For those who follow me on Facebook or Twitter: I finished writing this Saturday night. I think my father’s sudden death yesterday lends it more poignancy. I will have more to say about Dad soon. I’m not bumping him for a piece about dogs. I sort of had to finish processing this first.)
“Life,” the great standup philosopher George Carlin once observed, “is a series of dogs.”
It is one of the great injustices of this universe that our canine friends have a lifespan so much sorter than ours. If we love a dog, the odds are very good that they will die before we do, and we will suffer the pain of grief.
But the same is true of all love. Every relationship ends, and the best we can hope for is that it persists until death do you part, that it ends with death rather than incompatibility or anger or betrayal.
The only alternative is not to love. A heart that never loves is safe from the pain of grief. But to echo the cliche about ships in port, that’s not what hearts are for.
And so two weeks ago I went up to the Baltimore Humane Society. They had several dogs available for adoption, but I was captured by one shy mutt. He wouldn’t come to me at first, in fact he stepped back from the indoor kennel into the outdoor run, but then he stopped to look at me from there, wagging his tail and yet wary.
The message I read from his body language was “I want to be your friend. I want to be everyone’s friend. But I am scared to be here.” I learned that he had been an “owner surrender”, abandoned because of a “change of lifestyle” on the owner’s part (unfortunately, due to breed discrimination, for some dogs this can be as simple as someone having to move to a new apartment); and that he had previously been attacked by another dog. No wonder the poor guy was nervous, torn from his home and stuck in a room with a dozen other dogs.
Well, it took some doing, and three visits to convince the folks at BHS that we’d get along, but the dog — previously named “Buddy” but now “Muddy”, as in “Muddy Waters”, because I don’t do generic dog names — came home with me on September 9th.
And so with a nine month old puppy, there will be destruction — he’s already torn up a set of miniblinds in eagerness to see out a window. And there will be expenses, and frustration. I had to crate him when I went to work the other day, and his whining about broke my heart.
Whether a dog, a child, a lover, a partner, a friend, a student, a teacher — anyone you love is going to hurt you in many ways over time.
But this is the price of admission to love.