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Thursday, February 28, 2013

a tribute to our animal companions

I found out in my 20s that sharing something beautiful makes it twice as beautiful, whether you share it with a human companion or an animal companion. I've walked dogs every day since 1986. Today, the last day of February 2013, marks the first time in almost 30 years I haven't walked a dog (usually two dogs). I can't begin to tell you how hollow that feels. Today it's in the 50s F and the sun is shining, the sky is blue, a fresh wind is blowing. What should have happened this morning was I should have gone into the garage where the dog sleeps, woken him up (if he wasn't up already), had a great reunion of smiles and tail wags and fur rubs, then headed out along the frozen creek and out under the gleam of the white-capped Rockies for another adventure. We'd have seen magpies and ravens and nuthatches and chickadees. We'd have seen whitetails and mulies and maybe a fox or a set of cougar tracks. There'd have been other dogs to greet and my dog would have found many fascinating smells to smell. We'd have gone out in joy and returned in even more joy. Before Alaska and his mate Denali there was Yukon and his mate Nahanni - Alaska and Denali purebred Malamutes, Yukon and Nahanni golden labs crossed with coyote. When we lost Yukon we knew we wanted a breed with long muzzles, sharp ears, bushy tails, and a look that said Northern and wilderness. By a striking blessing, I was grieving over the loss of Yukon, our white male lab-coyote, when we found a place that offered Alaskan Malamutes and picked up Alaska and Denali. The mother that raised them (they were just seven weeks) was Nahanni. They adored her. She may have been half their size but they bonded to her and went with her wherever she decided to go. Losing her was as cruel as losing Yukon but at least we had the puppies. Now all my dogs are gone. I feel like I died along with them. When Alaska left us yesterday there were no puppies to turn to for a renewal of joy and life. I should have shared the morning sunshine and mountains with Alaska today. Should be able to cross to the window now and seeing him lying in the sun by his beloved 100 foot high pines and Colorado blue spruce. But the beauty is half as beautiful today because I can't share it. The kids are grown up and at university now. My wife is an RN and at the clinic. And all the dogs I have loved are in a different reality now that I can't be part of. I write my books alone now but I have one blessing - Kokomo, my 4 year old tabby cat. Who doresn't know where her big brother Alaska has gone. Ah, the walk with the silent companions. Not just with dogs but cats too. And the communion with pet birds within the house. And other animals as well. Sure, dogs bark or woof and have their spoken language, cats meow and purr, horses knicker and whinny and stamp their hooves, birds whistle and sing and call. But most of the relationship is in silence. A rich warm silence of eyes and tails and feathers and fur. My dogs spoke to me without English or French or Spanish. They had the universal language of love down pat. It makes for a different depth of relationship than you get with most humans. There are words and commands but the relationship does not rely on words and commands. The relationship relies on what is said with the eyes and the tone of the voice and with the heart. I remember weeping over the death of my mother and Yukon and Nahanni coming to me, their eyes so sad and dark and full, and both putting their paws in my lap at the same time, giving me what they could to comfort me. When I wept over the death of Nahanni my puppies Alaska and Denali stayed close and curled up beside me, refusing to leave me while I grieved. I spent all of February 27th with Alaska, starting at midnight with his first seizure, and staying with him all night and morning and afternoon until the end, petting him, brushing him, kissing him, putting my head close to his and telling him I loved him. He was never the kisser his sister Denali was. She'd always lick you to death. Alaska saved his kisses for certain moments and certain times. As I rubbed and petted Alaska yesterday, as the end drew closer, he stretched up with his head and licked my hand, something he had hardly ever done. I have that love touch to console me. It does not console me much because I want the reality back that was behind it. If I was writing my story I would be able to go to the window now and see all four of the dogs I've lost romping together and the cat I've lost romping with them. And seeing that miracle I'd be out the door in a shot and playing with them again as we played so many times over so many years. It's not my story and I'm not writing it so I sit here at my laptop and dream. If I could do it all over again, knowing the pain of the loss of each one of my animal companions, I wouldn't hesitate, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Yes, I am in a lot of pain now but the beauty that came before it and that still lives inside me is tremendous. My animal companions changed my life, made me a better man, brought me closer to others and to my God, blessed me forever. So when I weep I weep tears of joy as well as tears of sorrow, tears of thankfulness as well as tears of loss, tears of praise as well as tears of mourning. I thank God this was my story and they were the heroes and heroines in it. And I hope people are right and the better ending is still to come.

19 comments:

Tina said...

As I sit here nearly in tears, I can truly feel the depth of the love you had for your animals, and the love they had for you.

Having that kind of love, so unconditional is amazing. I know probably at some point you might open your heart again, but till then I pray for you and your family during this rough time.

murray said...

thank you, Tina - it's hard for me to function without their love - i'm so grateful for my cat Kokomo but i long for a dog again

Noela Nancarrow said...

Hard to write through the tears... I don't know how you did it Murray. It was touching to have a glimpse into your life with Alaska, but also heartbreaking to read of the enormous gap he'll leave behind. Praying God's enormous storehouses of comfort and love will sustain you and bless you. Praying for you all, with love.

Cathy Richmond said...

I know this pain too well, Murray.

With prayers for comfort and a new canine companion soon.

Jamie Laitinen said...

