This past week, friends of ours lost their dog of almost 11 years, Rocko. Rocko had been battling cancer and it had become time to make the very tough decision … to let him go. Rocko was a mountain of a dog. At over 140 pounds, he was the biggest Golden Retriever I think I had ever seen. His head alone was larger than most dogs out there. His paws were roughly a men’s size 9.5. When he would lay under their kitchen table, the table looked more like a saddle on a horse, than a complete shelter for him while he slept. More astonishing was the fact that every ounce of Rocko, every fiber of who he was, was completely gentle, loving, sweet and kind. Everyone out there who has shared the life of a sweet dog is starting to tear up right now. It’s OK, nobody is looking.
Now, I know conventional wisdom would say we own our dogs. That dogs are our pets. That is certainly a true and accurate perspective. But I would also offer up that there are plenty of dogs out there that achieve so much more, that to think of it in such simplistic terms would be an insult. If you are reading this right now, and are not understanding what I am talking about, you may want to think about getting a dog when your life situation makes it possible. For there is a slice of the dog population that comes into our lives and really share it with us. They manage to squeeze into our schedules, run around our homes, and curl up in just the right space in our hearts. And when their time is up, and their time is always too short, they leave the essence of who they were with us.
It is these special dogs that I struggle to think of as being ‘owned pets’. They are dogs that have a bit more awareness, a bit more instinct, a bit more intelligence, and a bit more personality. Now, I completely understand that dogs really become the byproduct of the people they spend time with, whether that be good or bad. My point is that some dogs are simply exceptional at it. They manage to reflect back onto the people they share their lives with, echo the emotions they feel emanating from you, and become connected to you on a deeper level. It should be completely expected that when we lose them, they are going to take a little piece of us with them. The trade off is that they gives us so much more in return. As I write this early in the morning with only me and our dog Bella awake, at some level she feels what I am feeling. Uncharacteristically, she rouses from her morning nap, walks over by me, and rolls over on her back. She is saying, “It would probably make you feel a little better if you want to scratch my tummy.” I stop and scratch her. She proves my point.
I know our friends will miss Rocko, for he was such a dog. Based on the size of him, I would expect he is going to leave quite a hole for some time. Goodbye sweet Rocko, and goodbye to all the other great dogs we have spent time with and lost. We thank all of you for everything; your insatiable curiosity, your unwavering affection, your dedication to routine, your unabashed joy … but mostly, for being the mirror back into our own souls, and keeping us a little more honest about who we are.
I think I’ll go take Bella for a ride in the car …