Throughout my 24 years of life, I’ve lost many loved ones. Most of whom, I still miss time and time again when life reminds me of them. Others, I miss to the core, where I am left on the floor, crying, wondering how life could bring so much pain. When my dad died, I did at one time have someone say that they had a dog die so they knew how I felt. It frustrated me to hear such sentiments, because I didn’t feel known or understood. What frustrated me further was that despite how ridiculous it sounded, it gave me the tiniest inkling of hope that maybe now I would be understood. That inkling was soon dashed however as time went on and I felt the distance increasing.
You see, I had lost a dog before my dad died. I had lost several. Farm dogs had a dangerous home, but the real serial killer was the road we lived on. I knew more loss than dogs, as cats, cows, and others lost their lives in various ways. I distinctly remember one calf. It was winter, and I think its mom had abandoned it as it had been frozen to the ground. My dad rescued it and had tried to get it to drink out of a bottle. I sat and tried as well. I was so determined to get it to drink. My dad tried force-feeding it through a tube. I couldn’t watch that. But I remember when it was time to go to bed, how I left my jacket over it to keep it warm. This was to make sure it knows that I wouldn’t abandon it, and I want it to live. I had already decided that its name would be Miracle. I was smitten and thought that my hard work would pay off. My dad had told me that if it lasts the night, it has a good chance of surviving.
The next morning before I could go out there to check, my dad told me that it had died in the night. As I started to cry, he told me to stop, and that it was a part of life. Looking back, I think he just didn’t like to see me cry. However, I think of those words every time that I cry over his death or over another’s. Death is just a part of life.
Yesterday, my family dog, Hunter, died. He was the oldest farm dog I had ever had. He lived with us for 14 years. He was a part of my family for over half of my life. He was so loyal and obedient. You couldn’t ask for a better dog. He’d walk with you to get the mail, and sit on the end of the driveway and wait for you because you told him to stay. He learned how to shake without any treats. He was content with just earning your praise.
He kept diligent watch over us. He would make patrol paths that he would run endlessly on. He would only bark at people he didn’t know, and he was always happy to see you. On the farm, his kennel was a sanctuary for the cats who wanted to be kept safe and warm in the winter, and when stray toms would come around. He knew which cats were ours, and which ones weren’t. The one time he got out of his kennel, he went and found mom and dad out in the field. He just wanted to be with us, always.
He was a dog that would never let you down, all the way up until the end. Last year, he had stopped eating. I was at my mom’s house, and I remember making it my mission to bring him inside and loving on him, just in case he was going to go. I wasn’t ready for him to leave, and I begged him to eat. And he did, he started eating again. A few days ago, he stopped eating again. And, I’m still not sure he would have died if I had been there again, only because of how much he didn’t want to let me down. But, he was an old dog. He was in pain, and he would still walk that path in the backyard, making sure we were safe. Ever keeping a watchful eye. It was his time to go, so I’m glad that he left in the only way that he could. Never letting us down.
And now, I’m crying thinking about how this is all a part of life. If you love, you must lose. On Pinterest, there was a quote, “Grief is the last act of love we can give, to those we loved. Where there is great grief, there was great love.” Now, ignoring my need to talk about the philosophical, and going into the definition of love and how that fits in there, as well as the assumption of time in that there are firsts and lasts of anything. Grief is not a single act, it isn’t bound by time. Just like love (I tried). There was great love with Hunter. He was loved so much, and he loved us so much. There’s no way you couldn’t love him, the worst he would ever do would be to refuse to go back outside when it was cold, or go chase after some deer in the field. He would always come back.
I wonder what his heaven looks like, and how he fills his time (assuming he has time to fill, perhaps he now lives in infinity). You see, I’m not sure I believe in a heaven or a hell. But I do believe that Hunter is alive somewhere, if only out in the ethereal. I’m not sure we will ever meet again, but I’m sure he is back on that farm, chasing deer, protecting his humans.
Like my dad, Hunter was a protector. I felt safe with him around. I knew that if anything happened, he would be there. Now, 8 1/2 years later, I’ve lost them both. I’m glad I had Hunter for as long as I did. I know he thought it was time to go, and despite it being already tough with Father’s day right around the corner, I’m glad that he chose this time. My years are hard enough already with several days to remind me of times past.
Thank you Hunter, for always being there for me. For protecting us. For your loyalty. For your endless love and joy. For everything. I know you aren’t one for material possessions, but I hope all of your Christmas bones are with you now, and all the love you’ve ever wished to have. You deserve the best, buddy. See you later.