“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).