Well done, Good and Faithful Servant

A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. Robert Benchley

We were sitting at the emergency vet's, with Delta, the beleaguered mastiff who just will not stop eating things, when she came in with her dog.

Normally, this is a type of dog that I despise. Small and white and furry. I can just see them growling at me, lunging forward to take my hand off when I reach to pet them. I could just picture the rhinestone collar. I'm sorry, I'm sure your small, white dog is perfectly lovely, but really, I haven't had great luck with small white dogs.

But, I stopped to pet this dog, small and white, while the large, brindle mastiff looked possibly even more pathetic than ever. If looking pathetic could have cured gastro-enteritis brought on by eating a brown, fluffy lion, well, she would have been cured. (Alas the cure involves $3,500 in treatment and surgery instead)

I brought over a box of kleenex and sat petting Talia, who could not be saved. I told Talia that she had been a good friend and companion. I cried a bit, remembering those pets that have left their mark on my life, but are no longer in my life. I remembered names, and I remembered how hard it is to say good-bye. We talked a bit about the possible course of treatment, and when her owner said that she was suffering, our eyes met. I stayed to pet her, while she phoned her daughter. Scratching an ear with nothing much to say.

It is what we do, as good and responsible pet owners. We look at our dogs, and we look at the surgery estimate, and one day, we realize that they have been with us for such a long time. And while loving kindness still has us see them as they were, healthy and whole, the reality of the situation is that they are not that way, and with our hearts on our sleeves, we say good-bye. It is the last kind thing we do for our pets, to make this choice for them. We say good-bye to our tired and worn pets, we acknowledge that the world and the law and the vet bills say that they were ours, but we acknowledge in the pain of saying good-bye a far deeper and more painful truth: that we were theirs. We acknowledge that if they were our dog, then equally we were their human, we belonged, not one to another, but to each other.

When it came time to say good-bye, all of Talia's family were there. From mum to daughter to grand-daughter. Her last moments were kind, in the words of the Vet to the granddaughter, she closed her eyes, and she went to sleep. It was not hard or painful, just a last good-bye.

I heard the little girl ask, as they were leaving, as we stopped our conversation, and looked, not with pity but mercy and kindness, a remembrance that we too had been there, I heard her ask where dogs go when they die.

I do not know. But suddenly this occurs to me. I call God mine. But equally so, like Talia and Maggie and Delta and Toby and Koda, He calls me his. He says that I am his child. And I wonder, what would give me more surprise and delight than to meet the veritable menagerie of animals that have owned me. From a hamster at 5 years old, through a multitude of goldfish, to Max last September. I do not know if I will see them, I do not know if heaven is like that. But oh, I hold out some hope.

I looked at Talia, and I thought of what all dogs want, and what they teach us. To love and be kind. And I could not help but think of God's words to his son. To tell Talia that she had been a good and true dog.

Well done, Good and Faithful Talia. Well done.

We anticipate the Mastiff will recover nicely from her surgery, and should be fine for a few more years yet. I miss her already.