My beautiful and wonderful sister, Karen, passed eight years ago. This is a difficult time for me. Spring is here, my favorite season. Another year has passed into eternity for her. And another year gone in the countdown that began for me in 1960.
Karen’s soul had no presence. Except when it was gone. And it feels stronger as the days pass. Her death being a transference from something as inconsequential as life to an existence that has no substance. A state that is far more meaningful once it can’t be touched or experienced. A paradox of beauty, wonder and mystery that lasts forever.
We recently had to put our beloved pet, Dash, down. It was the most difficult decision we have made as a family. It has been several weeks, and none of us feel all that much better. We all have a deep feeling of longing for our canine companion for the past twelve years.
I have taken the time to think this through, and I know why this is so painful for our family.
When you bring a dog into your home, it’s like having a new baby in your family. It is dependent on you for everything. Food, shelter, play, doing business, love, pain, and learning. Those first few years are very much a parent/child relationship. The puppy looks to you for everything, and we are oh so delighted to show them the way. We had so much fun together as a family. The five of us laughing and running around. Chasing the ball that is life.
Dash was aging at a rate about seven times ours. By the end of the next few years, we were at the same stage of life, middle age. We did this together. I felt there was a mutual respect between us. We disagreed about where to poop now and then and didn’t talk for a while, but that was about it. When I went to work in the morning, he would race me to the corner as I drove to the stop sign. Regardless of the weather, it became our daily routine. I would lower the window and say “you can’t beat me.” He won every time, for a long time.
I am not sure if he just did something bad or was about to but we caught him either way.
Dash helped us raise our kids and became a father figure to them. He kept the house in balance, something we wouldn’t realize existed for several more years when it became shattered. Dash knew who was hurting and allied himself with us until the pain passed. He sat by my side for a long time after my beautiful and wonderful sister, Karen, died in 2009. Her canine pet, Windsor, is Dash’s brother. He is a year older but still thriving.
Over time, Dash became older than I am. He had a huge following in the neighborhood. Everyone knew him. We put a stone out near the corner bus stop and painted “Dash’s Corner” on it. Each day Dash would escort kids to the bus. In the afternoon, he would greet the children from the neighborhood when they returned from school. They looked forward to it; he looked forward to it.
We walked and talked together. Not every day but often during the past few years. Dash looked forward to his walk, and he liked it when I spoke to him. Sometimes I would receive a call on my cell phone. He would slow down, or stop. Dash would stare at me with a look that said, “what the F are you doing?” He knew I had directed my attention elsewhere. He was right. I would end the call, and off we would go. These were precious times for me. I hope they were for him.
Over time Dash didn’t want to hike all the way out to the corner. So he did what any living, aging being would do. He found another spot, but still kept his duty. Our deck is above ground in the back of our home. There are steps to reach it. He perched himself at the top of them and had perfect sight to the corner. All day. Every day. We have an outdoor fireplace. In the colder months, we lighted it for him to stay warm. If I worked from home, we had lunch together. When noontime came, I would drive to the deli and get a sandwich. The cycle took about twenty minutes. Dash would arrive at the back door as I entered the house. I could hear his paw tap the glass before I set my bag of lunch on the counter. He knew he would get a bite or two from me. When I had soup, he liked to clean the bowl, no matter what kind it was.
Dash passed peacefully during a raging Nor’easter on January 23rd of this year. He was in his spot, with the fireplace to warm him.
For me, Dash’s purpose was peace. He had it and made it at the same time. And never by saying a word.
And that is what is so painful for me. I have lost the best friend I ever had, the one who made peace. The one who lighted my way and who never forgot me. He had more love than our family and neighborhood could consume. And he never asked for anything in return. Not once.
I wonder if we should be trying to figure out what the canine world already knows about us?
I have had six dogs in my life so far. I remember each one of them vividly. I am fortunate to have had close and loving relationships with each one of them. They were all dear friends to me. They are: Brandy, Shannon, Duncan, Dudley and Morgan. They all hold a special place in my heart.
A couple years ago I changed jobs which affected my daily schedule. My commute is longer than the one with my previous job. I travel at off hours to cut down the drive so I can spend more time at home. I also have the opportunity to work more from out of the house. These work changes allow me to devote more time to our Sheltie, Dash.
Dash is the mayor in our neighborhood. We live on a corner lot in central New Jersey. When Dash was young, he would park himself out at the corner and watch the world pass. Everybody walking their dogs stopped by and said hello to him. We painted “Dash’s Corner” on a rock near his spot, so everyone knows who owns the real estate.
Dash has been with us for eleven years. He has lived through our raising of three boys into their teens and early twenties.
Now that he is getting older Dash chooses to survey the neighborhood from a perch on our deck. One kind woman brings him a treat, every day. She makes the journey up our property to bring him his gift. Recently another person looked over in our direction one morning and waved hello. I waved back, and she called out, “Hi Dash.” I guess I have earned my reputation around here.
Dash has been with us for eleven years. He has lived through our raising of three boys into their teens and early twenties. Also, he endured career failure and success with me as well as my wife’s retirement. He suffered the emotions from the death of my beautiful and wonderful sister, Karen. Dash is the half brother to my sister’s Sheltie, Windsor.
Dash and I have spent allot of time together lately. While I always felt a special bond with him, it has taken on a new level. Most days when I am home, we go for a walk. We usually take the same route, but the options start when we enter the woods. It’s his decision when we approach the fork in the path. Every time he looks at the two choices, then up at me. I look back and say “you decide.” He selects his route, and off we go. After walking about ten feet, he looks back to see if I am following him. He does this every time we go for a walk.
No matter what I have done, the permanent look of “you’re the best” is on Dash’s face. It’s there whenever I look at him.
Raising three active boys is real work. Sue and I did the best we could, and we had help along the way from Dash. We experienced our fair share of late nights arguing with one of the kids. School, drugs, sports, girls, money and any number of passionate topics are murky waters for us.
It’s uncanny; Dash will align himself with the one who is in trouble. He will stand by him to counter the rash of pain coming from our words. If I drop the “F” bomb, Dash will come and lay down on my feet. What a special feeling I get when this happens. I feel guilt, stupidity, and anger which confuses me. I always end up feeling like a heel.
I often wonder what Dash has in his DNA that lets him have so much effect on a tense situation when he can’t communicate. I also think about what poison I have in my DNA, or what is missing, to make me such a prick.
How about the ability to forgive and forget? No matter what I have done, the permanent look of “you’re the best” is on Dash’s face. It’s there whenever I look at him.
We spend much time studying ourselves and what makes us who we are. We fight cancers and are seeking to make our lives easier and longer. I wonder if we should be trying to figure out what the canine world already knows about us? I venture it’s considerable as they appear to be in far better touch with our emotions than we are. Food for thought.