It’s a small word. Pets. I ramble on about mine all the time because they are precious and funny and add tremendous amounts of joy to my life. This time, though, the story is not about Bread and Butter. It’s about a dog whose name I don’t know.
I watched a triathlon this weekend. As is often the case in races, family members ran through the finishers’ chute with the competitors. Little kids. Older kids. People raced to the finish line hand in hand with the folks who love them. I saw a number of people finish with kids so little that they could barely run on their own. In one instance, the kids were older and so rambunctious that one tripped, causing his brother to trip also, which resulted in a three-man pile up of kid, kid and father smack dab on top of the finish line. (That’s an example of why families sometimes aren’t – and perhaps should not be – permitted in the finishers’ chute.) Thankfully, all three stood up laughing. In each instance, the finish line volunteers placed the finisher’s medal around the neck of the companion child.
The sweetest finish I saw was that of a man and his dog. The dog ran with his owner through the finishers’ chute across the finish line. He stayed by his owner’s side and wagged his happy tail and looked up at his owner admiringly. The dog even wore the owner’s finisher’s medal. It was the sweetest thing to see this man laughing and running with his dog.
Seeing this man and his dog made me think of the pet I grieve and the pets I know my friends grieve. Some of us age with our animals. In 2008, I lost my Skylar, a cat who had been my family for eighteen years. My friend Jennifer recently lost a gorgeous black lab she’d had, I believe, since we were in law school eons ago. My friend Erin is grieving a dog she had for nine years. She reminds me that she had her puppy longer than she’s “had” her husband.
These animals of ours are precious. They love us. They just love us, and we love them. They live in our homes and sleep in our beds and often spend day and night by our side. In some cases, they even run our races. And then they’re gone, and it’s hard, but it’s worth it. Loving them – having them and living with them – is completely worth every bit of the pain we experience in losing them.
Pets. The word may be small, but the love is huge and remains huge even after they are gone.