Can’t Escape the Ghost of You

The True Value of Companionship

Came in from a rainy Thursday on the avenue
Thought I heard you talking softly
I turned on the lights, the TV, and the radio
Still I can’t escape the ghost of you

What has happened to it all?
Crazy some’d say
Where is the life that I recognize?
Gone away

A couple years ago, a friend of mine lost his pet of 18 years. He was telling me that sometimes at night he sees her run across the room. That made me think of the lyrics from the Duran Duran song, Ordinary World (1993).

More than three years after she crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I still see Lucy. I used to think I was whacked; but, my friend is not the first person to tell me about seeing a pet after it left this world – and none of them have spent time in a psychiatric hospital, except me. So, while I may be a little crazy, I know they aren’t.

My evangelical Christian father would have declared Lucy a figment of my imagination since only human beings have souls that live on after death. Even at the evangelical Bible college I attended, one of my professors pronounced that our beloved pets would not be in heaven because…you know what’s coming, don’t you…they don’t have souls.

Do Dogs Have Souls

Will Rogers once said: If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go to where they went. Even though I don’t believe in the Christian idea of heaven, I embrace this sentiment with open arms. If we do live forever, what kind of hell would that be to face eternity without the pets that made our lives complete during their all-too-brief time with us.

Mark Twain said: Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in. How could dogs be excluded from any heaven, when they deserve to be there more than we do? Would a benevolent deity deny entry to the very creatures that many believe epitomizes that god’s attributes of love, acceptance, loyalty, selflessness, service and, forgiveness?

Doggy Devil

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote: You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.  Anthropologists posit that early humans created devils and demons to explain natural disasters and other misfortunes. In modern times, some believe that the idea of Satan is perpetuated by people who need to believe that there is something in the universe more evil and pernicious than humans.

So, anyway, sometimes at night I see my Boston Terrier, Lucy. Maybe she is a figment of my imagination. Maybe she is still with me. I hear her bark during the day and, very often when I’m driving, I experience an overwhelming sensation that Lucy is right there beside me. I look at the doggy car seat on the passenger side and I’m always surprised not to see her sitting there, watching me.

Even though I know she cannot possibly be there. Or can she? What do you believe?

~ George

That’s one True Value of Companionship.

A good dog never dies. He always stays. He walks besides you on crisp autumn days when frost is on the fields and winter’s drawing near. His head is within our hand in his old way. – Mary Carolyn Davies

Want to read more?

Rauser, R. 31 October 1912. Are demons responsible for natural evil? Retrieved online at: https://randalrauser.com/2012/10/are-demons-responsible-for-natural-evil/

 

Hamilton, M. 07 July 2013. What does it mean to live in a fallen world? Retrieved online at: https://thepagenebula.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/what-does-it-mean-to-live-in-a-fallen-world/

 

Geggel, L. 02 October 2016. Where did satan come from? Retrieved online at: https://www.livescience.com/56341-where-did-satan-come-from.html

 

Kiger, P. The devil: Understanding the root of evil. Retrieved online at: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/the-story-of-god-with-morgan-freeman/articles/the-devil-understanding-the-root-of-evil/

You and I

Rocky teaches me the True Value of Companionship through his unconditional love and unselfish devotion.

I dreamed last night about you and I.

I dreamed we were running together

Something neither you nor I have

Been able to do well for some time.

Me with my knees and you with your heart.

What a broken-down pair of old men we are,

You and I.

But run we did in my dream last night.

We ran together toward the sun rising in the East

And it occurred to me, in my dream,

That we should be running West,

To where days end for such as you and I.

Not toward the East, where days begin

For boys and pups,

Younger than you and I.

When I woke, I pondered my dream

And decided the message

Is that we’re not done yet.

We still have miles to go, you and I.

Old though we may be,

We are more than just an old man, an old dog.

We are whatever we decide to be

We have chapters left to write

In the book of our lives.

Places to go, things to do, people to see.

We will never be young again,

We will never be boy and pup again;

But, we can be anything and everything else.

Anything we two can dream. You and I.

That’s the True Value of Companionship.

True Value of Companionship
Rocky 042916

Tired of Missing You

The True Value of Love

I only wept once today over missing you

And wondered if that meant my grief was less

Overwhelming than it was last year.

Or the year before.

Might it mean that I’ve grown tired of missing you?

Or, that finally, after three years of grieving

Perhaps I’m running out of tears.

Might it mean that I feel less, or care less

Than I did last year? Or, the year before?

I do not, cannot, will not believe this is true!

Ellen replaced you, you know, a few weeks after you

Crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Replaced. What an unkind and uncaring word!

Like renting out the bedroom so soon after

A loved one is gone.

We named her Stella, a French Bulldog puppy

Just eight weeks old and unaware

Of my unreasonable expectation that

She would fill the hole that losing you

Had left in my heart.

She was never you – never could be you

Never will be you

And I was afraid to love her

As if loving innocent Stella would

Somehow betray your memory.

While I knew that her purpose, her place, was

Not to replace you,

It took almost all three of the years since you left

For me to love her.

Like I loved you.

