A couple of days ago I visited a friend. Our lives have been occupied by many and varied events since we last chatted and far too many months have passed with no communication between us. My friend has been ill, very ill and I worried about what state of health he might be in on this day. As it turned out I found him better than I had hoped and worse than I had expected. I know that sounds strange but let me explain. His health issues were under control and he as he always did was facing his problems with courage and good humour but, last week, his dog died.
If you are not a dog owner this means a dog died. If on the other hand you have ever owned a dog then you know how deeply grieved and unsettled my friend was. He sadly told me that this past weekend was his first weekend since 1982 that he had been without a dog. Such a comment spoke volumes about this mans love of his dogs.
I sat with him as he recounted life with his dogs and remembered many wonderful adventures. With each new memory I too drifted into the past, to walk the hills with dogs now gone, feel their breath on my face and hear their insistent happy barking.
I have led a life often connected with dogs. I currently own three and the passing of my canine friends has always left a huge hole in my life and heart. There is something quite unique about a relationship with a dog. A dog loves with no conditions and never tells you how you must act or dress. A dog isn't embarrassed when you forget to grow up, quite the contrary, it is a dogs greatest joy when you get down on your knees and roll in the grass with him or her, or better still, when you run and splash in the sea with abandon.
To say goodbye to a dog is to leave a part of your soul chasing the wind.
I saw the carefully laid grave of my friends dog and silently said a gentle goodbye to an old acquaintance who was always gracious in his welcome and gently polite as he sat next to my feet.
I have buried my dogs in gardens and feilds up and down this country. I have carried the collar of one to our favorite hut in the hills to leave it there, tied to a rough cross. A testament of the spirit of that particular dog and the life we lived together. We deal with the passing of our dogs in many varied ways and each is appropriate to the dog and the person concerned. There is no right or wrong place to bury your dog, no sober or acceptable way to mourn such an indescribable relationship. But tonight I read a quote that went like this..."the only place to bury a dog is in the heart of its owner" and that I suspect is why we cannot describe what it is like. A dog doesn't just live in our physical lives he dwells in our heart.