Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Death in the family

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

On our last visit together, the late mayor of Scottsdale, Ariz., the buoyant Herb Drinkwater, imparted wisdom worth repeating.

"Never trust a politician," he said, "who isn't listed in the phone book."

And I say, never trust someone who can't weep over the death of a pet dog.

These have been especially lousy weeks for several families I know. They've said goodbye to beloved pets the hard way: putting them to sleep (I prefer that to the unfeeling "put down").

When this happens, an almost mystical eloquence overcomes grieving owners.

When my daughter and son-in-law faced the merciful moment for their big Lab, Tater, they gathered at an idyllic spot beside a creek in East Fork, sang a few comforting songs with Tater's head in their lap, then had their veterinarian administer a lethal tranquilizer.

The moment arrived more suddenly last week for Belle, a nearly 12-year-old springer spaniel. A rampaging tumor.

"She and I took our last walk on Monday evening," her sorrowful "mother" e-mailed friends. "As usual, she tangled me in the leash a lot and stopped to investigate every interesting smell. The weekend before, she had her first walk of the season and requisite splash through the creek in Adams Gulch where she became joyfully soaked."

"She began to unravel Monday night," she continued, "went to the vet on Tuesday, then spent the night at home where we held her tight, and she let us know it was time for her to go.

"Elle (the home's other dog) gave her a nosey nudge on Wednesday morning, as if to say, 'See you later.'"

Who could not weep at those words, even a stranger?

We grieve more deeply, more painfully for pets because they look to us with those trusting eyes for all their comfort, protection, love.

Then, Tuesday morning, it happened again.

I was in Adams Gulch with my two Labs. A friend approached without her Jasper, as loveable a large creature the Almighty ever created.

I suspected the worst. "We lost Jasper," she said bravely.

Another awful tumor.

"But I gave him the best gift," she said softly, fighting to hold back tears. "I knew when to say when for Jasper."

Now, she says, she carries a small bottle of Jasper's ashes, and sprinkles a few of them along trails where she and he found so much joy and love together for so long and—who knows?—his spirit may now frolic with long gone friends among the aspens.

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