This could be the most important lesson we learn from our dear dogs.
Our immediate neighbours to the South of us, Larry and Janell, lost one of their dogs last Saturday. Here’s the email that was sent out by Larry:
Bad day at the ranch
We lost Clyde today. A neighbor who is a veterinarian came by this morning and did the deed. He had cancer in his shoulder, we had a tumor removed a couple of months ago but there must have been some left because his left front became totally unusable and then his left rear started to go too. We tried everything that the vets could come up with but it was starting to eat him up.
He was born in central South Dakota at a cattle ranch where I got him in April 2004, a six week old black bundle of wrinkles. He learned his manners from Barney, who we lost a little over 2 years ago from cancer as well. Barney and Clyde, what a GREAT pair!!
We still have Baxter the Aussie, who has pretty well recovered from getting hit by a car and severely injured the beginning of last month and Bob the cat.
I will miss Clyde terribly, just like I have ALL my labs! They are wonderful dogs. Just thinking that I’ll probably never have another big floppy eared pal like that makes me want to just cry my eyes out!!
One of the fondest memories of my life is/was going bird hunting, especially ducks, and having a well mannered lab as my partner!! I’ve shared time and my lunch with some good ones!! I so very much wish/hope that there really is a “RAINBOW BRIDGE”!!
Jean and I obviously knew Clyde and can confirm that he was the most gentle, kind-hearted dog one could find.
I wanted to treasure the memory of Clyde, on behalf of all the dear dogs in the world, and asked Larry and Janell if they would be comfortable with me publishing the email. They replied without hesitation that it was fine and then sent me some photographs of Clyde to include in this post.
So the easy course for this post would be to leave it at this and move on. (And, please, if you are not up for a degree of introspection from yours truly, then do stop reading at this point!)
But when I awoke this morning (Tuesday), a little after 5am, Jean still asleep next to me, three dogs likewise across the bed, and knowing I would be writing about Clyde later on in the day, I started to reflect on life and death and was there a lesson for us humans in the death of our beloved dogs. When Jean awoke an hour later, I asked her how many of her dogs had died over the years. She replied that there had been at least twenty dogs that had died and that she could remember each and every one of them.
That then opened up a much deeper reflection on death and whether our dogs really can offer us a lesson in this regard. For I’m not ashamed to admit that at times I feel scared about the future. I’m 70-years-old, seeing the signs of what the medics call ‘cognitive ageing’, have a few minor challenges in the areas of prostate, blood pressure, thyroid, and know how terribly unprepared I am for the second of life’s two certainties: death.
Jean’s view was that dogs have the ability to live so perfectly in the present that, except in very rare occasions, they don’t grieve for the loss of a loved one. Clearly, a significant difference between dogs and us humans.
Then it was clear that we humans only grieve for the death of someone we knew. That within the family that rarely extended back beyond our grand-parents. That seemed to offer some philosophical help. For if it comes down to the memories that others will have of us, after we have died, then it behoves us to live the best life we can, doing our best at every stage in our lives. Accepting that it is impossible not to make mistakes and end up with regrets, yet so long as we try to be true to ourselves then that’s all that matters.
It was then a very small onward step to love and the potential for the greatest learning from our dogs. For dogs so frequently show us the magic of unconditional love.
Back to Clyde.
Here are two other photographs of dear Clyde, separated by the words in Larry’s covering email.
Paul, here are a few pictures of Clyde. Feel free to use what you like. We always said Clyde had a big heart, big stomach and no ambition as evidenced by these pictures! At one time we were nursing an orphan lamb in the house, Clyde adopted the lamb, Pearl, and looked after her, Larry.
I know that when our Lilly dies, she is 17, Jean will weep many tears.
I know that when our Pharaoh dies, he is soon to be 12, I will weep many tears.
But those pictures of Clyde remind all of us that it is in life that it is important to love. Important, almost beyond words, to be kind to others, to offer and receive love, and to treasure the present.
So, yes, we must shed a few tears of the heart yet thereafter we must treasure the memories.
“For if we cry at losing the sun, our tears will hide the light of the stars.”
Thank you, Clyde!