Will Rogers, the actor and humorist, said many years ago, “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” I couldn’t agree more.
I look at my own dog, Ranger. He is old now. He wasn’t always, of course, but he is now. Ranger is a big, slightly pudgy, yellow Lab, the kind who will eat anything not tied down (as the saying goes, he believes all food must go to the lab for testing) and whose tail pounds out a hearty staccato against the wall when he’s happy.
He was young when we got him from the shelter; a bounding male with a proud head and large chest. The mere suggestion “Walkie?” brought spasms of joy as he eagerly watched me gather up his leash and the obligatory plastic waste bag. Off we would go then, striding down the street, or along the beach, or on a trail in the woods. My dog. Our dog.
The years go by and we move into different homes. We gather new friends. Our children grow up, and our lives flow forward. And, alas, our pets age on an accelerated time clock, a weird kind of time warp, more sprint than marathon, that is unfair — and incomprehensible — emotionally to us humans who love them.
We watch their muzzles begin to grey, we see the occasional slip of the hind legs, and the slowness to rise up to standing in the morning. They never complain. I don’t believe they would, even if they could.
And they love us so. According to my father, when he was visiting once, Ranger lay on the floor just inside the front door from the moment I left in the morning until I returned much later. He never moved. Sometimes, when I come home, I have to push on the front door to open it because he has fashioned himself into the world’s largest doorstop. He takes his sweet time getting up, his old hips stiff from the years, and greets me with total abandon and joy.
Ranger’s eyes are cloudy now, and I’m not sure what he can see. The vet says mostly shapes. And his hearing? Selective at best. His large head has lost much of its muscle mass, and his jowls now droop, but he is still as handsome a creature as there ever was.
Yes, he sleeps a great deal more than he used to, and there are now two dog beds in the house for him (one upstairs, one downstairs). His soft snoring on the floor next to my bed is like a nighttime tonic to my ears, lulling me to sleep better than any prescription pill ever could. It is the sound of contentment, of feeling secure, and of being loved.
It is what we cherish in our pets. We give them a home, food, water, love. And what do they give us? Everything they have, nothing less. They give us a living being to love, to come home to, to care for. They give us sense of what is really important as we busy ourselves with the countless mundane things we all must do and which require our attention.
Someone I know said that recalling the memory of his beloved dog makes him “remember what it feels like to be loved by God.”
What could be more beautiful than that?
— Award-winning author, TV presenter and world traveler Susanne Severeid is an Ashland resident who enjoys making time for the important things in life — including mocha. Read more of her columns at bit.ly/adtssmm. For more, go to www.susannesevereid.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.