Thursday, March 26, 2009

Letting Go Of Life

By Chuck Ness

When I took our dog Hershee to the vet today for her yearly checkup and shots, there was a gentleman who brought his old dog in to be put to sleep. As I watched him carry his old dog to the room where the veterinarian would do his job I looked down at Hershee and wondered how I would handle the task of taking her on that one way journey. I realized then how hard it is for some of us to let go of life.

There are myriads of reasons why people may get a dog and anyone who has ever owned one has their own unique story of how they ended up with theirs. In today's society we have gotten so attached to our dogs that they have literally become members of the family. Back in the very early days of civilization we used our dogs primarily for hunting and protection, we loved our dogs, but we never quite made them a part of the family. 

Somewhere along the line, we invited them into the big house, and so they had no need for their small shelter in the back yard. Our children started growing up with them licking their dirty faces clean and feeding their unwanted meal to them under the table at dinner time. We even started projecting human personality traits upon them that made them unique and special in our hearts. 

In today's modern society, for those of us who do not hunt, we usually get dogs because our children want one or we think they need one. We are convinced that every child needs a dog to love, to take care of, and to learn how to depart with when the time comes

We tell ourselves that it helps a child to mature and learn responsibilities. So we tell them they must take care of them, but in reality it was our dog from start to finish. Oh, the children do grow up with it and each child would spend a certain amount of time claiming it as theirs. However, every parent eventually learns the same lesson, and that is that they are the ones who will end up caring for the dog. 

Eventually all the children grow up, finding other interests and our biggest reminder of the pitter-patter of small feet running down the hallway, is the old dog that used to chase after those little feet. We begin to realize that the old dog is truly the best friend we've had through the last 10 years or so. With the children gone or at least seldom home anymore, we catch ourselves feeding the dog under the table at dinner as we silently laugh at the times we chastised the kids for doing the same thing. After all, who could look at those deep brown eyes, smiling face, wet snout and not be moved to give them a bite.

Then one day we hear our dog whining or barking for us to give them a boost up onto the couch or their favorite chair, because their hips are too weak to lunge their withering body off the floor as they used to. We tell ourselves their time is short and that God will soon snuff their candle out. Their peep hole into this world gets dimmer and dimmer as their eyes get cloudier and cloudier by the month. We know what we must do, but our hearts cannot find the compassion we need to take them on that one way journey. 

Then we wake up one morning and we find our best friend laying still next to their favorite chair, almost as if they tried one last time to lunge their feeble body up onto it. We find a blanket, or maybe take the one that protected the chair from their dirt all those years, and gently wrap them in it as our eyes water from the pain we feel.

 We know where we will lay them, if only letting them go was as easy as it was to pick their eternal spot where they will forever rest. We then looking up to God and thank Him for lending us the life that we so dearly did not want to let go of. 

For the first couple of weeks we spend a little extra time looking over to the spot we buried them at, or at least thinking about the choice spot we put them. Eventually the hurt becomes easier to deal with, and we actually ponder whether or not we will get another. Some do, while others could not fathom ever replacing such a friend with another. In time the memories are all we have left, and we may look at the pictures we took through the years but they really never do justice to the memories of the friend who's life we did not want to let go off.

It was these thoughts that went through my head as I pondered the day I would have to part with a dear friend and family member. Hershee is 13 now and if she lives another 3 years it would be a blessing from God. I remember when I was a young boy back in Duluth Minnesota. We had a dog named Blondy who got hit by a truck and died at the ripe old age of 10. For years I could see the pole with the bird house on top that stood as a grave marker for a childhood dog. 

In the 1970's they bulldozed the house, the land, and the marker to make room for the new Freeway. If I try, I think I could still remember the exact spot where Blondy is now part if I-35. I haven't been back to Duluth since 1984, but I'm sure I could remember the spot as I drive over it on the freeway.  

The thing that I remember the most about the time we buried her, was the tears in my dad's eye as he shoveled the dirt over the hole Blondy was laid in. He said the sun was bright and made his eyes water, but I knew he was just trying to put on a strong front for us kids. After all, it was his friend who's life he had to let go of.

It has been many years since that day when Blondy was buried, but I remember it like it was yesterday. We will always have good, bad, and sad memories of them. It's those cherished memories that will live forever in our hearts.

Since I wrote this in 2009, my dog has had one major stroke and a few small ones. She has recovered somewhat, but she is just not the same. She will wonder off into the back field where I must hunt her down to physically get her attention. She gets up all hours of the night wanting to go outside. Oh, not to pee, just to go outside. She barks at the slightest sounds that she used to ignore, and when I come home from work she is not nearly as excited to see me as she used to be, or she just doesn’t have the energy to show her excitement anymore. 

I don’t know if I will have to take her on that one way ride to the vet or wake up one day and find her gone. What I do know, is her time in this world is short, and I will cherish every day the Lord allows us to have our friend around. Knowing that one day she will take that journey over the Rainbow Bridge.

((((Hershee had to be put down on December 27, 2013. Her kidneys shutdown on Christmas, and at 4:00 am on 12-27-13 we ended her pain and suffering.))))

Good bye sweet friend

I dedicate this to our beloved dog, 
Hershee Ness
12/18/1995 - 12/27/2013

Hershee's Garden

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