“Lord, help me the person my dog thinks I am.”
If you have a dog or are an animal lover I am sure you know exactly what that quote means. And if you are a dog lover, like me, I am sure at least one has been your favorite, and that there are many stories you could tell me about your friend and what you have learned from him/her.
Dogs are loyal and through their loyalty they teach us so much about the patient nature of unconditional love. But love and loyalty are only two of the many lessons they teach us. A third lesson is about simplifying our lives.
When my son was thirteen, we had two dogs, Moscow and Samantha. Samantha was a Malamute mix with blue eyes, and was gentle and loving. Moscow was a black and tan Akita who was strong and gentle, loving and loyal and fiercely protective. My son was wanted a dog of his own, so we researched breeds and decided on a Great Pyrenees.
Up until this point, Samantha and Moscow were great friends. They were inseparable. They loved each other deeply. Although they were bonded with us, we sensed it was really the two of them.
Before we picked up the newest member of our family, we had long discussions with Moscow and Samantha regarding having another dog in the house. Samantha grudgingly was ok with it, and Moscow wasn’t sure. We had to make sure we introduced our new puppy in a way in which Moscow could meet her slowly and on his terms.
Moscow reluctantly accepted her; although accepted is the operative word. He never really bonded with her. The new puppy, Snowball, faired little better with Samantha. But Snowball, being a puppy, was innocent and followed them everywhere.
What I didn’t realize was that in having a puppy, which is like having a little child, I needed to spend lots of time with her and with training her. I couldn’t walk all three at a time, so often, the other two didn’t get walked as much. My husband and I would walk the three at night together, or occasionally he would take the older two out for a walk. So the house dynamics had shifted. Moscow, who was extremely sensitive to these changes, became irritable and unpredictable. We began to be unsure of what would happen if we had people over. We didn’t know if he would snap or not. My husband and I started talking about what we should do. Samantha at that time was getting old, she was 11 or 12, and Moscow was 6 or 7. Samantha also was having trouble breathing and would have attacks when we would walk her.
Although my son was older, we wanted him to feel safe in having friends over. So we began the discussion of putting Moscow to sleep. This brought up another concern; what to do with Samantha, as the two of them were so close. Should we just put Moscow to sleep, or should we put them down together as they are in life?
We weren’t sure what to do so we made an appointment at the vets and brought Samantha with us. As we were going into the room, Samantha nosed herself in with us, and Moscow looked back at her as if to say,” I need you here.” In that moment the decision was made. As the two dogs were injected and both lied down next to each other, Moscow looked up at the last moment, not at us, but at Samantha, and put his paw gently over her and both went to sleep.
As difficult as that moment was for us humans, for those two dogs who were deeply entwined, the decision was not difficult. They took it in their own hands. It was sad, and makes me cry as I write this. And yet, it felt like the right thing to do. They knew what was happening, and made the decision simple. They taught me a lot about love and life and living and death; just another part of life. Although they were not here with us anymore, I still feel their presence and their love and their gift to each other and to us.
As I write this story, I would love to hear your animal stories and what you have learned from them.
A movie and book I recommend for us dog lovers is, Marly and Me. It is a very touching story, life affirming, and teaches us also about love.