The Life – or Lives – of a Dog

I’ve been anxiously following the posts of my friend, Kathy Knopoff, as she cared for her dog, Laszlo. Laszlo’s kidneys were failing, and Kathy was by his side nonstop, trying to get him to take his medications and trying to tempt him with his favorite foods.  My heart has been heavy for her.

Laszlo left this earth yesterday, bound for… well, really, who knows? All I know is he left an empty collar, an empty spot by the bed and lots of memories behind.

By coincidence, I’m finally reading The Art of Racing in the Rain, the story of family, love and loyalty told from the perspective of Enzo, a dog on his last night of life. I was instantly taken by the book’s philosophy that when dogs pass on, they are reincarnated as humans. In Enzo’s own “words:”

In Mongolia, when a dog dies, he is buried high in the hills so people cannot walk on his grave. The dog’s master whispers into the dog’s ear his wishes that the dog will return as a man in his next life. Then his tail is cut off and put beneath his head, and a piece of meat or fat is placed in his mouth to sustain his soul on its journey; before he is reincarnated, the dog’s soul is freed to travel the land, to run across the high desert plains for as long as it would like.

I learned that from a program on the National Geographic channel, so I believe it is true. Not all dogs return as men, they say; only those who are ready.

I am ready.

From the first moment that I had my own place, at age 22, I’ve had a dog. Every one of them has been the very best dog ever (Well, except for the ill-fated Nell – for more on her story check out this post). I’ve thrown my entire being into loving these dogs, and so have had my heart broken time and time again when the inevitable happens. And while sadness has, on occasion, slowed down my need to get another dog, it has yet to stop me. Because the loss is so far offset by the joy of companionship that I swallow my tears in return for the friendship of a dog. A bargain, I should add.

So here I am, this person who doesn’t believe in an afterlife of any kind and who looks at religion’s view of heaven with a roll of the eyes, totally convinced that if anyone gets to go to heaven, dogs should be first in line. That dogs have souls just as much as people have them. And now, thanks to The Art of Racing in the Rain, I have a whole new way to think about the future.

Just imagine… you meet this new person with soulful eyes, red shaggy hair and a kind face. Maybe her ears are a little on the large side.  Could it be my last Golden, Annie, come back to visit me in a different form?? Or you meet a guy who is well intentioned but not too bright, very muscular but sometimes knocks things over in his enthusiasm, who is an independent spirit who will never listen to advice… Why, my goodness, I do believe that Nell, that bad but charming girl, has returned to life as an irresponsible but charming man!

Really, the possibilities go on and on.

When my mom was dying last year, I asked her if she thought she’d see our dad again in whatever afterlife there might be. She astonished me by saying, “Absolutely not! There is no afterlife. I believe in reincarnation.” You could have knocked me over with a feather! And she then said, “I just don’t want to come back as one of those sad cows in Africa with the flies on their eyes…” I assured her that I didn’t think that would happen – surely there’s a better life form for someone as kind as my mom.

Laszlo, Annie, Nell, Marley, and all the rest of the dogs I’ve known and loved – have no fear! We shall surely meet again. Maybe next time I’ll be on the leash and you’ll be saying, “Terry, sit! Stay!”

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2 Responses

  1. Loved this post, Terry! Made me wanna cry and laugh at the same time.

    • Ditto tMac! I love that you love dogs so. Me too, but I haven’t had one for many years. I am rethinking that now after reading your post!

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