The other day, I saw a photo of a teacup.
No; not an English collectible.
Some tiny furball, with stubby, fuzzy legs, bounding around with the sheer joy of being alive. In a still photo, no less. Irresistible Factor: 10+
Yes; I adore dogs. And, bunnies. Guinea pigs. Soft creatures, that bring warmth and devotion. Dogs, especially, because they embody emotion.
I remember Nero.
Nero was actually a female, rescued by my brother from the backseat of a junked car at the local dump. A whole litter, she’d come to him first. Tail bitten off halfway. Rump that wiggled with the tail. Face like a doe. Love at first sight.
She was his, until we as a family inherited her from him when, relocating to an apartment near Cleveland State to finish his PhD, he couldn’t take her with him. Thereafter, she was “our dog”, and my Neebs.
I won’t ever forget Neebs. On her fateful day, she met me, by the back steps, like she did every time I bounded inside upon returning from my night shift at the Greek dinor. Teeming with readiness to chase the stick, she was. Customarily, I’d toss it for her a few times, and watch her tear across the yard, falling all over herself to capture and bring it back for another round.
On that day, I remember looking at her and hastily saying something about not having time, the look on her face branding in my memory.
I’d found her, later in the afternoon, beside the house on a shaded patch, panting, her belly swollen. Attempts to get available family members to lift her and take her to the vet were met with scoff and dismissal. Fatal hours passed; by morning, a phone call bore the news: the vet had diagnosed a flipped stomach, and surgical intervention was impossible, something about the weekend and scheduling. Nero died, likely a horribly painful death, and without any of us there to hold her.
I cried for three days.
And, I did not forget that grief.
In the solitude of advancing life, we hear even more about the value of owning a pet. Therapeutic affect: heart rate; blood pressure; state of mind. And, I don’t doubt any of it.
If I were to cave and get a dog, I’d probably get a teacup. Tiny enough to live in the house and run in the small yard. Yes; I would fall hopelessly, deeply, and irrevocably in love with my teacup.
But, life expectancy under normal, healthy circumstances is probably fifteen years at most, for a lapdog. And, owning a dog takes endurance.
Endurance requires stamina. Emotional as well as physical. We have to be capable of accepting that the life of a dog is terminal. The day we let that creature into our lives, we have to be able to say goodbye.
I’ve said many goodbyes. Grandfather, grandmother. Uncles, aunts. Mum, and Dad. Former loves, a couple of them tragic.
The world today requires of us a massive stamina. We have to process increasing, encroaching violence. We have to cope with a state of fundamental uncertainty in global conditions. We have to endure.
My stamina extends about as far as my position from the TV. Beyond that, it’s all I can do to conserve sufficient energy for the life I embody.
Don’t ask me to endure the love, and loss, of a teacup.
I wonder how long we’ll live before we all lose the ability to say goodbye.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 8/26/16 All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. To all dogs, everywhere – the loved, the lonely, the lost: Happy National Dog Day.