The most difficult and painful part of being dog lovers is when your beloved pet’s all-too-short lifespan comes to an end. That awful time came (again) for my family last Friday afternoon when one of our two dogs – a beautiful golden retriever, Sierra, barely just 10 years-old – took her last breath and was finally at rest.
She led a pampered life, to be sure. Dogs at my house lack for nothing and are not spared even the smallest amount of attention and affection. But being a purebred, she was prone to numerous health issues. My wife and I have often remarked that between our two purebreds (our other fur-kid is Darby, a goof-ball of a yellow lab) with all of their vet bills and numerous surgeries, we’ve spent more on them during the past decade than we have raising four human children combined. C’est la vie.
I am such a dog person that I can’t bear to read a book or watch a movie in which someone’s dog dies. I was traumatized seeing the Disney film, “Old Yeller” as a young boy. I’ve caught snippets of scenes from this classic many times while flipping through TV channels, and quickly switch to something else. I just can’t go there.
I resolutely refused to read the mega-hit memoir, “Marley & Me.” After all, it’s about the author’s life with his yellow lab who, as I’m told, ultimately dies. Sorry. Not gonna read it. Not to say that the book isn’t on our shelf at home. My wife read it, loved it and promised that I would relate to every word on every page of the book. I have no doubt. And no thank you.
A writer I deeply respect, Dean Koontz, might possibly be more of a dog lover than even yours truly. In his 2009 best-seller (A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog) about his own beloved golden retriever Trixie, Koontz asserts that she was not a dog but an earthbound angel. I absolutely believe it. I would often catch our Sierra looking at me, or listening to a family conversation and know instinctively that there was an intelligence – a “presence” there beyond that of any mere animal.
Then again, at times she could seem as dumb as a bag of dog chow. For example, she would often get half way through our dog door from the back yard and seemingly forget where she was. She’d stand there with her front half in the kitchen and her tail end still outside, just looking around like she didn’t have a clue. What I would give to see her do that again.
Sierra had been a “co-worker” of mine for the past 10 years. Five or six mornings a week I’d walk into my home office, sit down at my desk and within minutes, Sierra would pad in and head straight for the leg well under my desk. She’d nudge her way in past my knees, circle around and around until she had just the right spot to curl up in, and then collapse – usually on top of my feet – to sleep without budging for hours to come. I’m writing these words at that desk, sitting in that chair. The space around my feet feels as cold and vacant as my heart.
My theology may admittedly not be airtight, but my greatest solace this past week has been the hope that I will now have another cherished dog waiting for my arrival in heaven. I imagine being ushered in to the promised land to find Misty, Rusty, Banjo, Dorian and Boomer all racing towards me across the soft green grass of the new earth – leaping and playing and barking with joyous delight. Out in front of the wonderful, welcoming pack will be my golden girl Sierra.
Goodbye dear, sweet friend. I know we will play together again.
See you ‘round town.
Jim Chase is an award-winning freelance copywriter and native of the Crescenta Valley. Contact him at
Jim@wordchaser.com and visit his new My Thoughts Exactly blog at: http://jchasemythoughtsexactly.blogspot.com.