Your words really helped. We lost our very young cat Prairie on Monday very fast and suddenly. I'm thankful for the ones I still have but really miss him.

FoundProdigalDaughter said...

so beautifully written...and sad... ***BIG HUGS*** Murray. I can't say anything any better then what Tina wrote in her comment.

Paula Bicknell said...

Been praying for you today. Thanks for the beautiful post. I wouldn't have missed out on loving the dogs I have lost. They are a part of who I am. And have left me with precious memories.

murray said...

thanks all of you so much for dropping by and leaving me with your kind words, your love and grace, your prayers - so sorry you lost your cat too soon and too fast Jamie - we lost a young cat that way in 2008 and it was so hard - the cat we have now is named for the one we lost - they are acts of grace from God - they fill our lives with innocence and enthusiasm and devotion - bless all of you

Debbie G. said...

I just recently discovered your wonderful books for my kindle and I then happened to stumble across your blog and this post. I realize that your loss occurred several months ago but I still just wanted to let you know how sorry I was for your loss of Alaska. I was so touched by your posting and I could truly relate to the pain and emptiness you feel. I have always had dogs in my life who were very much part of the family, they weren't "pets" they were family! I've lost two dogs now to cancer and in-between the loss of each dog I also lost my daughter to cancer...Oh how I hate that disease. I firmly believe that my two furbabies are also up in Heaven with my daughter! I like to think that as my little furbaby Zoey was crossing over the Rainbow Bridge my daughter was waiting to greet her along with our other furbabies and also my dad. I know that they had there arms wide open to give her hugs and that there were plenty of kisses being shared!
I couldn't believe how empty my small apt felt without Zoey in it, a few months after losing her I decided to adopt a new furbaby but due to my health I knew I didn't have the energy to have a puppy so I ended up adopting a 12wk old kitten who has brought me so much more joy than I thought possible! I have a rare muscle disease that I didn't know I had when I had my 3 children, sadly all 3 of my children have also been diagnosed with it. The road I have traveled with all the ups and downs of hospital stays for them and for me, the wonderful people I've met who also had severely ill children, and just all of the day by day "stuff" that you have to deal with when you have a chronic, degenerative disease...all of those things have truly shaped the "me" who I am today. God has a plan for all of us and even though we don't always understand or know why certain challenges are placed before us, we just have to trust and have faith. So I also wouldn't hesitate, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat also!

chaplaindebbie said...

I truly believe that pets (especially dogs) are a special gift from God....they are our way of coping with things, our escape valve, our companion when no one else is willing to put up with us. I truly am sorry for your loss, Murray. May God bless you.

Anonymous said...

our animal companions are so unconditionally loving and giving. What cherished memories you have of your furry friends.

Our Tashia just escaped an unknown episode of "gut" related illness followed by a severe infection which required surgery. We had hoped for pups in the Spring. But are thankful for Tashia's extended life instead!

Each pet has a story....has a soothing presence.... I'm especially fond of Dogs... after all.....it's God spelled backwards.... :) While Cats are special to many....their name backward is "Tag"-lol translated.... " I am in charge...NOT you....catch me if you can, OR if I want you to!" ;)

Mirjam de Joode said...

A beautiful written heartbreaking note, we do need our dogs and cats to make the day so much fun, and relief our stress by just stroking and petting them.
xxx

shirley Blanchard said...

I know the pain you feel as i too lost too very dear fur babies, and i got another one never thoughi would but Miss Ellie came from a abusive owner 5 years ago when she was just 6 months old.
Shirley B

Linda stowe said...

Hi Murray ,I know this is a late comment but it is so sad to hear you talk about your precious dogs and as pets it makes it even worse .I don't know how you feel about it but I knew of a man that believed that the pets you have on earth will be with you for eterinity.It sounds like that might just be the case for you.So sorry you lost all your pets but god is taking good care of them for you till you can take over again. Blessings to you.

Anonymous said...

That was so touching Murray.....I don't have an animal, but my granddaughter just got a black kitten and she named him JAG and she is so happy with him....she is 11 and this is her first pet.
We never had dogs or cats in the house when I was growing up,and I didn't let my kids have them either....so I was surprised when my daughter let her have this kitten.....

mom2acat said...

I am so sorry for your loss.
I read a quote once, and though I don't remember it exactly, it was something like "to own a pet is to sign a contract with sorrow". I was heartbroken when I lost my almost 18 year old cat Daisy to cancer 13 years ago; yet I wouldn't have traded those years I had with her for anything. I had lost many childhood pets before, but Daisy was like my "soul kitty"; I was 18 years old when she was born, and up until the day she passed, she had been with me all of adult life. It doesn't seem fair that cats and dogs have lives much shorter than ours, but I think that because they are so good with pure souls, God rewards them by calling them Home sooner, and I truly believe that they go to the same Heaven that we do.

~Shari

Murray Pura said...

I read this again 6 months later and I still feel the same way, I still miss them, I still love them, I'm still glad they were my friends.

murray said...

THANK YOU ALL! ALL YOUR COMMENTS MEAN SO MUCH TO ME. Your honesty & compassion is so touching. Bless you Debbie G, Chaplain Debbie, Mirjam, Shirley, Linda, Shari, Anonymous, you have important thoughts & stories of your won to share & I hope many others read your comments here. Bless.

Anonymous said...

:) Keep writing! We'll keep on reading! :)