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All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
from the Anglican hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful”
Milestone events often inspire reflection. Though many would think it morbid, funerals often end with laughter as memories of happier times are shared. Who can forget the memorable cemetery scene from Steel Magnolias where Truvy declares “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” As my family enters the intense focus of final planning for our youngest daughter’s upcoming wedding, a sense of reflection swirls around us. Decisions large and small are examined from every angle with the awareness that we are creating memories for her. We want them to be wonderful. As she enters this new phase of her life, we also want to remind her of other times shared by her first family. Poring over the treasure trove of photos collected during the past quarter century, there are those that make me smile through tears…those capturing the furry friends we have lost.
We are mostly a dog family, though the occasional cat has set up housekeeping in our hearts. Most have lived very long lives. While it is wonderful to have them for so long, the grief can be devastating when we lose them. For a while, it seemed there were more goodbyes than we could bear. My girls said we were running a nursing home for dogs because our dogs were so old. I guess it was to be expected, but difficult all the same. There was Benji, a miniature schnauzer, the girls dubbed Bee-joo. My granny tried really hard to get us to let her have him after an extended visit. Dabber, the mixed breed who won the dog lottery. My sister found her on side of the road one night in a mud puddle, too young to be without her mother and loaded with mange. We took her despite having a full doghouse and not much extra money. One week later, someone broke into the animal shelter where she would have been taken and killed all the animals. Boofy, a very unusual white miniature schnauzer, who chose our Bride at the pet store. When her Dad refused to buy the dog, she quit speaking to him for almost a week (the only time she has ever done anything like this in her life.) One month later, we visited the same pet store and guess who was still there – and marked down to the arbitrary price her Dad said he would have paid after that fateful first visit. She had him for almost 17 years. Bert, another miniature schnauzer,the essence of a gentleman in a dog’s body. Bert always barked at the doggie door and waited until he was invited in. He once saved Boofy’s life when he fell into a freezing swimming pool by barking until I came to investigate. Bandit, my husband’s 80 pound basset hound. He was afraid of flies and camera-shy. A gentle giant in our hearts. And finally, Dudley “Booger” Dawson (from the movie Revenge of the Nerds), a tabby cat with white markings. He lived with our Bride when she moved away for college. She was his third owner and she adored him. Dudley returned the love in true cat fashion. He was a great hunter, often leaving his latest “catch” on her pillow.
My grandchildren were watching the movie All Dogs Go To Heaven recently when my granddaughter posed the age-old question -”Do dogs go to heaven?” Before I could gather my thoughts to reply, my grandson piped up “Of course they do! They are waiting for us up there.” I couldn’t have said it better. RIP old friends, we’ll meet again one day.
My favorite pet reading:
Marshall Saunders’ Beautiful Joe (a favorite from childhood)