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/

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