You guessed it; another dog story. I still haven’t gotten over Daisy Mae of the Redwoods leaving us, and that was in 1999. Last night my good friends lost their boy Harley to cancer. We just spent last weekend with him and his family in the El Dorado Hills, and knew that it would be the last time we saw him. I’m not sure if it is residual grief or that he was just that special of a dog, but it feels like someone kicked me in the chest.
It is an amazing phenomenon how attached we get to our pets, for me particularly dogs. There is a sense of loyalty that you just can’t get from a cat, an unconditional love and acceptance that you can’t get from another person, and a wisdom that seems to come from something not earthly. If one believes in such spiritual nonsense as re-incarnation or multiple lives, it seems possible that certain animals are just born with “old souls.” They have been around for a while, and have certainly been here before.
Daisy (among her many attributes) was the one that was the most patient with my two daughters from when they were born,through their teens. She let them dress her up, ride her around the house like a little horse, and pull and tug at her ears and tail without any sign of protest – ever. It always seemed that the reason she endeared herself so much to me and the family was that she was such an integral part of the girl’s development.
Harley didn’t have to endure the physical abuse of my friend’s daughters growing up, but he was a special companion in other ways. My buddy Dennis has his own business and is able to work from home much of the time. Aside from his wife of 30 years, Harley was his best bud and constant companion. Head constantly in the wind, the open water of the Delta was his domain. The hours on the boat in silent communion evoke a bond that can’t really be written about, or explained by anyone that hasn’t felt that with a dog. When the kids leave the house off to school, and the professional life winds down to fewer hours and meetings, when life slows down from the blur that had been the early yuppie “life in the fast lane,” it gives one time to truly appreciate an honest friendship. A friendship like this with a dog (or anything else) just doesn’t happen all the time. It is something that, if you are really lucky, you are able to earn once or twice in a lifetime.
It makes it hard to think about “getting” another animal. Sure we can excuse the feeling by reminding ourselves that we have spent the last 30 years of our lives cleaning up dog poop. We can trudge on with a stiff upper lip and act around our friends like it really doesn’t hurt all that much, that the dog was more trouble than it was worth. A good stoic approach is probably advisable lest we fall into self pity. We may just get tired of going through this kind of loss every ten or so years, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that with the loss of a friend like that a little bit of us dies too. It is imperceptible, but there is a tiny hole in the heart where Harley used to be. There is nothing that can fill that, and that’s OK too. He would want it that way.