There were two dogs throughout my youth, a pug named Sir George and a Great Dane named Duke. I guess the Dalys felt a certain kinship to English royalty, even as I poured Kool-Aid over my Cheerios. (There wasn’t always enough money for milk.)
Duke and Sir George were my sister’s dogs and so in many ways, I had the best of both worlds. I enjoyed playing with them under the warm California sun, but never had to feed or tend to their needs. She took care of the essentials. I liked that. When they died, I cried, but I was still young and had already dealt with so much dysfunction that I don’t remember their deaths striking me too hard.
I grew up, married Jean, and soon found myself with a cat, which didn’t necessarily appeal to me, because I’ve always considered myself a dog person.
But Tommy didn’t act like a cat. He thought he was a dog! He would greet me by running in circles and dashing through my legs. His end came suddenly, at the ripe old age of fifteen. He had fallen on a nail and succumbed to a fast-moving blood disease.
I didn’t think his death would bother me, but it struck me fairly hard. This was in the days before children, so I hadn’t even realized how attached I had become to him.
This is the curious and peculiar thing about our emotional pull toward our pets.
They don’t talk. They take.
Yet maybe it’s because they don’t talk back and they express unfailing loyalty that we grow so close to them so quickly. They become a part of the family and as such, when they die, sometimes we feel like a part of us dies, too.
This is probably what Steve Allen meant when he once said that “Old men miss many dogs.” I’m sure many of you can relate.
The late southern writer, Willie Morris, whose sentimental book, My Dog Skip, was turned into a heartwarming film in the 1990s, may have said it best:
The dog of your boyhood teaches you a great deal about friendship, and love, and death: Old Skip was my brother. They had buried him under our elm tree, they said—yet this wasn’t totally true. For he really lay buried in my heart.
Because God is the creator of every living thing, and the giver of every good gift, we have Him, of course, to thank for our pets, even a cat named Tommy who thought he was a dog. I’m curious. Do you have a story to share about a special pet in your life?