Well, I am simply heartbroken. I feel like I’m in middle of bad dream as over the past few weeks, two of the three of our dogs and one of our cats were killed by what we assume was a pack of wild dogs roaming through the night. (We live in the country.) Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been around a lot of death…especially the last couple of years when I lost five close relatives from the Holland family (my namesake), but very little untimely death. My family and I have always been animal people and have always kept dogs and cats. (As well as the occasional duck, hermit crab and turtle. I’m also planning for the future chickens, pigs etc.) We’ve lost pets along the way but never like this. I am feeling so much–literally going through all those stages of grief and death. I feel so guilty that they died protecting us, as we were cuddled up in our comfy beds safe and sound. They had no where to go and be safe. Although even if they had, it was not in their nature to turn and run away. They literally fought and died for us. They are truly the most loyal, faithful, selfless animals. Fulfilling their duty to the very end. I pray they feel our thankfulness. But it seems such a waste of precious lives. Now I will attempt to end discussion of their death and celebrate their wonderful, meaningful lives and discuss what all animals, especially dogs have to teach about enlightenment.
Dogs truly are our guardians. Eckhart Tolle calls them our Guardians of Being in his book by the same name. They are animals that are so very smart and intuitive, they are called man’s best friend. A friendship with a dog is so much simpler than a human one! You don’t have to worry about talking and not talking or saying the “wrong thing.” They live in the present moment with you always and constantly show you how joyful that is.
Be alert as you watch a dog at play or at rest. Let the animal teach you to feel at home in the Now, to celebrate life by being completely present. The dog is still in the natural state. And you can easily see that, because you have problems and your dog doesn’t. And while your happy moments may be rare, your dog celebrates life continuously. –Eckhart Tolle
Throughout my whole life, a dog has been a constant. Therefore it is a comfort. I loved having a litter of puppies when I was little. Raising them for awhile and picking out one or two to keep before giving the others away. I had one dog, Ginger, from fifth grade through junior year of college–about 12 years–putting her up into her nineties in dog years! She lived a long, full life, beginning to get arthritis in the end. She moved very slowly and even though we had just adopted Lucky, I made sure to give special time for brushing and love to Ginger whenever I was home. On her final night with us she laid out in the yard near the house too tired to move as it began to rain. I watched from our second story window as my dad went out and picked up her 60lbs. body and slid it into a plastic dog house nearby. She died peacefully, head on her paws, looking out at the gentle rain and to the house which held her beloved family.
So as I said, we knew Ginger was getting along in years, her brother Spike has passed on years before dying of heart worms. (Let me interject here, that we live in the country–outside city limits. Although things have changed now, a lot of people used to just have dogs. They lived outside and were fed table scraps and allowed to run free. They really only saw the vet to get fixed or if they were in dire need. This is pretty much how I grew up and it really wasn’t a bad thing. They were not neglected, they just weren’t treated like members of the family like most dogs are now! Now, our dogs still live outside and are allowed to roam free on our property, but they visit the vet and wear collars and eat dog food. I feel guilty though, because we long ago should have made proper fencing around our house and some of the property. It could have kept our animals safe and I am sad that is it only a priority after this event.) A few years prior to her death, my parents inherited Casey, the Great Pyrenees. She came to live with them after becoming too smart for her own good at her current farm home of one my dad’s employees. She learned how to escape from the electric fence and begin to tell all her sheep friends how to do it as well! She was about three years old when they got her and she lived in the backyard in the dog pen where all our dogs start out, (until she got brave enough to simply jump the fence.) She was very aloof. All I wanted to do was hug that big white fur ball and she would have none of it. It took me years to get her to come to me while I squatted down, held out a treat, and turned my head away. She would quickly take it and then run off, of course. We had never had a dog like that, but we loved her just the same, and she loved us too… just from a little ways away. She had a special relationship with my dad, who could give her a pat on the head. And if you ever walked the property, she would go with you–a few yard behin.
