I wonder about things like that. It’s nice to think of the good dogs in our life walking beside us in great beyond. What about the bad ones? Did they never get a chance here but deserve a break in the afterlife?
I made a big mistake fourteen years ago and would like for some young simpleton to profit from my stupidity. Here is my advice: if you lose a beloved old dog, don’t immediately take four sad children and your big-hearted wife near a pet store that frequently holds adoptions. You will end up with a puppy, I assure you. We did. She was a cute little black thing but she was a handful.
Someone found her playing in the road when she was five weeks old, too young to be weaned. But with no mother dog in sight, the rescue took her in and then we did.
I never really bonded with her. With work and a big family, maybe I had too much going on in my life, I don’t know. She bonded with the girls though… and she ate quite a few of their toys. We took her to obedience classes. She failed. Nothing stuck. She still ate toys. She wouldn’t mind.
But she was always sweet to the girls and never, ever growled or snapped at them or their friends. Besides the typical puppy stuff, we discovered that she was obsessed with the game of fetch. That dog would knock over anything and everything in pursuit of a tennis ball. In fact, we had to ban them from the house because she crashed into children over a ball more than once. When she was a puppy, that wasn’t a big deal. When she grew to a 90-pound menace, running over kids became a problem.
Her back legs began to wear down early in her life. She struggled mightily when it got cold. Over the past year, a knot began swelling at her shoulder. The vet said it was bursitis, but things began to turn. She was getting old, slowing down and we knew the time was coming to make a decision – the worst decision a pet-owner has to make. When she stopped eating, it became obvious. A Saturday appointment was made.
We were in the den Friday and she began methodically licking her shoulder. Like I had for the past year, I told her to quit. But then it dawned on me – what does it matter now? She has less than 24 hours left.
Lick away, Misty.
That night, the girls all spent time with her. When they were little and we had company, Jenna and Kylie would forfeit their rooms for the guests and sleep on the floor with the dogs. They thought that was really cool – to sleep with the dogs. So Jenna decided to spend the night on the floor with her.
It dawned on me that Kylie would take the next shift.
We all piled in the little room at the animal hospital and saw her peacefully away.
I have a vivid picture of Kylie waiting with a tennis ball… smiling and calling her name. The first of her family to come home to her.
“Come here, Misty. Come home… good girl.”
Do all dogs go to heaven?
I don’t know. It’s a theological question too lofty for me. She wasn’t a great dog. I wasn’t a great owner, either. But she was loved and she loved my girls. She did her job here and had a good run – 14 years for a dog found playing in the road.
I think of the two of them running and jumping on perfect legs – bound by earthly maladies no more – and I find that I really hope dogs make it.
Have a good fetch, Misty. Take care of Kylie until we come home.