There are times that I sit and wonder just what the hell is wrong with me, and for that matter, with the world in general. I’m nearly certain that, after 41 years on the planet, that things shouldn’t be as they more often than not turn out… and if so, then not only are we all destined to be screw ups, but so will our kids and grandkids. The main problem is that people seem to refuse that others among and around them have feelings. We complain that there is a lack of empathy and a blasé attitude toward the human condition; however, when it comes right down to it– most people could give two shits less about their fellow man, and more than a few will admit that to you freely… upon request. And yet, we think that, somehow, we deserve more…
More of what?
My view of humanity in general revolves around how someone treats a pet or animal, even if it’s not their dog (I’ll use a dog as an example because everyone knows that dogs are the best domesticated creatures, and carry the moniker of “Man’s Best Friend” in a very non-accidental way– they really are the best pets… better than most people). In fact, I will rate someone most especially on how they treat a dog that is NOT theirs, and one which they may never meet again. This, … this is a crucial test of whether or not you possess the moxy which is crucial for one to gain entrance into the “Hall of Humanity” which I have erected, as of yet, still only imagined in my mind’s eye.
The fact of every matter is, that you really don’t deserve anything more than what you have at THIS moment, so try to learn to enjoy it.
I’ve had several dogs in my lifetime, and am thankful that each one chose to somehow become aligned with me. It is my thought that each has made me a better person, and one who is more in tune with the people around me, as well as with the world in general. Of the many, two constantly remind me of their existence:
Freddie & Pup
Freddie, who died in 1983 alongside an Interstate Highway– no doubt the victim of some asshole who I will bet didn’t flinch when the thud of the animal struck the bumper and then undercarriage of the car. If he or she did care, they would have at least stopped, and pulled the little guy out of the roadway… off to the side. I’m sorry, but it bothers me, to this day, that my dog was laying in the roadway– dead. I’ll go a step further and admit that it is something I’ve never quite gotten past. And… to be honest with you, I hope that I never do. If such is the case, I am fearful that I will have lost a crucial portion of the consciousness of my humanity, that of which I am complaining so few among the human race possess.
Freddie was probably the first dog I would call “my” dog, even though he was a family pet, and his full name was Frederick. At any rate, the dog was a medium to small sized mutt, he was a butterscotch and white spotted mix, and what I remember of him was only that he was the first to extend to me– the “dog/human” bond, and I was immediately, and still am, enamored with him, or at least, with the memory of him. When I first met him, I was maybe 7 years old, and then it was only a couple of short years later, at age 9 or so… that he was hit by a car, and gone forever from the physical world. Since then, for the last 32 or so years, Freddie has lived daily in my imagination, as a benchmark for what a boy’s dog should be.
Most people, whether they know it or not (and trust me, most of them don’t), are simply assholes, disguised in clothing. However, through much introspection and even some counseling, I have somehow moved beyond hating them for it. Instead, I simply know it, and so- when something like my dog getting hit by a car happens… I understand that the reason behind it, as opposed to being an “accident”, was that someone who is out there– if they still are alive– was and probably still is– an amazingly foul asshole.
The other dog, and she holds my heart, perhaps even more and in different ways, was my Pup. I picked Pup from her brothers and sisters before her eyes were opened, and when the time came for her to go home with me, I was overjoyed, a kid again at age 23. Immediately thereafter began 14+ years of always having the benefit of an unfailing best friend at my side. At that time in my life, I was working Construction or driving a truck. In either case, Pup went to work with me. I look back now, and understand that to be able to have your dog grow from a puppy to adult, always in your company and at your place of work was an amazing privilege for both of us. I have to say that, with that much time spent, throughout both of our formative years, there was established a remarkably strong bond.
Pup never wore a leash. I simply walked, and she walked beside me. At times during the day, she would wander off. During these times, I wondered if she too might end up on the side of the highway somewhere, broken and bloody… no longer here with me. However, she always came back after a short while… and then, she would take off again. We went to work together in the morning, and came home together at night. She slept at my feet in bed. She sat beside me on the couch.
As the years went by, I was married and shared the bed with my Wife, and as such, Pup no longer slept in bed. Instead, she now slept on the floor, covered in a blanket. I don’t suppose that it mattered much. As time progressed, and as the Pup aged; she would’ve been 6 years old when I married Kim, she could no longer jump up on the bed (she maybe could, but really didn’t feel like it anymore…). Also, around that same time, I took a job where the Pup couldn’t go to work with me anymore, and so she stayed at home, with our other dog, Sydney. I made sure that the two of them had a doggie door to the fenced in backyard, and they were fine. For the first time in Pup’s life, she was able to be “a dog”, and she laid around, gained some weight, and I think probably enjoyed herself a bit.
