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One Woman's Opinion

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The Dog-Gone Blues

Mary Wakefield Buxton

by Mary Wakefield Buxton

Urbanna, Va.— Can one be happy without a dog? That’s the question of the day.

Perhaps some people can, but not me. I don’t feel complete without companionship with that furry creature known as “man’s best friend.”

Dogs deliver joy but they also can deliver plenty of heartbreak. In May, we lost “Lord,” our beloved male golden retriever pup that was born right under my desk.

Then, in July, his mother “Lady” was diagnosed with lymphoma. Lady was a rescue dog and a bit of a grouch. A “fence fighter,” she loved nothing better than to run up and down a fence line barking at any dogs she could find on the other side. She had dogs so hyped on our street I could hear them barking the moment we stepped out our door.

I loved Lady any way. Who cares if dogs are pests, bad dogs, barkers, whiners, shedders, triggers of allergies, or a trip to the poorhouse, which they most certainly are. I’ve never known a dog I didn’t love.

Almost 12, Lady was slowing down this year but I didn’t know we would lose her this summer. Her tumors grew quickly and we could feel them. They were as hard as stone in her throat and other glandular areas. She could no longer wear a collar, and when she barked only half her usual sound came out. 

An aging dog will break your heart. That white muzzle, those soulful brown eyes and the way they look up at you; they know when their time is coming to an end and they also know how you will suffer at their loss.

In July, we found “Dandy,” a cocker spaniel, to be a special pal for Lady during her last months and cheer us as only a dog can do. They immediately took to each other and even slept curled up against each other. Then I lost Dandy while on a walk for what turned out to be nine of the most hellish days of my life.

I knew he was caught somewhere in that “death-trap-retractable leash” and starving, but we couldn’t find him. He didn’t bark until the ninth day because he was too scared. It’s a wonder a wild cat or coyote didn’t get him while he was entangled in the Perkins Creek marsh.

Thank goodness he was found in time. To make matters worse, the day after he ran off, Lady collapsed and could no longer get up. Her cancer had finally left her immobile.

Chip took Lady to the vet. That good man has been stuck for 50 years of marriage with taking beloved dogs to the vet to end their suffering. I just can’t do it.

While at the vet’s office, Chip saw a picture of a cute black lab named “Moxie” who needed a good home. He called me, “Would you like me to bring Moxie home to you, dear?”

“Are you crazy?” I cried over the phone, my eyes brimming over with tears for Lady and the still lost Dandy. “I haven’t slept in days from grief over dogs and you’re going to bring me another dog!”

I knew he meant well but one has limits. Until we found Dandy we were dogless in Urbanna for one terrible week. It was the worst week of the year.

Some people don’t understand their fellowman’s intense love for dogs. In our case it must be genes as the English have always been passionate about two things: the sea and dogs. Nothing one can do about genes but learn to live with them.

The trouble with those who love dogs is that we love them so much that when we lose them, it’s such suffering. Father used to tell me, I suppose to give me some perspective on grief, that a dog wasn’t a human so keep the loss of a dog “in perspective.” I suppose Father had a point, but to many dog owners losing a dog is just like losing a child.

On a happier note, my husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last month. A major milestone, I give him credit that our marriage survived to such a ripe age. Living with a dog-loving writer must not be easy, but he always supports me, no matter how many dogs I have or whether he agrees with my latest opinion or not. Now there’s a good man.

So I’m back on Page 2 of the Sentinel for another run. I feel as if I’ve really aged this summer from the Dog-Gone Blues, but I’m so fortunate to have Dandy back. Let’s hope dog troubles are over for now because one can’t be happy with a case of the Dog-Gone Blues.


posted 09.04.2013

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