For me the line from Leonard Cohen’s, “I’m Your Man” that goes, “Everybody got this broken feeling /Like their father or their dog just died,” has always been powerfully evocative. I’ve been worrying about my dog dying since about age seven. That’s when I realized that dogs actually do die, as cruel as that seems given how much we love and depend on them.
Well, on March 11, 2010, we had to say goodbye to Buddy, our nearly fourteen-year old golden retriever, and here came that broken feeling, in spades this time, because Buddy, of course, was THE best dog ever and THE best dog ever turns out, funnily enough, to leave a huge, gaping hole in your heart — a hole, in fact, the size and shape of an overweight golden retriever.
Six weeks have passed and we’re getting on with life. We’ll get a new dog after we’ve gotten in some of the traveling we put off during Buddy’s last years because we couldn’t bear to kennel him when he’d never been kenneled before and when it took two of us to get him up and down stairs. In the meantime, my idle moments are spent looking at puppy porn on the Internet — puppies advertised on Kijiji or breeders sites or YouTube videos of puppies chasing ice cubes across the kitchen floor. But I must say, the house feels as empty as my heart. That doesn’t seem to get easier.
Which leads me to reflect upon what dogs bring to our lives. . . . Yes, they give you unconditional love, but, in my opinion, that’s not the real reason why we love them. (Unless you’re totally pathetic and your dog really is the only one who likes you, in which case, I’m sorry.)
Here are some of the reasons that come to mind.
- Dogs are funny. In fact, they’re hilarious. (And don’t think they don’t know it.)
- Dogs are, by and large, cheerful.
- Dogs are easily amused.
- You can always make a dog happy. I have three children and I could never make all of them happy at once. The dog, I could.
- Dogs are glad to see you come and sad to see you go.
- Dogs perform important kitchen duties — the pre-rinse cycle, for example, or cleaning up after those little spills. Buddy used to do an especially great job on my Cuisinart.
- Dogs are hopeful.
- Dogs like to hang out with you.
- Dogs mean that you know your neighbours.
- Dogs mean that you go for walks in the woods.
- Dogs mean that, on those mornings after the night before, you get a blast of cold air in your face first thing and feel slightly revived.
- Dogs provide an excellent excuse to leave places you no longer want to be (old, incontinent dogs work especially well for this.)
- Dogs are as good an anti-theft device as your house is likely to get.
- Dogs remind you that Garbage Day is tomorrow. (That’s why God created The Last Pee.)
- Dogs remind us that we are not the only species on earth. Or the cutest.
- Dogs make a house a home. For me, a house without a dog (or cat, for you cat lovers) is a cold and lonely place.
When I was a child, I briefly attended a little Sunday School run by a young woman who was headed off to Africa to be a missionary. She told me that animals did not go to Heaven because they did not have souls. I was very upset by this and ran home to tell my father. He comforted me by saying, “That’s all right. We’re going to Dog Heaven. It’s much nicer there.” And I’m sure he was right. Because there are dogs there and, where there are dogs, that’s where I want to be.
Goodbye, Buddy. I’ll see you in Dog Heaven.