There’s really nothing more beautiful, captivating or inexplicable than the deep love many people feel for their pets. I’ve had the privilege and honor to have six dogs living in my house at one time or another. Actually, if someone were to ask me what makes my heart sing my answer would be quite simple. Dogs and animals do it for me. They’ve made me smile and they’ve made me sad. There’s nothing more devastating than losing a good friend and I’ve had to put down every one of the six dogs that have been part of my family.Recently, I witnessed my son-in-law having to put down his dog “Snoopy” because a nasty cancer had invaded her beautiful Labrador body. My son-in-law Gerry, who stands 6’4” and weighs close to 250 pounds, is no crybaby. But when the time came for him to say goodbye to “Snoopy”, this football player and hard-nosed athlete could barely bid farewell to his buddy and companion. His anguish was as profound and devastating as any I’ve ever seen.
I’ve shed a lot of tears in my life. Every time I’ve had to say goodbye to one of my pets I haven’t been able to control my emotions. I’ve bellowed like a baby and taken off for days, refusing to speak to anyone until I could gather together my emotions.
The bond between a human and a pet can’t be explained. Of course, people have tried but I’ve yet to read or hear anything that captures the emotion of losing a dear friend and buddy. Think about it - this relationship; free of pretense, requirements, conditions or contracts. And yet, you end up with a devoted friend that gives you every ounce of his love, attention and interest. His entire world revolves around you and there are no strings attached.
No matter how many so-called “experts” try to explain the relationship between a human and a pet, they miss an element that can never be written down on paper or poured into a test tube. The secret ingredient, of course, is love – a feeling we crave more today than ever before. The emptiness, anxiety and materialism of our lives often leave us feeling bored, listless and disconnected. Surrounded by gadgets and bewitched by phony entertainment, we need the simplicity and authenticity that a pet provides.
This column came about because of the news I received about a dear friend. He’s a successful business man who loves his wife, family and country. I play golf with him as often as I can because he’s fun to be with and he can hit the golf ball a mile. His wife is a famous author and he basks in her success. As we were between shots on the golf course last weekend, he told me that his dog “Atlas” was suffering but he didn’t know why. He thought that it could be arthritis or “something” but he wasn’t sure. He also told me that he was going to take “Atlas” to a specialty veterinary center after we finished our round of golf. Over the years, John has told me many stories about his beloved dog. When I saw them together they never failed to delight me with their great sense of wonder and adventure.
John described Atlas as a “big dog”, gentle with kids and always full of mischief. When he talked about Atlas there was a smile on his face no matter what the situation. To John, Atlas was one in a million.
One morning, John didn’t appear at the first tee. No phone call, no advance warning. He didn’t come and that wasn’t like him. After finishing golf I received a phone message from John saying that Atlas still wasn’t right and he needed to take him to an emergency clinic. That was the last I heard from John until late today when his secretary told me that John had put Atlas to sleep the night before because of an inoperable brain tumor. Just like that, John had lost his friend and companion. I can only imagine what he’s feeling as he flies to the East Coast on business with his wife.
So what is my message? Nothing really, aside from the fact that it’s important to gather those you love, pets, children, grandchildren, wives, husbands and colleagues around you - whenever you can. Cherish and love them. Tell them they make your life full and satisfying. Do it and do it now. Don’t wait. Tomorrow may be too late.