-- by Mike Murray
Years take their toll on all creatures. Bodies once vibrant decline. Spirits once sprightly fatigue. Physical hosts are diminished by the passage of time – and sometimes by the onset of illness. It is the way of the world that once spunky critters eventually seek only peace and quiet. It is natural that they come to crave little more than gentle places to lay their tired, aching husks.
For the lucky, relief from discomfort comes at the hands of companions who’ve long loved them. For such fortunates, nurturing at the end is provided by friends who’ve cared for them for years.
But some aren’t so lucky. Consider an entry in an animal sanctuary’s newsletter. In it, donors are thanked for the provision of a few canine beds. The recipient dogs, it is reported, are grateful: for many of the rescued geriatrics, the gifts represent the first soft beds they’ve ever known.
Worse than the absence of suitable sleeping places is the larger implication -- that some of these “senior” dogs went much (if not all) of their lives deprived of loving companionship. For such abused, abandoned, and neglected creatures, life has been no picnic. It is of some comfort to the concerned that dedicated rescue groups are able to intervene in a few such cases. And that elderly and ill animals experience – at long last – a touch of human kindness.
Looking around the neighborhood, I see many animal companions whose days are numbered. They are all fortunate, at least, in that they are valued members of their human families. Each is appreciated; each is “spoiled,” to many folks’ way of thinking.
Janna is one such creature. No, I don’t imagine that her time remaining can be counted in mere months (God forbid). But she surely has less road stretching out in front of her than she has already traveled. She has nagging injuries that refuse to completely heal. She is missing some of the spring in her step. And her muzzle rivals my own in its degree of grayness.
But Janna (as much as some – and more than most) is pampered. My wife and I make no apology for that. She is our baby.
I am pleased to know that so many of Janna’s canine friends are similarly appreciated. Most of them are getting on in years, too. Some don’t have long left. But all of them have loving homes. All of them have soft beds.
Some have already passed away. The lucky ones lived full lives. Some, like the shepherd across the street, were elderly when they moved into the neighborhood. Others arrived as pups. But they all enjoyed well over a decade of relatively good health. They all had wonderful homes; they all lived good lives.
Then there are the critters who died young. Maggie was one of those. Her passing seems to have pained Murphy (the Sheltie next door) nearly as much as it has my wife and me. Though Maggie has been gone nearly eight years now, “Murph” still whines for her friend at the place between the fences, where they daily visited.
Murphy is herself growing a little long in the tooth these days. Her hearing isn’t what it used to be. When she goes, she will sadden many friends in the neighborhood – human and canine alike. I recall her days of puppyhood, when my wife would playfully run up and down the fence line with her on warm summer evenings. It seems like only yesterday.
The past year or so has claimed the lives of several beloved dogs in the neighborhood – Prince, Rex (No Easy Way), Maddie (A Good Dog), and Wesley among them. All were precious members of their families. All are sorely missed.
Two others recently passed on to their great rewards: Jackie and Kailey. Both were lucky in that they lived long, happy lives. Each had her share of physical ailments to overcome, but each nevertheless managed to survive to old age. Each brought much joy to her companion family.
Jackie and Kailey were dearly loved. Throughout their lives, each had a soft bed in which to sleep. And much, much more.
Copyright © 2008 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.