Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about man’s best friend, the faithful dog. You have to read it with a Kleenex in your hand for you will very surely shed some tears. The first verse prepares the reader with: “There is sorrow enough in the natural way from men and women to fill our day; And when we are certain of sorrow in store, Why do we always arrange for more? Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware of giving your heart to a dog to tear.” I remember our first dog, a sad eyed Cocker Spaniel that we named “Lucky” because we felt he was lucky that we chose him and we were very lucky to have him. As the years passed there were other dogs but one Sunday, which was the last Sunday my dad was to serve as the associate in a beautiful downtown Atlanta church, a small puppy wandered in off the street and someone handed her to the pastor as he was closing the morning service and having the congregation say goodbye to our family, he quickly turned and handed the small puff of fur into the giant, gentle hands of my dad. We named her “Cricket” and as she grew older so did we until the day seventeen years later that the doctor told us there was no hope for her and we had to let them put her peacefully to sleep. It was near Christmas, December 17, 1971 and as long as it has been we still cannot talk about her without crying.
I decided I would never love another dog, just couldn’t break my own heart that way ever again, but then along came a five-week-old mixed black lab named Reuben and we all fell in love again. I put Reuben into the hands of my 10-year-old son on April 1, 1991 and they loved each other with all the passion a little boy and his dog can share. It ended the day he came running into the house when he was a freshman at Georgia Tech his face white and his eyes huge with terror, “Mom I think Reuben is dying”. Oh my God the rushed trip to the vet, sure enough Reuben, our wonderful and faithful friend had suffered a stroke and died.
Again I swore off having another canine friend, but then a teacup poodle named P’nut lit up the blue eyes of my granddaughter the Christmas she was 5, then a foundling that we called Ruby because she was the female image of our beloved Reuben came into our home, another opportunity to love and wait for the inevitable heartache that will come. The last time we took P’nut to the Vet she had the audacity to suggest we put P’nut to sleep because he wouldn’t have “quality” of life! That was over a year ago and he still loved to eat, loved to lick our toes and he loved to be loved by all of us. As a bonus P’nut got to boss Ruby around! They were an odd pair with Ruby being so big and P’nut so tiny, but when they rubbed noses and kissed every morning it made me smile and I would think about the time when we are living in a new heaven and a new earth that all the animals will be at peace with each other and with us.
Isaiah 11:6-9 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.”
Today we had to put our P’nut to rest after 12 hours of seizures, there was just no other choice, he was an old man who was 15 on October 16. Now we are left with Ruby who is no longer the skinny foundling but a mature lady at 8. As she came and lay by my side as I wrote this I thought of another verse from Mr. Kipling’s poem and I will leave you with these words: “When the fourteen years which Nature permits Are closing in asthma, or tumor, or fits, And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs To lethal chambers or loaded guns, Then you will find–it’s your own affair– But — you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.”