Originally published in 2016
We all know it’s never “just a dog” but not everyone understands…
Last week I had the sad occasion to say “Good-bye” to one of my canine buddy friends (Maverick) – he was 10 years old and still full of life when cancer came calling, took over his vital organs and caused his early demise. As much as I deal with this scenario every week in my professional life (I am a veterinarian), it does not dull the pain I felt, and for the next few days, there were lots of tears and feeling “down”.
Then on the weekend, I joined my golfing mates and tried to escape the feeling of loss for a period. But it was during a talking session I had with one of the group (Fred) when we waited on the 9th tee that I explained that my lack of humour for the day was because of the death of one of my dogs. He looked at me in surprise and seriously made the comment, “I understand it was sad for you, but it was just a dog”.
Now I understand that Fred, who is not an animal owner, struggles with the concept of people getting “attached” to their animals. I come from a birth family who did not own pet animals, and to this day, my brothers struggle with the concept of people spending money on their pets (makes an interesting time at Christmas time when all the family gathers together and it is only a matter of time before someone comments about the money spent with vets and the discussion goes “downhill” – usually resulting in me leaving the party before I get angry and say something my wife would regret).
I kept my feelings to myself for the rest of the game, and as I drove home, I thought about what Fred had said and what he was missing in his understanding of the human-animal bond relationship.
So this post is written to assist the “Fred’s” of the world….
How do you explain the emotional and physical feelings of love between a human and an animal to someone who has never experienced the unwavering love and devotion an animal brings to the relationship? I can but try – but to all the animal owners of the world who read this – I apologise now because I am going to struggle to express the feelings each and every one of you have for your animal,
Maverick was not “a dog”; he was my best friend, he was my protector, he was my confidant, he was my rock to lean on when times got tough, and he was my reason to laugh when I felt like crying. He was my little bit of insanity in the same world in which I live.
When I was “up”, he bounced for joy and made me laugh and laugh. He made me feel like a child again where there were no worries in the world – only adventure around every corner.
When I was “down”, he was there to console me. We would walk the beaches and fields together, and I would talk and talk, and he would just listen. He never passed judgment but would wag his tail and lick my hand just to let me know he cared.
He was my partner in our comedy act – together, we would make up stupid games to play with each other. We would play hide and seek in the fields (he won every time – something about having a nose that could actually work) and chase seagulls on the beach (again, he won every time – something about having 4 legs and a lot more ability).
He was my alarm clock each morning. He would greet me every morning with a wide grin and the whole body vibrating in expectation of a walk together. How can anyone be cranky with life when greeted like that each morning?
He was there for me when life got a bit tough – greeting me at the gate with a huge wag of his tail and a tongue that hung out of his mouth that nearly touched the ground. He would sit at my feet when I flopped in the chair at night, rest his head on my lap with his big yellow eyes staring into mine, and put his paw onto my knee to let me know he was there.
He was a nature’s “gentleman” – treating all people and animals with respect and happiness, but he was also very protective of the family. If he thought there was some danger, then he turned into “the dog from hell” – all teeth and muscle.
Sometimes at night, we would sit outside and – me in my chair and him with his head on my lap – together we planned to take over the world.
Oh, the dreams we had, the plans that we made, the mountains we were going to climb, the seas we were going to explore and the adventures we were going to have.
We would sit there, marvel at the stars, and dream of worlds on other planets. We were going to fly to the moon, travel the stars in a blink of an eye (and be back for breakfast), we were going to find a cure for all diseases, win Gold Lotto at least 3 times in a row and find a cure for flatulence (depending who had eaten what that night – then this cure was sometimes more important than the rest of our dreams and aspirations).
I was going to be Batman, and he would be Robin. I was going to be the Lone Ranger, and he would be Tonto. Together, we were going to be unstoppable. Together, we would rid the world of famine and starvation, we would destroy all nuclear weapons, we would make North Korea a functioning part of the world and take Donald Trump’s Twitter device off him.
But last week, it did all come to an end – the world came crashing down to reality, and I had to say goodbye to my best mate.
So to the Freds of this world I say –
“This was not just a dog, this was part of my family and through all the tears and the fears that I now face going into the future without my buddy – I am bloody proud to have known him and allowed me the time to grieve the loss of a very very close friend”.
The world is full of ‘Mavericks’
The world is full of “Mavericks” and each and every owner has their own story to tell – the ups and the downs, the love, the happiness and the laughter each “fur baby” brings with them on their journey through life. I feel sorry for the “Freds” of the world because they miss out on so much.
Sure, the time of departure is hard and we miss our animal friends so much when they do depart this earth – but that is because they brought so much with them and gave us so much fun and unrelenting love that has enriched our lives. And I personally do not want to miss out on that experience.
There will never be another Maverick in my life, but there will be lots of other animal friends I will share my life with, and each and every one of them will bring their own journey that can only make my life better and make me a better human being.
In loving memory of Maverick – thanks for the journey, and I will see you on the other side