Saturday, October 18, 2008

All Dogs Go To Heaven

Until you've had a family pet,
you will never fully understand
the love that one develops
for their animal companions.

My sister lost her beloved dog, Bailey,
just this week.
He was her alarm clock, her watch dog,
her faithful company, and her baby.
And even those of us who
barely knew him,
feel the loss.

Love for a dog usually starts out as "puppy love".
That's Phase One.
But soon the cute, cuddly, and compassionate feelings
gradually turn into Phase Two-
a stressful tolerance of poopy mistakes,
finicky eating,
shedding hair and
annoying barks.

Then Phase Three is acceptance.
It is when we fully consider them as part of the family.

They have their own bed, dishes, toys,
and Christmas stockings.
We shower them with gifts, treats,
little goofy clothes,
and dog bones bigger than their heads.

They sleep, eat, walk, talk, and
watch TV with us.
We hug them, kiss them, bathe them,
and groom them.
We put their pictures in the
family photo album -
right next to the kids-
and we include their name
on family correspondence.

I was especially attached to our
German Shepherd named Jaguar.
He was the sweetest dog I had ever known.
Even when the kids were small,
he always treated them gently
and surrounded them with protection.

He joined us in picnics and cookouts,
holidays and camping.
He was a joy and a loving companion.

I remember taking him with us
on a camping trip one summer.
We pitched a tent on the river
and Jaguar stood guard all night.
We noticed then that he was having
a little trouble walking on the rocks,
and seemed to take food and water
without his usual enthusiasm.

At home, he gradually became distant.
He soon lost control of his leg muscles
and couldn't get up to go to the bathroom.
He would just look at us
with those beautiful brown eyes-
almost as if he was saying,

All attempts at doctoring and medicine failed.
The vet told us that his quality of life
was diminished and that it was time to consider
"letting him go".

My husband decided that we would let Jaguar
spend one last night at home in his own bed.
We sang to him, rocked him, pet him,
prayed for him-
and then cried ourselves to sleep.

And the next morning,
Jaguar was in Heaven-
chasing wild rabbits
and barking like a young pup,
jumping through wheat fields
and rolling in summer flowers.

All dogs go to Heaven.
Bailey is there now.

And, Bailey, if you happen to see Jaguar-
tell him we still miss him after all these years
and that we have never stopped loving him.