Living in Paradise

My Dog Days Are Gone

My Dog Days Are Gone

A text from a friend announced the passing of a mutual acquaintance who had been sick for some time. I expressed my condolences and then read a text from another person who was also on the string: “What about his girlfriend and his kids,” she said, sympathetically.

“What about his dog?” I chimed in.

“His dog?” my second friend responded. I could feel the judgment coming through the phone line.

“He loved that dog more than anything,” I replied – surprised she didn’t know that. “Surely he planned for the dog’s care, knowing that he wouldn’t be around much longer.”

None of us had an answer.

I thought of the many times I saw Mike and his beautiful golden retriever at the post office. The dog sitting up tall in the passenger seat of the golf cart with Mike surrounded by admiring women. Kipp, the dog, was indeed a chick magnet.

At our island’s annual dog show, Kipp was the Boca Bowser, a name given to the grand champ of all island canines. He was the second of Mike’s dogs to carry that honor. So, it was with sadness that I thought of Mike’s passing, while wondering what would happen to his beautiful companion.

Anyone who has had pets would understand. The death of a family pet is devastating. You miss the sweet thing terribly but life goes on. Maybe you get a new dog or cat to replace the departed one.

But imagine how an animal – especially a dog – must feel when one minute his master and center of his universe is there and the next he’s gone. No one can explain to the dog what happened or why his life is changing so suddenly and without warning.

Just about the cruelest thing a dog owner can do is neglect to think about what will happen to his pet if he dies first.

My friend who passed away about four years ago had a standard poodle, age 11, who was her sole companion. When she left to go to the drugstore one day she said what she always did: “You watch the house, honey, I’ll be back.”

But she didn’t come back, and the poor dog was beside himself.

That evening when the woman’s son entered the house the dog was still waiting for his master. At bedtime he went to her room and barked and howled throughout the night.

“He was calling to her,” the son observed.

Then came the question. “Who’s going to take care of Kramer?” No one seemed interested in an old dog used to living the life of an 80-year-old. When my friend’s granddaughter agreed to take him, I was relieved. He was too big and undisciplined for me to handle. My man wasn’t interested either.

Poor Kramer lived for another eight months and then died from what I assume was grief.

On our island, where the dog population almost outnumbers the humans, the stories of heartbreak are numerous. Like the woman who died, leaving behind two small dogs – one housebroken and the other not. Her caretakers spent six months trying to find a home for the pair. Another small dog, also not properly trained, was given to the owner of the island beauty shop – a woman with a heart of gold – when her elderly master passed away. No one else wanted the messy little creature. Another dog who was given to an elderly lady as a companion was so aggressive that he had to be put to sleep.

So, when my friend Marcy sends me endearing photos of Corgi puppies, I just smile to myself and remember the fun I had with Keebler. I still miss her, along with my Shetland Sheepdogs, Mutton and Lambchop.

But there are no pets in my future. For their sake, more than mine, my dog days are gone.

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