“It’s NEVER just a Dog…”

Posted: September 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

I wrote this as tribute and whatever small comfort I could offer my friend Michelle K. on the sudden and tragic loss of her German Shepherd Neela from a heart condition.  She is mourning something much more than a pet, or an amusing animal companion.  Yet, in trying to comfort her, many people might make the statement that, “She was just a dog, but…”      Michelle my friend, (and everyone else that has ever lost a furry, four-legged, friend,)  this post is for you.  You need to know that mourning is healthy, and necessary.  Perhaps even cathartic in some cases.  You lost something much more, and you shouldn’t be made to feel childish or foolish for feeling the way that you do at their loss…

Remember the day you brought your new puppy home?  Of course you do…your eyes didn’t leave that new little fluff-ball with the floppy ears for more than 2 seconds at a time.  Back then, you might have been worried more about whether the puppy was going to poop on your floor than anything else, but from such attention are great relationships made…  Within 4 days of having the puppy, most people have called the puppy “My Baby” at least once…Even the most macho guys fall into this at some point.  Puppies cause this by their very presence.  Perhaps the Creator gave baby animals a hormone that affects humans that way as a protection…I just call it the “Awwww Causitive Hormone”.  At any rate, it’s powerful…

As the days passed into weeks, and the weeks into the first year of puppy’s life, you became bonded to that little life, now grown into a canine teenager.  He/She occasionally tore up newspapers, had a small accident on your carpet, dug up your yard or flower pots, or one of the other potential puppyisms we all know.  You forgive and forget these things much easier than you thought possible.  Why?  Because while you know that this “animal” can be a holy terror, he can also soften your heart by merely looking you in the eyes.  Her presence at your side while you sit on the porch, her warmth at your feet, her enthusiasm for play, make everyday full of special moments of closeness that the human soul wants and needs.  Your spouse can give you this comfort. So can your children…but the human suppliers can also turn away from you.  Imperfect emotions that humans produce can be sweet and supportive one moment, and full of vitriol the next.  But the dog doesn’t have the ability to turn on you emotionally.  They have a simple, God-given emotional stability that I am completely envious of.  That’s the secret to why we need them so much…Other than the occasional theft of a piece of toast, dogs don’t ever seek to hurt us emotionally.  Humans?  Best friends can become worst enemies over very small mis-understandings during a phone call.  Sadly, dogs have so much integrity towards their human, that they will put up with unspeakable abuse from those humans.  That alone makes the dog more than a simple, mindless, beast.  It’s not “…just a dog.”  They are balm to the troubled human heart, unspeaking sources of trust to those who feel abandoned, and a warm blanket to those who have nothing else.  They are friend to the friendless.  Guide to the sightless.  They are presence to the lonely.  Are you telling me that the dog is “Just a Dog”?  People who believe that, don’t deserve a dog…but strangely, a dog would probably still choose to be with them!!!  Does that make the dog superior to humans on some level?  Maybe…

More evidence of the dogs value to humans is found in the Holy Bible.  (Stick around, this won’t hurt you to hear.)  The book of Matthew, chapter 10, verse 29 records the words of Jesus Christ, that should make even the most hardened Atheist think about the value that we put on our dogs.  It says,

 “Do not two sparrows sell for a coin of small value? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without YOUR Father’s [knowledge].

If the Creator of Heaven and Earth has time in his busy schedule to take note of the smallest living things, how dare we call any living thing, “It’s just a …”?

Our dogs become many things to those of us that choose them as companions.  I don’t have to work very hard to find photo’s or stories of a Police K-9, killed in the line of duty, that is being honored with full burial ceremonies  by hundreds of his Human counterparts in Law enforcement.  Grown men, crying tears of sincere, heartfelt sadness.  There is no distinction in those groups, the dog was a COP, just like the rest of them.

Ask someone in Hospice Care how they value the presence of their beloved dog as they see the inevitable approaching.  You won’t hear the phrase, “He’s just a dog…” while they wait for the end.

Autistic children face many challenges.  One small one is the difficulty of reading and comprehending what they learn.  Reading a loud to their peers brings only stress and judgement.  But being alone with a warm, non-judging canine produces the mental acuity to learn and grow and escape the invisible trap they are in.  Tell the parents of that child, that the source of that help is, “Just a Dog…”    I will never use those words, even for the most inconsequential family dog, who’s greatest accomplishment is barking at a stranger at the door, and then collapsing into a sleeping pile of good intention.  They too serve those that they choose to love…

When we lose our beloved dogs, we should feel free to mourn and memorialize them as we see fit.  As with anything else, it is possible to go overboard.  But most of us know where to draw that line…Those who can’t, may need other help to cope, but that’s available and should not cause us shame.  Avail yourself to it…But never make the mistake of NOT mourning the loss of your friend.  That puts us into a whole different mind-set that lessens us as feeling souls…Not feeling sorrow, is worse than feeling ashamed of sorrow…

In closing, I can only say that we will all find ourselves tested in this situation.  While you have your dog, make memories with them everyday.  Record their silly noises, take funny pictures of them, make beautiful artwork that show them as they were.  Keep memento’s of their antics and adventures, write a journal about them.  Keeping memories of the good times will keep them alive in your heart as you cope with their absence, and, in the fullness of time, invite another furry soul into your life.

In Loving Memory- Neela

In Loving Memory- Neela

  1. Wendy says:

    As usual, very well put. A true tribute, not to a pet, but to a much loved friend. Rest peacefully, Neela. And to Michelle, a great big hug from a friend that has lost her own friend a year ago but feels like only yesterday.

  2. connie says:

    Okay, I’m crying. BEAUTIFULLY written and oh, so true. Thanks.

  3. Chris says:

    What a beautifully written sympathy letter. eloquent, and perfectly said, and so true. I would only add that if there were other pets in that household, they too are grieving, and we need to acknowledge their grief as well. I know, I have been there, through the loss of horses, dogs and cats. They all grieve just as we do. They do it in their own way, at their own pace. Just as we do. Never be ashamed to grieve your loss, your beautiful dog. My heartfelt sympathy, empathy.

  4. Glenda says:

    Perfect thankyou. We lost our GS Jake about two years ago and we still miss him terribly. But we have Ruby now, who is warm and naughty and sweet and did I say naughty. She is perfect and is the best balm for a broken heart.

  5. babyboo952 says:

    Beautiful and so true.

    • Mary Greeno says:

      A Balm, a warm blanket, a presence. That was so, so wonderfull. They are all you said and more.

    • shery says:

      Robert {she made the statement that, “I know she was just a dog}, MICHELLE SAID SOME MAY SAY ITs JUST A DOG Meaning non Dog Owners!… Please Robert it is UPSETTING Michelle!!! It Is Making Her Feel Like She Said ITS JUST A DOG … Can You Please Re Write That For Her Thank You!!

  6. Deb Whitmore says:

    Simply beautiful, Robert.