Fast forward, to the late summer of 2012, and Pup passed in August of that year. I’ll tell you that she died on August 10, 2012, at 1:35 pm– it was possibly the most profound day of my life. A Friday morning which began around 2 am with her in very bad shape (she was in decline for nearly a year), continued throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. Finally, an emergency trip to the Veterinarian did not help to prolong my dog’s life, and I had to somehow continue to breathe air as my friend breathed her last. Instead of Freddie, she passed with me nearby, the victim of some cancer, and her ashes rest in my office, up on a shelf, next to her picture.
I sit here now, at just past midnight, and nearly 2 months have passed since my last writing, not a sentence ago. I won’t lie to you and will truthfully say that after writing the part of my continuing to breathe, as my Pup breathed her last, set me in a state that no longer fostered a good atmosphere for writing. Quite frankly, I had to step away from this piece, and give it some room, which is something that I very rarely do while writing. However, the Pup deserves at least that, as does Freddie, and the rest of all who matter in our lives.
The question becomes, “what have I taken from those experiences”? The easy answer is to say that I, and so many others, are simply animal lovers, who would more often than not, pick a dog over another human being. But, is this the correct answer? My Pup, if she could, would probably disagree.
She chose me, as much or more than I chose her– and so did Freddie. At the time of either particular dog, I was (and still woefully am), so extraordinarily far from perfect; and yet, each of them saw some redeeming quality in me that set the attraction into motion, and eventually– helped to make me a better person. With all the stray and neglected animals out there, it may very well be that most people are assholes for a reason, so that they too– may one day be chosen by a transformational animal, and made to be… well, not so much of an asshole.
Our pets #love unconditionally it is said, although I will wager it is not blindly. They see our faults, our weaknesses, our vulnerable points. I have little doubt that they are with us as if on some mission from the Almighty to help to shape and mold us into more acceptable vessels for morality and the capability of love, while we travel this Earthly plane. I can say, without a doubt, that there were times that my Pup looked at me in disappointment in the same manner in which a child might look to their parent if the child feels they have been let down, or wronged in some way. My dog knew me well enough to know when I wasn’t doing my best, and yeah– she could communicate with me. She knew me, maybe better than I would’ve liked. But, she was my dog.
I suppose that in an attempt for some ending, an epitaph, or closing thought is in order… and I have, as I mentioned, struggled for nearly 2 months to make some sense of what my thought process, other than “missing” my dog(s), really is. I have gone over this- a need for some sense to be made of the matter- for almost 3 years since Pup’s passing, and some 32 since I was told Freddie had been hit by a car. As I previously said, I have not “gotten over” either one of them. As a matter of fact, my heart breaks whenever I see an animal (especially a little dog), laying on the side of the road. I will be honest and say that I have been seen, more than once, pulling my car over to the side of the road, parking- and gently dragging the little fella to the side of the road- to safety, and saying some kind of prayer that might fit the situation… And yet, it is still never enough, not nearly enough to fill a void that is still there, and one which always will be there…
And that is O.K. with me! For me, that means that I have progressed to some point that I had not previously been… I no longer feel the need to seek out professional help to ask the Therapist, “Why do I feel this way”? I feel this way, because– I was TAUGHT how to love, and to display love, towards an animal that is mostly without a means of communication with us. Our only communication is Love, and why would I want to lose that?
Why should I ever question the ability to hold that emotion… especially for a dog that I don’t even know?
The answer is– that I shouldn’t try to lose it, and instead, should cherish it as what it is– a gift and a worthwhile trait. One which more people should have.
To love something or someone, with the only benefit to yourself being that you are ABLE to give that love, is a feeling beyond compare, and one which lives indefinitely, completely unable to every be re-paid, … or returned. And most importantly, it need not be returned… to have it, the ability and the opportunity, is more than enough.
I once told my Dad that I am never lonely, and this is true. At times when no one else is around me, and this is often an everyday occurrence, sometimes for days on end– I am with Freddie, or with my Pup. My best dogs have never left “Me”, they have only left the world that I still live in, leaving me as a remnant of their handy-work.