Friday, October 28, 2011

Saying Goodbye

     Part of having a farm full of animals is that the inevitable happens and there comes a time to say goodbye to a beloved pet.  Shiloh, a golden collie mix - my golden wolf - could not fight off a mysterious illness that could not be cured with antibiotics nor discovered by x-rays. Adopted from a shelter when he was 1 1/2 years old, it seemed as though he would be a pal for many years. As with the random unexpected happenings of life, this wasn't to be so. 
     Shiloh was a great farm dog and great around visitors and children, but brave enough to bark at strangers. He managed to fill a space in my heart that I really didn't know was available. He had me climbing over fences, running through the woods, crossing a stream, and down a highway ramp in a wild pursuit to stop him from chasing a fox or the sheer joy of following the scent of something.
     Clearly the love of a pet is not and cannot be the same as the love for a family member.  But, a pet creeps its way into your heart with habits and expressions that sometimes only the owner will detect. A special pet seems to rejoice in your joy and understand your sadness. It will take time to remember that it's not necessary to step around that spot where the dog usually lay, there's no dog on your heels that will escape when the door is open, there's no dog to herd the sheep, or to call when it's time to go inside. The loss is new so seeing the empty water dish sends a message that it needs to be filled, or thinking I should call him to join me for a quick errand in the car. And then, I remember.
     The first impulse is to take all the reminders of the dog and put them and the sad feelings away. But then, why not fight the urge? Choose to keep those reminders, and choose to remember the times that brought smiles, fun, and a soft face resting on your lap, brown eyes looking upward.
     To remember the good times is probably the best way to deal with a loss. Helen Keller said it best.

  "What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” 

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