Dogs can break your heart
but we know that.
These days, people live for 70 to 100 years. Dogs are alive for 8 to 16 years. The difference in the numbers is so great that there’s no real correspondence. WHY would a human bring a dog home to share home and love for 10 years (I’ll use that as median, ok?)? Gee, here’s this crazy, wild puppy, who we’ll manage with great sacrifice to raise to become a calm, faithful adult in 2 or 3 years; we’ll spend the remaining 8 (or even 14) years with this creature, sharing experiences, growing together, growing closer together, and when the dog is a teenager and we’re really tightly bonded, it is feeble, lame, sore, grumpy – aged. That’s if we’re lucky. In many cases the dog has experienced some years of chronic or even acute disease: cancer, heart problems, arthritis, etc. – and we’ve been taking care of a geriatric friend for years – who is a teenager! And then it dies.
If we were to have children and know that they’d die of old age in junior high school, how eager would we be to bring them forth into this world? I realize that dogs are not children (and thank God for that!), that dogs reach sexual maturity quite young and can have a multitude of offspring by the time they’re 7 or 8 years old. I realize that dogs and children are different. Really. But I’m talking about the commitment we feel, the LOVE we have for these dogs. The difference is even more painfully obvious if we are parents who have puppies that we raise with our children. We then have to deal with the compound loss – that of our beloved companion and the dawning of reality in our children.
Ah, but what would we do without them? Did you ever notice that dogs are habit forming? Once you have one, your life is missing something huge when you have none. And for most of us, that habit began in our childhood, with our family pet – even with our family pet who was our very best friend for all of our life and to whom we eventually had to wish farewell. And did we learn? Oh yes, we did learn. But what did we learn?
We learned that
- dogs love us no matter how “bad,” late, bumbling, forgetful, detached, distracted, inconsiderate and sloppy we may have been
- dogs have simple needs that we can fill easily
- dogs share with us an uncomplicated companionship that is nearly impossible to achieve with our human associates
- sharing our lives with dogs is worth the inevitable heartbreak
And funny thing is, these lessons hold true for us now, as they did when we were puppies and our dogs were teaching us about life.
So hug your dogs today. Their sojourn with us is short. Give them whatever you can – it will always be enough for them.
To Chili, Frenzy, Hogan and Moxie, all of whom left us in the last year.