Things I Learned from My Dog
I spent the past week avoiding my Facebook feed. Currently making the rounds on social media is the story of Duke Roberts, a dog suffering terminal cancer. His owner and a photographer friend documented the last day of his life in a viral blog post that became a Buzzfeed article, which found its way to me finally, yesterday.
I had resolved not to read it. I knew it would make me cry. I can’t handle dog stories. They are always tinged with the inevitability of loss. But after five friends reposted it, I gave in: masochism at its finest.
The images in the article show Duke playing with friends, neighbors, his groomer. He eats hamburgers. He plays in the water. And then his vet comes, and he dies.
It’s beautiful and heartwarming. I bawled my eyes out. I’m terrified of losing my own dogs. As soon as I was good and upset, I went to find Willie, because that’s what I do. She was absolutely patient about the infusion of blubbery Caroline hugs, which made me cry harder. They are so much better than us sometimes. How is it fair they get less time?
The short answer: it’s not. But nothing is fair. That’s lesson number one of having a dog. It’s not fair, but you do it anyway — because the good things outweigh the bad. Some others:
Approach every day with the boundless enthusiasm
Be happy about little things. Like tennis balls. They really are miracles.
Accept your people in various states of unhappiness. If they need to cry on your shoulder, let ‘em. Let them talk. Let your reassuring silence lead them to their own conclusions. Let your support heal.
Even if they’ve hurt your feelings or you’re in a bad mood, feel grateful to see the people you love walk through the door.
Smile at everybody. All the time.
Finally, don’t be so afraid of losing them that you waste the time you have. Don’t shy away from your dog, your sick relative, your elderly grandparents. Living with regret only increases the pain of loss. So in that spirit, I made Willie and I each a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich and we ate them and sat outside and watched the sunshine fade: our own poignant moment. And I resolved not to think about what will come until I had to. And we were happy. And right now, that’s how our story ends.