A while ago, I posted about additional health benefits that can come to those of us who have the pleasure of having a pet in the family (you can see the article here). The health benefits apply to all animals, but none quite like those that come from a dog. A dog will get you outside to play or take you for a walk around the block. A few cat lovers may argue a bit, but I don’t think the mental health benefits from any other animal quite equal those from a dog. There’s just something about experiencing true unconditional love that warms our hearts and souls.
“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
― Josh Billings
It’s with great pain now that I share a personal dog story of mine. Just last week, my dog Tex was hit and killed by a car. The person in the car didn’t even stop to see what they hit on a 30 mph road. Without even a second thought, someone left my best friend and my whole world laying on the side of the road. When I found out, it was like a part of me died with him. He had so much of my heart that the pain was unimaginable; I couldn’t (and still can’t) believe that he’s gone.
“Dogs, lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you’re going to lose a dog, and there’s going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can’t support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There’s such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price. Maybe loving dogs is a way we do penance for all the other illusions we allow ourselves and the mistakes we make because of those illusions.”
― Dean Koontz, The Darkest Evening of the Year
Let me tell you a bit about Tex. I rescued him from a pound when he was just a puppy, maybe 6-8 weeks old. I’d been looking for a dog to adopt for a while, but just hadn’t found that right one yet. When I went into the shelter to look at a litter of puppies that had just come in, 6 other puppies swarmed me, licking, barking, jumping, whining, all little balls of fur trying to get my attention. But what really made me take notice was the gangly pup that was sitting up straight on the little puppy bed in the corner, quietly looking at me with bright eyes. As soon as I picked him up, he rested his head on my arm and took a deep sigh as if to say, “Ah, finally, I’m where I belong.” And he was.
“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.”
― Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red
Tex was perhaps the smartest dog I’ve ever known. He was house trained in a week and picked up new tricks in an hour. He would sit, lay down, stay, shake, give high fives, play dead after shooting him with an imaginary gun, talk (his “inside voice”), speak (his “outside voice”, and yes, he could tell the difference), roll over, and spin. He knew phrases like “load up” to get in the car, “go to bed” to go get on his bean bag next to my bed each night, and a variety of fun words such as dog park, beach, squirrel, bird, and his favorite: cat.
“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”
― Milan Kundera
Tex was only with me for 4 short, beautiful years. The life of a dog is already short enough, and I had avoided thinking about the day that I supposed to be far in the future in which I would have to say goodbye to my boy. But in those four years, he helped me through tough times in school, break ups, moves to different cities and states, and transitions from school to work (and back again). He was always there, always my one constant in life, always ready to come put his head in my lap, look up at me, and tell me with those big brown eyes that everything was going to be okay. That’s something I just can’t say about any other person in my life.
“Dogs are minor angels, and I don’t mean that facetiously. They love unconditionally, forgive immediately, are the truest of friends, willing to do anything that makes us happy, etcetera. If we attributed some of those qualities to a person we would say they are special. If they had ALL of them, we would call them angelic. But because it’s “only” a dog, we dismiss them as sweet or funny but little more. However when you think about it, what are the things that we most like in another human being? Many times those qualities are seen in our dogs every single day– we’re just so used to them that we pay no attention.”
― Jonathan Carroll
Tex was my roommate, my best friend, my child, my running buddy, my psychologist, my foot warmer, you name it. He filled so many different roles that his place in my heart was a big one, and one that won’t be easily filled. But even with all the pain now, I wouldn’t have traded those four years with him for anything in the world. I know that one day I’ll see him again, because if people can get into heaven, then I’m convinced that dogs must be there, too.
“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”
― Mark Twain
In closing, I just wanted to share a beautiful poem that I’d seen a while back. It makes me cry every time I read it, but the tears are happy and hopeful ones. It’s called The Rainbow Bridge (by Anonymous):
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….
Tex, I can’t wait to cross the Rainbow Bridge with you. You will be in my heart forever and always.