Dogs on Valentines

It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon, quite a change from Friday’s 3 inch blizzard, and I’m just in from a long walk with the dog, Sam. If you wonder what single, unattached folks do on Valentines day, well, there you have it. We walk with our dogs. I am still struck at how much we, people single and married and young and old, can love our animals. I was reminded of such a few days ago.
You might remember a eulogy that I wrote in tribute to my old dog, Tyler, a few years ago. The piece was really more about my Dad, who endured and shared my grief on the long morning of Tyler’s death, than it was about my dog.
This past week, I was given the chance to repay my dad’s kindness.
On Monday, I played at a pleasant gathering about 4 hours from home. While I was there, brother Gary called to pass along the news that Dad’s dog, Pepper, had been diagnosed with very advanced cancer which, mercifully, had done nothing to effect Pepper’s demeanor or activity until just a couple of days ago, when he seemed a bit lethargic and slow of breath.
On Tuesday, I woke up early, drove home in a rain that seemed appropriate to the mood of the day, and arrived at the farm about half past nine. A teary-eyed Dad informed me that he and Mom had decided to put Pepper down, which they did mid-day, at the hand of the same gentle vet who used to take care of Tyler. That afternoon, we buried Pepper beside the chapel in a pelting rain.
Dad apologized for being a ‘crybaby.’ I don’t think I’d like him nearly as much if he were too manly to weep at the loss of a loved one.
I was on good terms with Pepper; he would stay in my house when the folks were out of town, even slept at the foot of my bed, but there was never any doubt whose he was and where he’d rather be. And there is one thing in particular that I’ll remember about him. He could on occasion be quite a yapper, a noisy, barky, poorly disciplined boutique dog. And he got his share of scoldings from everyone, including A.C., from time to time. But there was one place where he was safe from every rolled up newspaper or magazine in the county. …
Dad had a way of holding Pepper, in the crook of his arm, in which Pepper sat upright and with a look on his face that usually seemed to say, “you cannot touch me here.” And he was right. That cradle at Dad’s elbow, right next to his heart, was a haven of refuge to that little 10 pounds of canine flesh, and when he was there, he was immune from any ill temper or unkind gesture that the world might intend for him. That picture is a good one, and points to Something higher.
Might we all be so fortunate to have such a place in this world.
Sweet dreams Pepper. Tell Tyler his old friend still misses him.