-- by Mike Murray
Tevye, the main character in Fiddler on the Roof, sang poignantly about the limited nature of life. He metaphorically reminded us that Old Sol eventually sets for all of us -- that for everyone born into a sunrise, there awaits an inevitable sunset.
That is hardly news; only the most ignorant are unaware of the fact that physical existences are finite. Still, few confront that reality until forced to -- by the passage of time, by the intrusion of injury or illness.
And, hard as it is to face our own mortality, harder still is it to see it imposed upon those we love.
There is only one alternative to carrying on after devastating loss (and few choose it, thank God). But, even among the survivors, coping comes harder for some than for others. Many factors contribute, no doubt. All loving relationships involve pain at their conclusion -- and the very best ones involve the most discomfort. Then too, for many people, grief is cumulative. The more times they encounter it, the greater the toll it exacts.
Nevertheless, most of us eventually manage to recover. And many of us, too, ultimately become willing to enter into new relationships, to expose ourselves (once again) to vulnerability. But timetables vary widely. Certainly, they have for those in my neighborhood who've lost canine companions.
In addition to dealing with their grief, they have had to convince themselves that they are not being disloyal to their to their deceased dogs by adopting again -- that they are not, in any way, attempting to "replace" their faithful friends.
It has helped some folks to select an animal of entirely different breed(s), as did my wife and I. (Maggie was a Collie / Shepherd / Beagle mix; Janna is a Rottweiler / Elkhound / whatever cross.) Looking nothing like her predecessor, "J-Bear" could never be confused as a substitute for "Magpie."
Most of our neighbors who've lost canine companions have likewise brought new dogs (some of similar breed; some not) into their homes. Murphy was followed by Casey; Maddie by Sydney; Kailey by Riley; Jackie by Addison; Rex by Lacey and Skye; Zeus by Cookie; and Amber by Chase. (The pain accompanying the loss of Dewey, however, is still too fresh for "his people" to consider a new adoption.)
Still other neighborhood dogs, such as Molly and Prince, have never been succeeded -- even though years have passed since their Earthly demise. In some cases, the age of would-be adopters (themselves getting on in years) was a factor. In others, the thought of ever again having to deal with devastating loss was just too much to bear.
I cannot say that adopting again is right for everyone. But I can say this: The people I've known who have chosen to do so are all glad that they did. Certainly, my wife and I feel blessed by the time we've shared with Janna. We thought we'd never again be as happy as we were with Maggie (who was, quite simply, the kindest, gentlest soul we've ever known). But we were wrong.
Janna could never take Maggie's place. Neither is she as perfectly behaved. But she is every bit as sweet, every bit as precious to my wife and to me. She helped us heal after Maggie's passing, And she has made the last 10+ years immeasurably better than they would have been, absent her presence.
Janna is nearly thirteen now, and so has reached the twilight of her life. Without question, her passing will be as difficult for us as was Maggie's. Regardless, my wife and I will always be appreciative of the time we've had with her.
Following the darkness that descended when the sun set on Maggie's life, our existences were immeasurably brightened by Janna's arrival. The pleasure of her company ushered in what we thought impossible: a glorious, new sunrise. And, for that, we will be eternally grateful.
Copyright © 2011 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.