What’s in a Pet?

As I write this, it’s been 30 minutes since I left the Veterinarian office, as our black Lab of 13 years, had to be put down. All around me now, the patrons of Tim’s coffee shop are going about their early morning ritual, while I stare vacantly out the window, waiting for my wife to meet up with me.

Earlier, we were loading our old dog into the van for which, almost certainly, would be the last time we would see him. Before leaving, my wife looked into his unresponsive eyes and wept.

It had come on suddenly. Just a day earlier our dog had been his tail- wagging, bright-eyed,  and what we called, his “yuppie-the-puppy” self – a bit slowed down with age, but still, robust.

Yet, during these past 24 hours, he refused to eat, went into the dry (and not so dry) heaves; and when he could hardly get up to do his morning constitutionals – in fact, laid down in the cold snow motionless – it seemed he knew, even if we didn’t want to believe it, that his time had come.

I tried lifting him; but 75 -85 pounds of dead weight was too much for me. And yet, as if in one final effort to please, he raised his head and wobbled to his feet. And with a last great painful effort, he slowly stumbled his way … heart-wrenching to watch … back to the porch. What more could the poor old guy do for me? I was humbled by this final act of bravery.

Dr. Rick arrived early at his vet clinic and verified officially our collective consensus: euthanasia. With the big dog’s head in my hands, I said goodbye and felt his response by the exhaust of breath from his nostrils across my face – the last of his once mighty strength fading away.  

What’s in a pet, you ask? Plenty! The shining eyes so happy to see you: as warm and re-assuring as a sunny day in spring. I ask: who else would put up with our mood swings and inflated egos? Not many … that’s who! Yet, pets are as constant in their love as the North Star.

So who really is the master? I suggest it’s our pets that set the best human example to which we can only aspire. And, when I look out my window at four-legged foot tracks in the snow; I’m reminded of their lasting impact on our lives. The rain may wash away any obvious trace; but never the imprints they make on our hearts. What true friendship he also showed our friends – who loved his friendly, outgoing nature.

As I looked down at my now empty paper coffee cup, the advertising on it said to “Roll up the rim to win” – which I did – and smiled at the message it revealed, “Please play again”.

Yes, partings may be full of ‘sweet sorrow’; and, as with all goodbyes, life goes on … but for me, not today.

 Fred Parry                                    fredparry.ca (2011)

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