Today our hearts are broken.
Several years ago a good friend, talking about the nature of being a dog owner, said that when we welcome a new puppy into our family, we know (if only subconsciously) even in that happy time that we are making a commitment to be there all the way through the incredibly sad time that will be end of that dog’s life, with all its accompanying feelings of sorrow and loss.
Still, we do it gladly, knowing that all the joyful companionship and love that will result from having this dog as a member of our crew will be totally and completely worth it. We never dream that our time with our beloved pet may be cut unexpectedly short.
I have watched countless times while Roadie would follow visitors departing in their vehicles -- the UPS or FedEx delivery guy, my brother, whoever -- down to the end of the paved part of our driveway, stop and watch them drive out on the gravel drive to the road and over the railroad tracks to the highway and out of sight, and then, after having seen them safely away, turn around and trot back up the driveway to the house. We’ll never know what curiosity or scent caught his attention and led him out to the highway.
It wasn’t until I was hugging Paul and telling him what had happened that my tears started to flow, and I just couldn’t stop crying for a long, long while. All the other dogs were gathered around watching and listening, curious as to why we were so sad. And curious as to why I was so late with my 4:30 p.m. daily playfully teasing question to them, “Is it time to feed the dogs?”
I finally gathered myself enough to start getting the dog bowls together on the kitchen table, and when I looked at the blank place on the table where Roadie’s bowl should have been, of course tears started streaming down my face. Again, I cried and cried as I scooped the food into their bowls, making their evening meal a little saltier than usual.
And I never expected that his death would hit me so soul-rackingly hard.
Really I should have known, though, because after all was said and done he had become much more than viable. He was exuberant, funny, adoring of Paul and me, rowdy and rough with the big dogs and still rowdy but gentle with the smallest. Like most dogs he LOVED car rides and got the absolute most out of them by sticking his head out the window and laughing in the wind. And he was undeniably the never-met-a-stranger friendliest dog I have ever known. Really. I’m not just saying that because I love him so much. It’s just plain fact that he possessed a heart as big as the outdoors he loved to romp around in.
And this morning when I sat up and swung my feet over the edge of the bed to the floor, where my toes brushed against the side of his dog bed, still with the blanket rumpled just as he left it yesterday at approximately 4:00 a.m. (same as every morning) to go get a drink of water and then return, stealthily climb up past Trixie’s sleeping form at my feet and (same as every morning) ensconce himself cozily between Paul and me, nuzzling my neck to remind me of the fact that breakfast time was a mere two and a half hours away, and then roll over to lay his head on Paul’s chest and fall into a Z-stacking snooze until time for said breakfast.
But this morning my gaze fell on empty, rain-drenched pasture. No horses, no cows,
And no Roadie to bound along beside me and run circles around me when I walked out to the road after lunch to get the mail. Just more tears.
This afternoon, sitting down to write this, I just sat looking at my blank page for a few minutes trying to gather my thoughts and, again out of habit, I turned my head to look out the second-story window where so many times in the past I would see him contentedly lying in the front yard, and something caught my eye about halfway down the driveway. I couldn’t quite make out what it was because of the tree branches in the way so, partly out of curiosity and partly out of thinking a little fresh air would make it easier to think, I put on my jacket, walked outside and headed down the driveway. When I got close enough to the object and started to realize what it was, fresh tears welled up.
It was Roadie’s beloved Pink Bear, which he found abandoned in our neighbor’s garage a couple of years ago, and which they said he could keep. He used to carry it around from place to place around the outside of the house. Sometimes I’d find it out back, sometimes out under the oak tree, sometimes the front porch, sometimes the back. As destructive as he was with everything else -- cardboard boxes, throw pillows, books, shoes, etc. -- he never chewed up that bear or tried to unstuff it. After two years of Roadie’s playing with that bear and tossing it around and nuzzling it and carrying it from place to place, the only signs of wear and tear that it’s suffered are two missing eyes and being faded to almost white by the summer sun.
There he was, lying on the edge of the driveway, right where Roadie had dropped him the last time he would ever play with him. Just yesterday.
A few days ago I was out in the yard cleaning up a bit with Roadie “helping” me, throwing some trash in a dumpster we temporarily have out on the front patio to make cleaning up and getting ready to move that much easier. I picked Pink Bear up off the grass, looked at its shabby, dirty, bedraggled self and said to Roadie, how ’bout we throw this guy in the dumpster and get you a new toy? I started toward the dumpster and Roadie raced past me, snatching Pink Bear out of my grasp and running away around the side of the house. Okay, I thought, I guess we’ll keep him a little while longer.
Six dogs and three cats comprise the other cherished pets in our household. It seems that somehow they are sensing our sadness, and keeping close to us today. They depend on us and we love each and every one. I know from experience that as time passes remembering Roadie will bring more smiles and fewer tears for both Paul and me. And I’m grateful to God for designing us that way.
But until then, and for today, there’s a Roadie-sized hole in our lives, our hearts and our family.
And Roadie was a great big dog.