Do you remember when I told you the story of T and Marshal?
C’mon, it was late last summer and I wrote my first two part post and it was about my beautiful, but dangerous long coat shepherd, T (Valen’T’ino) and how Marshal followed him into my life?
Geez, people, I can’t hold your hands on all things canine. Hang on…
But wait, if you haven’t read those before you should know that you need a tissue. But I guarantee that it’s not just to wipe your eyes if you get teary, you can also use it to wipe your nose if you snort while laughing.
I just spoke to the legal department and they tell me that I am not allowed to make guarantees. But at this point – and with this economy – I’m not sure you could get more out of suing me than Marshal Dillon Dingle’s puppy crack (which is guarded fiercely by an ever-hungry Fred who might trample you with his tippy-tapping as he hopes you’ll employ your opposable thumbs to flip open the cover and dump the entire thing on the floor, thus creating a Nirvana never before experienced by a chubby yellow lab whose entire goal in life seems to be to turn into a harbor seal).
See? (He will totally reach his goal).
Have you had enough coffee to remember the story of T and Marshal yet?
Okay, I’ll summarize it for you.
About six months after loosing my wonderful nanny of a German Shepherd, Ripley, back in 2010, I found myself sitting with a breeder for the first time in my life. I had lost a lifetime dog – a female German Shepherd who’d helped me raise my kids through their early years – about six months before. I hadn’t been ready to consider another dog (another dog for me. We did have two others at the time, but Ripley had been my girl), until then.
T chose me.
I know, I know. A lot of folks don’t believe that happens. I do believe we get the dogs we need. I also believe in signs.
But I didn’t back then, not really.
T was a shy puppy. He had been returned to the breeder because his first owner, after two days, suspected aggression. He didn’t display any signs of aggression at the breeder’s house (she raised dogs in her home, not in a kennel), but he was very shy.
I was the first visitor he had approached. I should have known. I should have known at that first, tentative, touch of his paw to my back as I was scratching the ears of a much more gregarious and confident puppy , that he would be special to me. An important dog.
I just didn’t know how short my time with him would be.
T was indeed shy. And he also became dangerous. It seemed that – no matter what trainer we went to, or how hard we trained, or how much we socialized, or how many medical tests we did (and we did a lot) – he was just not able to control whatever demons he had. And last fall, I held him in my arms and let him go.
It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done.
Now. I’m not a dweller. I’ve been privileged to have many animals. I have loved them all, though I admit that I’ve loved some more than others. I have had many challenges with humans in my life, including critical medical issues, and early deaths. And I don’t equate the death of an animal to the death of a person.
I think it is because the life of a dog is entrusted to us, and because we don’t really know what is going on in their heads – what they understand – that makes it so difficult in the end. Maybe they know more than we do. Maybe that is why they often slip from this life to the next easier than most humans do. But maybe not. Maybe they are confused, or frightened. We don’t know. And it is that latter that slays us when we decide to help them move on from this life. I’ve done that a number of times due to illness in old age, once because of a painful stroke in a relatively young cat. But I’d never conceived of putting a dog to sleep because we failed, together, to make it possible for him to be safe for people to be around.
T was my main man. He was the best and smartest dog I’d ever had. He was perfect, for me. He was not safe for the rest of the world.
Holding him as he went felt… impossible.
After he died, as I was going home, I saw a rainbow and – as I’d written in those original columns – I did not think of the Rainbow Bridge. Instead, my thought was, “freakin’ rainbow”.
And I didn’t think much about it after that, until I unexpectedly brought home a puppy to watch for a friend. I know, I know, you are thinking he was going to stay, but he wasn’t. I wasn’t ready for another dog. The puppy was going to stay for two nights, while my friend packed and prepared to relocate after loosing her farm in a divorce situation. I was just helping out.
The rainbow that appeared on the ride home with the temporary puppy, as we passed the turn to the vets office where I had said goodbye to T just a week before, was pretty. And when a second rainbow appeared along side of it, I wanted to accuse the sun of just showing off. But again, I thought of them as rainbows – perhaps as freakin’ rainbows – but that was that.
The first morning I woke up with the puppy, it was early (puppies go potty early and often). The puppy had wandered out of the kitchen, where I was having my first cup of coffee, and I went to get him. And when I came back, I was astonished.
Little ones, an inch or so long, covered the floor and walls of the kitchen and dining room. I was so taken aback that I went and stood in the midst of them and slowly turned around and they danced and shined on me.
I knew they were there because the sun was shining through the glass on the dining room chandelier, but I’d never seen them before. I turned quickly to grab my camera, and when I turned back they were all gone.
Hundreds were there, and then hundreds were gone.
I woke up early the next few mornings, to see if the same phenomenon happened again, when the sun was in the same place in the morning sky. It didn’t.
We did see a few of the little rainbows, here and there, at different times of day, over the next few days and weeks. Fewer each time. And then they were gone. But each time I saw one, I would whisper “Hi, T.” And by then, urged on by T’s rainbows and other signs that seemed too clear to ignore, I had a permanent puppy by my feet most of the time. We named him Marshal Dillon Dingle.
That was all a year ago.
I don’t celebrate, nor do I ever officially commemorate the death of one of my pets. But, for some reason, the memory of T has been strong lately. A mental glimpse of his silly bounce while Marshal is playing with his ball, a flash of the way T’s coat felt as I run my hands through Marshal’s fur. I’ve been surprised to feel tears spring to my eyes. I’ve actually felt him, as if he is close. And I’ve dismissed it, time and time again.
An hour ago, I turned around in my chair, to see where Marshal was lying. When I saw him, I was stunned. I told him to stay, and I picked up my camera (which happened to be right beside me) and I took this picture.
How about this one…
They were all gone within a minute.
They are not here now.
Thanks for readin’.
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