To Risk the Heart

I still am a bit lost & numb.  This morning my baby boy, who had long gone grey and given us a few scares already, passed.

Not sure which is easier to deal with.  The passings we know are coming, or the ones we don’t see coming.  Either way the pain rips us and reminds us that the love of a pet really isn’t unconditional.  The condition is that we feel the love, but sooner or later we are going to be left behind.  They trust us and border on worshiping us, but we are the ones who risk the most and must cope with the gaping holes they leave behind.  Life would have never been the same if they hadn’t come into our lives.  Most we can hope is that the blissful memories outweigh the heartache.

My life changed completely with a visit to an animal shelter in early Summer 1998.  We went to visit a family friend who was working there.  My family always had been the type to get dogs from breeders & didn’t really do the mixed breed thing.  I had previously had a giant german shepard who did more protecting of me that was safe.  (my sweet Toby actually become a protection dog for a lady that needed one)  The visit was to talk with her about what type of dog might be better suited for my life at the time.  She was juggling speaking with people looking over dogs, us and the local newspaper who was doing a story on the budget cuts that resulted in the shelter’s addition getting the brakes half way through completion.  I had all the time in the world & just listen to the stories and watched the people looking over the dogs.  Sadly many walked in & none were walking out with new dogs in their lives,  Even though there were some great ones ready to join their families.  Even three bubbly puppies at the peak of adorable ready to go at 5 weeks.

Their mom had been picked up on the side of a highway, where it appeared that someone dumped her & the seven in the litter.  Two puppies didn’t make it.  Two were still too sick to tell.  The three were the survivors who were just happy to be alive.  Goofy walks, expressive eyes and every rib showing.  The black one already had been marked as trouble after escaping & causing a commotion with the staff wearing themselves out chasing him down.  A game he would play more times than we wished in his life.

The stories told to us privately and overheard in the interview with the journalist ripped my heart.  Who on this earth with a soul could do such things?  Stories such as people who dropped off dogs just before they went on vacation….since it was cheaper than boarding.  Same people didn’t return to get their dog back, but decided a new puppy would be better.  Tales of people who consistently drop off puppies, yet don’t do a thing to prevent future litters – even knowing that the overpopulation increases the chances those dogs will be put down rather than adopted.  Just too much.

At one point during the journalist interview a family was looking over the dogs available and all focus was on the choices and the youngster “trying them out”.  Sadly the baby with the family was less than happy & screaming…right into my ear. I snatched up one of lil mutt puppies & started plating a game of puppy nose to mine, puppy nose towards the baby… to which the baby & puppy seemed to enjoy.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but the photographer from the paper evident enjoyed it too.  Snapped a shot of me nose to nose with the lil guy.  That photo ended up in the paper that Sunday.  It was our first photo together, before we even knew the journey was about to begin.

Hours later, I left. Tiny puppy in my arms. Knowing my life was changing.  Freely I gave my heart.  Complete trust between us.  The story began just as quickly as it ended today.

The Power of the Dog by Rudyard Kipling

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 to 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-term 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?


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