The thing about dead dog stories….

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When it comes to a good dog, he is always with us. (Illustration by: Sean Delonas)


A few months ago, in the pages of a magazine, a writer quoted his editor as saying, “No more dead dog stories. I understand his intention. Too often, our dogs’ stories are simply the end of their lives. He didn’t want to fill the pages of a dog magazine with death and tug at the reader’s emotional heart by replaying the constant endings of Old Yeller.

More dead dog stories. Yet somehow this statement misses the ultimate question of a dog’s existence. For those of us who have owned a dog, when we bring home that little furry ball, we finally know the end of the story. Because of the difference in longevity, we know that barring disaster, we will live well beyond our dog’s years. More dead dog stories. Yet every story is ultimately the story of a dead dog. We share about a decade of our lives with these companions, and then many of them, especially the good ones, are gone way too soon. We know it when we bring them home, bring them into our families, our lives, and ultimately into our hearts. We continue to do so knowing the eventual and inevitable injury. One day there will be an empty corner where Pepper once slept, her fur woven into the fabric of the rug as if it were designed that way. More dead dog stories.

Gone, but never forgotten

The thing about dead dog stories, however, is that they never went away, at least for us. They are always with us, always in our hearts. Is it wishful thinking to hope against hope that a dog who never lost a retrieve and would run through a wall (or screen door) to be by our side, could somehow another breaking the deadly bounds of time? When my dad moved Sport’s collar from the cabinet in the garage and I heard the vet tags clink, no part of me found it ridiculous to turn around and expect to see her running across the deck. , just like the day Dad first brought her home. Although she’s been dead for over a decade, is it crazy to know that a small part of us never accepts that she’s really gone? Was it less insane to watch Dad hold the necklace for a moment and then bring it back where it came from? Is it worse to know that this necklace remains, to this day, in its current place even after dad, himself, joined it as a souvenir?

When we invite that wavy furball into our lives, we also invite them into our soul. When my eldest son was three years old, I stayed one evening with him and his little sister while my wife went out with her sisters. As a good father, I sat with my daughter in front of the TV. Eventually I realized that my son was nowhere to be found. As I was looking around the house for him, I went to the porch and found him huddled between our two Labradors, coloring. I stood in the doorway and watched him as he occasionally petted either of the dogs, telling them what he was coloring. Tippy, whom I brought home and loved, adopted my son with the same love and devotion. I arrive at the corner of the street and I see all three of them sitting there, motionless.

The best live games

More dead dog stories. Yet they are not dead, at least not for us. From the moment the man first invited a wolf to join him by the campfire, our collective memories were intertwined. They do their job with devout determination to bring our first pheasant, charge through the fire to get that first treasure, and then one day do the same for our child. They celebrate the birth of our children by adopting them as their own and listen through our tears when we bury our father. They are happy to celebrate our joys and give every ounce to help ease our pain. Time smoothes away the rough edges, and we forget the time Rusty chewed on the underground sprinkler wire, but remember her vigilantly protecting us when we camped in the yard. Their names may change during our lifetime, but they never go away. When it comes to a good dog, he is always with us. They would never abandon us in life, and they will certainly remain faithful long after their death. No matter how old we are, these are never “dead dog stories”. For us, they never really died.

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