Too often, we overlook the impact an animal has on our lives.
As I sit here in the early hours of the morning, with the sun just starting to peak its head up over the trees, I realize that it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. The same thought hit me around my birthday two weeks ago. I’ve been in a bit of a drought for the last month. Most of the time I don’t go looking for a topic to write about; the topic usually has a habit of finding me and then I am inspired to write.
The last month has been a good one. I’ve finished up my involvement in one theatrical piece and I’m working on another right now, both of which have been exciting and challenging in their own ways. I went on a trip to Banff with my wife and dog which was fantastic. I’ve even had some great moments at work. Despite all these great things, I couldn’t find the traction to write about any of it. Then I got some news from home in Ontario; the family dog, Tara, had to be put down.
In all honesty, it wasn’t unexpected. I had had that conversation with my mom earlier in the week. Tara was sick, there was no question about it. The only thing none of us were sure about was just how sick she was. The answer came yesterday when she was no longer able to move or eat.
I had managed to keep my composure through the rest of work and the drive home. After all, she is not really my dog and I haven’t lived at home for quite a few years now. I am not as attached to her as my mom and dad are. I took one look at my wife when I got home and that’s when I finally broke.
Eventually the tears waned and dried and although I am still filled with sadness at the lost of such a gentle and playful soul, I am left reflecting on the time I did spend with our silly, unique and beautiful four legged friend.
To give some idea of what we’re dealing with here, Tara was an average sized dog. Her breed is that of a Landseer – a black and white Newfoundland. At the height of her reign, she stood easily 3 to 3 1/2 feet tall and weighed more than 120 or 130 pounds (sidenote: her brother, Cruiser, is much much bigger). When you take on one of these animals as your household companion, you are essentially adopting what will become a small horse.
When we first took her in, she was not that big at all. I remember having to lift her up and down the stairs so she could use the backyard because she was too small and awkward to to do it on her own. If you have ever noticed how awkward puppies can be, think about what that’s like when your puppy is already as big as most fully grown toy dogs.
There is a treasure trove of memories in my head that also include playing guitar for her whole she was still a puppy. I am not sure if she liked it, but she was exposed to it none the less. I also remember taking her for walks…….while on my skateboard. At her size, that means she walked while leisurely rolled down the street in style. I remember wrestling with her. While she would usually win, she was always gentle about it and never held a grudge.
These are only a few of the moments I would like to share. There isn’t enough time in the world to talk about all of them. Despite not having spent that much time with Tara in recent years, there are plenty of memories, thoughts and feelings that continue to put a smile on my face. It would seem that the ties I originally thought of as loose, are actually much more tightly wound in me than I first thought. As I reflect on these past moments with Tara, I look beside me and realize I’ve got a silly fur child of my own – my own mutt (literally) who goes by the name of Phoebe.
The curse of the dog owner is that they will inevitably outlive the dog. It’s like adopting a child that will never really grow up but you have to watch as they grow older and eventually fade into the ether. Eventually, they will break your heart. But if that’s the case, then why do we put ourselves through so much pain and sadness knowing how it will end?
I am not sure there will ever be a simple answer for this but I can tell you that the joy they bring during their short existence is worth it. When a dog is with you, you are never alone. When a dog is with you, they want you to be happy. Ultimately, I would rather have them in my life than not.
So now I take the time to think about how Tara made me happy and how she affected my life. I do the same now with my dog, Phoebe.
…..and I smile.