And, the most amazing thing happened as I invested more

Attention and more affection and more love

In Stella.

I began to weep less over missing you.

And, as I spent more time petting and rubbing and

Scratching Stella, I noticed how much she felt

Just like you.

I noticed how much she enjoyed being scratched

Behind the ears and

Stroked under her chin

Just like you did.

And, she returned my affection, sought out my attention and

Began snuggling with me on the floor or the sofa

Or the bed at night.

Like you always did. And it occurred to me

How much like you Stella is.

So, every year we celebrate another birthday for Stella.

And, every year we remember when you

Crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Three birthdays now to celebrate Stella’s exuberant life.

Three anniversaries to remember when you left us

To run and play in fields beyond that Bridge.

And, as I thought about you today and all that you

Meant and mean to me, I understood that

Just because I only wept for you once today,

That does not mean I love you less or miss you

Less or remember you less than I did last year.

Or the year before.

I rather think it means that I remember to love Stella

Like I loved you.

And, I rather think it means that the piece of my heart

That died with you has grown back in the form

Of a French Bulldog named Stella.

While neither she or any other will ever

Replace you in my heart,

I have grown to embrace another little girl

Who loves me and needs me

And wants to be with me.

Just like you, precious Lucy.

Just exactly like you.

Forever loved. Forever missed.

Forever in my heart.

That’s the True Value of Love

Lucy Elliott-Applegate (102501 – 080614)

Do Dogs Grieve?

Do you believe dogs are capable of feeling grief?

I don’t believe all dogs, as a species, experience grief. They aren’t even sufficiently self-aware to recognize themselves in a mirror. I think many dogs instinctively react to the grief we, ourselves, feel – to our distress, to our sadness and sense of loss. But not all dogs.

Indian Elephant at Los Angeles Zoo_111017

There are species that we know do experience grief: elephants, dolphins, otters, doves, wolves, to name a few. I wonder why wolves grieve but not domesticated dogs? In any event, grief is not something uniquely human any more than love is uniquely human.

Let me tell you a story that I believe shows that some dogs can, and do, grieve.

Baby Lucy_Dec 2001

Lucy was 10-years old when we adopted our second Boston Terrier, Rocky, in 2011. The relationship between these two was more of Oh, so you live here, too? rather than Oh, you’re my favorite brother! Until 2014.

In January 2014, Lucy started losing her hair, growing a pot belly, getting eye and ear infections, and having urinary and gastrointestinal problems, and was always thirsty. Our veterinarian, who had done her cancer surgery a few years earlier, said the hair loss and pot belly were due to age and treated the infections as unrelated issues.

Lucy kept getting worse and we switched to a new vet in April who conducted an ultrasound and diagnosed her with Cushings Disease. With treatment, a dog with Cushings can live as long as three years; but, the disease ravaged Lucy and she crossed the Rainbow Bridge just eight months after onset of symptoms.

Lucy Cushings Disease_071514
Lucy – Three Weeks Before the End

As Lucy suffered and her symptoms improved from the treatment, then got even worse, the one constant throughout the entire ordeal was Rocky. For the last three months of her life, he never left her side.

During Lucy’s illness – or, perhaps because of it – she and Rocky formed a strong emotional bond. He became her constant companion right up until the end. Rocky ate when she ate – or didn’t eat when Lucy was too ill to eat. He sat or lay beside her. He slept when she slept. He even adjusted his bathroom habits so he went outside when she went – no matter how often she had to go out.

Rocky Never Left Lucy’s Side

For the last three months of her life, he never left her side. Then the day came when we took Lucy to the vet and returned home without her. Rocky was disconsolate and kept searching the house and yard. And he grieved. Oh, how he grieved. He would stand or sit in his crate by himself, facing the wall, obviously depressed. He wouldn’t eat. He wouldn’t play.

It was as if all the oxygen had been sucked out of Rocky’s world. All the happiness and exuberance – all the things that made him, well, Rocky, were gone.

Animal emotion and cognition expert, Marc Bekoff, writes: Animal’s emotions are raw, unfiltered, and uncontrolled. Their joy is the purest most contagious of joys and their grief the deepest and most devastating.

My concern over his well-being led me to agree with Ellen’s suggestion to get a French Bulldog puppy. Even though Rocky and I were still lost in our grief.

And so, baby Stella joined our family.

Slowly, incrementally, things began to change as his interest in her grew.

And her interest in him grew.

And Rocky became her guardian and constant companion.

And slowly but surely, he got his Happy back.

But sometimes, when I couldn’t find him, I’d go into our bedroom where Lucy’s bed was still in the corner. And I’d find Rocky there. Sometimes sitting there staring like Lucy had been on her bed the entire time and his were the only eyes that could see her. Sometimes just lying there surrounded by her lingering scent, smelling her more clearly than my nose ever could, as if she had just that moment left the room.

I would sit or lay beside him, just Rocky and me, sharing a few minutes of silence, remembering Lucy, missing Lucy, grieving Lucy. Most of all, loving Lucy. In those moments, I knew that Rocky felt the same soul-crushing grief that I felt.

And that’s how I know that some dogs, at least, can grieve.

Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives. – John Galsworthy

~ George

If you’re interested in reading more about animals and grief, check out these resources:

M. Bekoff. (29 October 2009). Grief in animals: It’s arrogant to think we’re the only animals who mourn. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/200910/grief-in-animals-its-arrogant-think-were-the-only-animals-who-mourn

A. Heguy. (26 February 2016). Do animals grieve? Retrieved from: https://www.quora.com/Do-animals-grieve

C. Lewis (07 November 2016). Do animals grieve? Retrieved from: https://www.buddhistdoor.net/news/do-animals-grieve

C. Safina. (08 July 2015). The depths of animal grief. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/nature/animal-grief/

Unknown. (03 May 2017). Animal grief. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_grief

Wish I Knew You When

The True Value of Second Chances

I saw a Great Dane puppy today that made me think of you. Tall and gangly, boisterously romping and tromping through grass and shrubs and flower beds. Excited by everything, as if this puppy had suddenly sprung into existence; and, was experiencing life for the very first time!

Saved from http://www.dogtricktips.com/great-danes-information-and-facts/6/

Nothing about the Great Dane pup I saw was anything like you at all. It was all legs and tail and ears moving in several directions at the same time.

You are short, compact, and muscular. Its muzzle was long while you’re a card-carrying member of the Flat-Faced Dog Society. The Great Dane was still a puppy, whereas you’re a senior. Although still a puppy, it was already a big dog and getting bigger – did I mention how short you are?

What I want to believe is that what I saw today in that very large puppy is what you were like once, when you were young. When life, for you, was new. I love everything about you – except the illness that will take you away forever. Someday.

I love the adult you that I met six years ago. But, I wish I knew you when you were an innocent puppy – when life was new. Before you were given away by the person you loved and trusted. Before you were forcibly removed from the only home – the only life – you’d ever known.

Familiar sights, smells, tastes, and textures were gone forever – replaced by an unknown, scary place where even your food and bed were different. And mommy’s cats were gone. Mommy had lots of cats and you peed in the house so she wouldn’t forget about you. So she would remember to love you, too.

My Rocky Boy_070217

Then, we met. You were in a crate inside Choice Pet Market at Scottsdale Road and Shea Blvd, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Driving by, Ellen saw the Arizona Boston Terrier Rescue Adoption Event sign.

On impulse, we stopped and went in. I wasn’t even looking for another dog. We already had a Boston, a Boxer, and a Pug at home. When I saw you for the first time, I turned to Ellen and said: “That’s him! That’s my dog!” You sealed the deal by jumping onto my lap and licking my face.

I have to confess that I. Did. Not. Like your name. Rocky. Who names their dog Rocky?! Turns out a lot of people do. The American Kennel Club (AKC) reports that, in 2016, Rocky was the 6th most popular name for male dogs. I learned to tolerate it, and later actually like it – after The Beatles played Rocky Raccoon in my head for a few months.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/0jwzCXYERls

Rocky, Rock, Rock Monster, Rock Star, Rocky Boy, Rocky the Rock Elliott. My good boy. My best boy. We’ve grown older together, you and I – you, a little faster than I. Six years ago, you were 3 ½ years old and still had a little puppy left in you. We ran, played, tugged and went exploring when we got sidetracked on our walks. We played in the snow in Denver, ran on the beach in Los Angeles, and panted in the heat in Phoenix.

Your enthusiasm and unbridled joy has never diminished. You love absolutely everything! You always start every walk tugging on your leash, like we’re embarking on the Greatest Adventure Ever!

When you started reaching the end of even short walks with a loose leash, breathless, and needing to be carried up the stairs, our vet at San Dimas Animal Hospital confirmed that you’re in Congestive Heart Failure.

How I hate that three-word death sentence. My grandmother – the one person I loved more than anyone else – died from congestive heart failure.

I know that you could live for years – just not the life we lived before. You don’t even know you’re sick.

Today, our walks are shorter and our rest times longer. Today, we sit together on the floor or stairs or sofa while I pet you and you lick me with more saliva than a Saint Bernard. Or, I talk to you while you look at me like you understand every word – and then lick me with more saliva than a Saint Bernard.

We don’t get to hike and the camera captures fewer action shots of you; but we always have each other. I think I’ll get one of those K9 Sport Sacks or some other backpack dog carrier and lug your 30# around on my back. He ain’t heavy, He’s my puppy!

So, when I saw a Great Dane puppy today acting as if every moment was the Greatest Adventure Ever! it made me think of you. I am jealous of everyone who knew you as the rambunctious, pocket-sized tornado that Boston Terrier puppies usually are.

Mostly, I found myself wishing that we had met sooner so we could have lived more and loved longer.

You’re a Good Boy, Rocky. You’re the Best Boy.

That’s the True Value of Second Chances

~ George

Hey, please feel free to share stories about your dog(s). I would love to hear from you!!

BTW, what was the most popular name for boy-type dogs in 2016? Find out here:

Kriss, R. (2016, December 5) These are the most popular dog names of 2016. Retrieved from:  http://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/popular-dog-names-2016/