It was Casey and Ginger for awhile and then I was introduced to Lucky. She was the runt of a litter of golden lab mutt puppies that were born in my Uncle’s backyard in rural Arkansas. The mother had already decided she wasn’t going to be able to care for all the pups so she left Lucky behind. My Uncle rescued her, put her in a box with a towel and bought some puppy formula and a dropper. She was sleeping there at my Granny’s house when we walked in for Thanksgiving dinner. I sat with her and loved and petted and pep talked and fed for hours until she finally stood up on wobbly legs, walked a few steps , and pooped on the floor. It was a miracle! I loved that little dog! Now that she had turned the corner, my Uncle took her to his classroom where he was teaching school at the time, where I’m sure she received much love from students. At Christmas time, we adopted her (thank you Uncle Berlan) and one of her sisters, Angel. When the two of the were side by side you could see how Lucky’s growth had been stunted, as she was much smaller than her sister. (The pic at the top was over Christmas vacation when Lucky came to live at our house, in the dog pen until she was trained. My BF Kyle is with us. That day we walked the whole property–18 acres–with Lucky and Angel at our heels having the time of their life exploring, and Casey with us, in the distance.) We only had Angel a year. We think she ate something poisonous, because she had passed away by the time my dad came home to take her to the vet.
I believe this post may turn into a memoir at some point–it seems every story leads to another one. As my dad carried Angel away in a wheelbarrow to bury her in the woods, Lucky looked for her all over the pen and tried to follow her scent. My dad dug a hole which uncovered a hornets nest–of which he is very allergic–causing him to run home and dive like he was an young action hero under the garage door. Again–my memoir will have to follow all these loose ends! Having the puppies around gave Ginger a new lease on life and she lived another year with us. When Lucky was old enough to have puppies of her own, on July 4th 2005, she did. I was visiting from New York, but we were off at a family reunion when it happened. When we got back it was thunder storming and I saw that she had had her liter under our camper near the house. She was scared and confused and I spoke to her from the garage door because of the lightening. Then, she started bringing them to me, one by one, I quickly piled them onto towels in the garage, then dove headfirst under camper, right into mud, to save the little ones from drowning in a puddle. She had at least seven or eight–all black with a little white, Brooklyn who is colored like a Beagle and one dark brown one who was the only casualty. She was so protective we were barely allowed to touch them and I was heart broken when it was time for me to head back to NYC. (Definite CON. I do not enjoy leaving my animals in AR.) My parents kept Brooklyn and Phantom, who was black with half a white face.
Over the years, I saw my babies every time I was home. Lucky played ball with me. Brooklyn got run over–twice–once breaking a leg and making her live in the garage for three months as she recovered. She came through both of those like champ, (although she definitely cashed in a few of her extra lives). She is the sweetest dog ever, doing anything for you as long as you love on her. Casey eventually developed bone cancer, as apparently many dogs of her size do around eight years old. My parents chose to amputate her front right leg and she lived a few more happy months before disappearing into the woods to die on her own.
Phantom was the strangest dog we ever had. He acted like a rescue dog that had been beaten by his former owners…except he lived his entire life with us and we had never raised a hand to him! He needed a lot of extra love and attention. He would never come when you called and was really dominated by the other two females in his life. So I started making sure I always went to pet him first and give him the first treat combined with lots of love and belly rubs. Finally, over the past few years, he started to be outwardly happy. Tail raised high in the air, coming at least half way when you called and rolling and rolling in the grass and the sunshine.
As I have had to deal with all this loss, I have felt so many emotions, which has made writing this post very difficult. Even as I was about to finish it, our cat, Shogun, some how opened the cat door during the night and was killed. And then all those feelings started over again. It’s been a roller coaster ride and although I am finally beginning to feel some peace, I still feel the loss and it hurts my heart. I do my best to imagine them just on the other side–just out of their physical form or perhaps sitting at my Grandparents feet. I send them my love, my energy, my eternal gratitude. For animals teach us what the love of God is like–complete and unconditional. They bring us closer to God and to our higher selves.
Note: All my animals came to me as they passed on and woke me up as I slept. The night that Lucky and Phantom died, I dreamed I heard them running and running and then they collapsed right outside my window and I immediately woke up. The night Shogun died I woke up suddenly, getting very hot and forcing myself to get out of bed and look out the window. I couldn’t see him there because the sun was coming up, but I know he was telling me goodbye as well. Goodbye to my Guardians.
And to conclude: A tribute to Shogun, my littlest cat. Not quite a year old, who was too smart for his own good, only had one eye, loved the free toy from the Friskies bag, had fur that was as soft as a rabbit’s, and brought much joy to me and my family.
Recommended reading for dog/animal lovers: A Dog’s Purpose by Cameron, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Stein, Getting Lucky by Marino, Guardians of Being by Tolle.