet and greet all your furever friends forever…and I do mean forever! I guarantee you no one here will ever leave you or turn against you. That’s an unwritten but hard and fast rule.
“Well Lance, I’d like to go for a walk, but you know I wasn’t allowed to for my last six months down there because of my heart condition.”
“Let me ask you this—are you feeling any pain?”
” Come to think of it, no.”
“See? Buddy, I’m telling you it’s a whole different ballgame up here.”
“So, what’s next?”
“Let’s cross the bridge and I’ll introduce you to some of my pals. Of course, we’re all pals around here. C’mon. Last one into Rainbow Land is a doggy’s uncle.”
Lance took off at full speed with Buddy doing his best to keep up.
Help! No, I’m not asking for financial assistance, although all contributions would be gratefully accepted. You know, that starving artist thing.
The assistance I am asking for pertains to Lance’s blog. One of Lance’s followers regularly provides me with great videos like the one you’ll see here: https://bit.ly/3DYwW65 The material she sends helps me cut down on the research time required to prepare for each month’s new post and, even better, the videos are so entertaining for us fellow dog lovers! If you have any videos regarding dogs, whether taken from the Internet or from your own personal collection, please consider sharing them on Lance’s Dog Patch.
Even more importantly, if you know of a special pooch — either from the past or in your present — please get in touch with me. Scanning through Lance’s blog, you’ll see personal stories that are touching and even dramatic. We can certainly put something together to memorialize any dog you consider extra special. We’re talking everything from an expensive purebred to the most woe begotten rescue. Had a special dog growing up? Have fond memories of a special dog no longer with you? Have a unique dog right now? Know anyone else with a good dog story? Please let me know. Your assistance in making Lance’s page the best it can be is greatly appreciated.
P.S. In keeping with this month's Thanksgiving theme, I'd like to take you back in time a bit. I never get tired of this video and hopefully you don't either. If you've never seen it, you're in for a surprise! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IhqE8IIzUA
As November 8th approaches, Lance's opponents beat around the bush while Lance makes no bones about where he stands on the issues. If elected, he promises to sink his teeth into the country’s problems:
Once in Congress, he’ll take a bite out of crime.
Safety for the nation’s most vulnerable is a major issue for Lance. He has a bone to pick with abusers.
If elected, Lance will insist on stricter enforcement of leash laws in public places. He’s tired of seeing dogs accompanied by unrestrained humans.
(In the photo above) Lance reacts to his opponent’s attack ad in the newspaper.
Lance will listen to his constituents. He’s all ears.
Illegal immigration? Who better to resolve that issue than a border collie?
Lance will help the homeless because he’s been there himself.
This country’s adversaries will learn to take Lance seriously. Lance’s bite is far worse than his bark.
Lance will tackle the nation's problems with dogged determination.
Is Lance qualified to serve in Congress? Let’s just say he’s never bitten off more than he can chew.
Lance promises not to run for reelection. After his first term, he’ll be dog gone.
Having lived in uncertainty for the first ten years of his life, Lance knows the importance of protecting Social Security.
Lance will fight discrimination. Intolerance really ticks him off.
Jobs going overseas? If elected, Lance will retrieve them.
Lance would never lead this country down the wrong path.
(In the photo below) Here’s Lance with a potential constituent. Even felines fancy Lance—he’s the cat’s meow.
Vote Lance in 2022!
A home without a dog is like…
Day without night
Bells without whistles
Tom without Jerry
Salt without pepper
A bride without a groom
Abbott without Costello
Scotch without soda
Pork without beans
Thunder without lightning
A joke without a punchline
Pie ala mode without ice cream
Government without taxes
Rimsky without Korsakov (okay, I’m stretching it a bit!)
In other words, in a home without a dog, something is missing.
Can you add any examples to this list?
Never judge a book by its cover. In the literal sense of that phrase, I refer you to the cover of Lance: A Spirit Unbroken, which features a very nice photo of a gentle-looking Lance. With Lance, appearances could be deceiving. You never were sure what kind of mood he was in. I’d like to think that the gentle expression on Lance’s face in the cover photo is the “real” Lance, the dog that would have been but could never be only because he grew up in the wrong hands. In this essay, I’m using the phrase “Never judge a book by its cover” in the figurative sense.
Not too long ago, I was signing books at the Bikers for Boobs breast cancer charity event in Northhampton, PA. The word “biker” can conjure up visions of…well, you know. So, I’m sitting at my table and off in the not-too-far distance was standing a hulk of a man all of—I’m guessing—some 250 pounds of weight carried on a frame that reached well over six feet in height. He had his back to me, but I could see that his bare arms were tattooed to the max. On both elbows were patterns of a spider’s web. On the back of his shaved head, I could make out what appeared to be the end of a dagger or sword.
The biker kept moving his arms as if he was adjusting his grip on something. I guess I’ve been conditioned by all the recent gun violence because the thought flashed across my mind: “This guy has loaded up and is ready to go berserk!” I wondered if someone else packing heat would put him out of his misery before he put me out of mine.
Then, the man turned around and gently put two chocolate lab (I’m guessing the breed) puppies on the grass. They were very young and mostly content to lie in the ground snuggled up against each other while occasionally sniffing their surroundings. The biker was smiling and talking to them like a proud papa. Bikers and non-bikers alike approached to pet the puppies and chat with their beaming owner.
I took away two lessons that day:
1-Never judge a book by its cover—or a person by his or her fashion statement.
2-In a world suffering from so much disunity, dogs can be such great unifiers.
“The good die young.”
Whoever coined that phrase must have been a dog lover.
What is a dog lover’s burden? Walking your dog? Feeding your dog? Bathing your dog? Providing medical care for your dog? To be sure, all those activities require work (and sometimes money) but for a dog lover they are labors of love. Every once in a while you might chuckle to yourself thinking about the lengths you go to in an effort to spoil your dog but you’d never seriously think of treating them otherwise. After all, a spoiled dog tends to be more grateful–and predictable—than a spoiled human.
The real dog lover’s burden? That day your dog leaves this world. Though not exactly the same as losing a loved human, in its own distinctive way it hurts just as much. Even a semi-feral dog like Lance, the border collie I rescued, generated that dog lover/dog bond, albeit a bit warped version due to Lance’s biting tendencies.
For years Lance badgered me to take mammoth hikes multiple times each and every day (I looked forward to my workdays as a vacation!). Lance retained that youthful exuberance until late into his 16th year Then, he went downhill quickly Once he turned seventeen he was no longer up to such treks. That’s when I started wishing that just once he could herd me into one last humongous hike. As he grew ever more feeble, my wife and I had to assist him to his feet, risking Lance’s attack. Only once did he give me a half-hearted snarl.
Finally came the day he was euthanized on our kitchen floor. True to character, he fought to the end. The grim process over, I wrapped him up in a blanket and began carrying him out to the grave I had dug days before. On the way there, I silently wished he would come back to life, even if that meant he’d snap at me for holding him.
Whatever the circumstances of a dog’s departure, that loss is by far the toughest burden a dog lover will ever carry. Can you relate?
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).