Saturday, July 28, 2007

Two Kinds of People

Ihave never accepted the premise that there are "two kinds of people". You know what I mean..."there are two kinds of people, those who love country music and those who hate it", "...those who love Neil Diamond and those who hate him", " lovers and everyone else".
I started out wanting to say that anyone who is not a dog lover cannot fathom my grief over the loss of my dear canine companion, Barney.
I don't believe that's true, though, now that I think about it. I caught the tail end of a very stupid TV show the other day where a kid was grieving over the loss of his chameleon. The writing was terrible and the acting worse, and though I personally cannot warm up to the cold-blooded species, I could certainly feel for someone's loss.
Even so, I wonder...what makes some friends respond so lovingly and gently to the grief I feel over losing my dog (two people even sent me cards!), and some ignore it completely? One friend drove me and my dog to the vet and another one offered. My friend sat with me afterward for several hours, helping me get through, and then offered to go with me to pick up his ashes two days later.
Others merely questioned my decision, I know they were hoping there was some way I didn't have to go through this, but some questioned and felt I was wrong. Fortunately both vets I consulted said this was what had to be done and that I was doing the right thing. I knew I was, but it helped to hear it.
My precious puppy (at over 10 years old) had been getting more and more nervous over the past few months. I wasn't sure what to make of it, and it had only become a point of puzzlement, not concern, though to spare him, I would put him in the garage or laundry room when groups of people were over. I hadn't realized how much I had grown to distrust his reactions, but in retrospect I realize that I have been more and more careful to keep him from strangers or stressful situations.
Well, he got out and when he and my beagle came in contact with people, he got scared. The beagle is very friendly and will go to anyone who might provide food and/or a way home. A little boy threw himself around her, making Barney quite nervous and agitated. He began a low growl and showing all the fear signs in posture and vocalizations. The boy took compassion on him and threw himself on him to hug. Barney nipped at him, breaking the skin with one tooth. All witnesses say he reacted aggressively.
Now I am convinced that if Barney had wanted to hurt the boy, he would have done some real damage, but the fear-aggression response is too intense, and is one of the best indicators of a dog that will bite. Who knew? Not me. My very real fear, confirmed by both vets, is that this response was only likely to get worse, and the next time could be disfiguring or worse.
So I refused to allow myself to feel it, as much as possible, so that I could do the right thing, and now Barney is in a container on the mantle. This is not where he will stay, but my son is coming for a visit and dearly loved Barney, so I thought perhaps he would want to be part of the burial. We'll see. I can do it myself, but that would just emphasize the worst part of losing very alone I feel without him and how very much I miss him.
Anyway, I think I have discovered that there are people who love dogs and can reach out to you in your own grief, those who love dogs and are paralyzed because of it, people who don't love dogs, but love you enough to care about your grief, and those who don't love dogs and are baffled by your reaction. Then there are those who care so little for the well-being of others that it defies their understanding that you would do something that would cause you so much pain for the benefit of others. For a few moments now and then I envy them their self-centeredness. If I could live with utter disregard for the safety of others I would have my buddy with me. If I could convince myself that what I want is right because I want it, I would not be so sad and depressed.
As selfish as I can be, I cannot go there. I could not live with the fear of something happening to a child who wandered onto our property and scared the dog. I could not live with the horror if something happened that I could have prevented.
So I held my buddy, with him looking trustingly into my face, as he died. Thank heavens for the touch typing course I took many years ago, because my eyes are so full of tears I can barely see as I write this. I never really thought much about what happens to animals when they die, but I hope Billy Graham, John Calvin, J. Vernon McGee and others are right when they said animals will be in heaven. It seems too sad to think that my faithful friend simply ceased to exist at all.
Anyway, I'm sure there are many different ideas on this, even among the Protestant community--dog people or not.

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