11896117_10203260258587036_6247115123293905753_nSometimes life seems to be going along wonderfully, and then something tragic happens to really make you wonder. My daughter and her young family experienced the heartbreaking loss of their beloved dog, Athena, a 3 year old Golden Retriever, over the Labor Day weekend. The overwhelming loss and grief made my daughter declare that she never wants to get another dog.

While you want to protect yourself emotionally, did you ever wonder what life would be like without dogs in our lives? Well, without them it wouldn’t be quite as wonderful. If you’ve never had a dog, you don’t understand that a dog is not just a pet–he/she is a full-fledged member of the family. Moreover, dogs are our most faithful and loyal companions; they are truly man’s best friend. OK, for me, woman’s best friend.

Dogs love us unconditionally. They don’t care if we don’t have makeup on, haven’t showered or aren’t wearing the latest fashion. In fact, they could care less if we have clothes on at all. A caveat to that statement is that my dogs do care if I am wearing sneakers because that means that they are getting ready to go out for a walk with me. (Otherwise I am barefoot around the house.) Dogs don’t care if we go on vacation and leave them behind. Upon our return they are there to greet us with tails wagging furiously and slobbery kisses to bestow. Unlike humans, they won’t try to make us feel bad for not having spent as much time with them as they think we should. They don’t give us the silent treatment, i.e., “OK, so you went away for the weekend without me–see if I talk to you for awhile.”

Dogs are our protectors. They are the best home security system ever. No one gets anywhere near our house without us being alerted far in advance. My dogs would fight to the death to keep that vicious squirrel scampering about on the front lawn from getting anywhere near us.

Dogs get us. They sense when we are down or upset. When I cried copious tears for the loss of my precious granddog, Athena, my dog Oryo was all over me licking the salty drops from my cheeks and trying to comfort me. Dogs also understand that we need a boost at the end of a long hard day at work.  They are always there to greet us excitedly and enthusiastically at the door regardless of when we arrive home and what mood we are in when we do.

Dogs are our personal trainers. Sure you’d love to be a couch potato, but who can resist those big eyes and the whines of your four-legged family member who is longing to explore the world outside your yard? Resistance training is in. You’ll be tugging on that leash with all your might to prevent a close encounter with the neighbor’s cat on the evening “stroll.”

Dogs facilitate social interactions. The easiest way to start a conversation is to ask about someone’s dog. Ever been to a dog park? No one there is aloof and standoffish. Dogs always provide a common ground for conversation for pet owners. You also get to know your neighbors because your dog alerts you to the fact that the house by which you are walking has a cat or dog by his behavior, i.e., barking at their canine or straining at the leash to chase their kitty.

Dogs know that you love a good laugh. That’s why they do outlandish things like steal your roast off the kitchen counter or climb up on your roof when you aren’t looking. Well, sometimes the humor is like fine wine–it improves with age, i.e., distance in time from the event.

Even though the grief of losing a dog rolls over you like waves threatening to take you under, it is the necessary flip side to the ocean of joy, smiles and laughter received from your furbaby. The sorrow wouldn’t cut so deeply if there wasn’t a deep, strong bond forged between the species.

Life, yours or a dog’s, has to end at some point. Then what? The survivor has to put one foot (or paw) in front of the other and move on. Life continues although with a cloud hanging over it. The pain and ache will dull, but the memories and love will always be there.

And I have to wonder if death is even the end. They (whoever “they”) are, say that all dogs go to heaven. No one can know for sure, but it is my firm belief that they do. Pope Francis apparently agrees with me. When trying to comfort a boy mourning the loss of his dog, the pope said that “paradise is open to all God’s creatures.” Moreover, he expressly stated, “One day we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ.” And why not? When God created the Garden of Eden, a paradise on Earth, He filled it with animals before he made man. What kind of paradise would heaven be without all of God’s creatures, animals as well as man? If there are no tears in heaven, it is because we are with the God of love and our loved ones, whether two-legged or four-legged.

For now, I mourn for our Athena. We loved her deeply, and she reciprocated. We may wonder why she was taken so tragically and so young, but we thank God for the wonderful times we had with her. Can’t wait to see you (and Beauregard, Belle and Sarah–all the dogs we’ve loved) again in heaven, sweet Athena. What a wonderful reunion it will be!


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