The sun is rising in the fresh mountain air, "The Captain" (all the vehicles in our fleet have names), our RAM truck floats along the pavement with ease on Interstate Hwy 5 as Winnie and I are southbound, homeward bound after another fun trip. Grateful to have visited with family after many months apart due to COVID-19, lucky to be able to follow our muse and participate in a NoseWork Trial, I feel good. The silence of the radio pushes me deep into my thoughts. Thinking how fortunate I am, thinking how blessed my life is, my thoughts turn to Winnie. I am reminded again how short time really is in a dog’s life. I’ve been told I should get a second dog. I’ve been warned that because of Winnie‘s and my deep connection through nose work that when the day comes to say goodbye the pain of losing her might be the worst thing I ever feel. Friends and family who bare witness to how attached I am to Winnie and her to me worry that I will fall to pieces in some really bad ways. Even as she lives and breathes beside me, the very thoughts of the inevitable brings tears to my eyes as I relive the memory of the dogs I have loved and lost to date. I blink hard and try to stop the tears and my train of thought. I blink hard again to stop the tears and try to see the road ahead, literally and figuratively.
Everyone who has had dogs has experienced it, the love, the connection, the deep emotional relationship we have with that one dog. I have navigated a few times now that one dog down the river of age, through growing weakness due to time and illness. With trembling arms, I have held each of those one dogs during the final moments, placing my tear soaked cheek on the tired heads as I felt the final beats of their heart before the lethal dose of drugs released them from this realm.
The heart dog as some folks call it, the one they say comes once in a lifetime, I have had the good fortune of having that dog several times already in my life. Each of my “heart” dogs represent a different chapter in my life and all are linked to exciting times, emotional and life changing times. There was Juniper, my first dog, the dynamic Dachshund who kept up with me through my twenties and was the best companion an expecting mother could ask for, a nanny to my babies. For 17yrs Juniper was with me, from single to married to mother, he knew me like the back of his paw.
There was Tawny, a roadside rescue shepherd-mix who saw me through the dissolution of marriage and the disaster in the wake. Tawny was their when I struggled in my personal life. Sensitive to my every emotion, protecting me from the demons that threatened to take over my thoughts, Tawny brought comfort to me during the reign of terror when the evil I denied existed during the day persecuted me at night. Tawny exhibited the emotions I suppressed. With her broad shoulders and deep heart she carried the weight when I could barely stay afloat. Then there was Juno, a practical pug whose optimism knew no limits.
He was there to cheerlead as I put my life on track. With his enchanting ability to channel ancient spirits, Juno reminded me to learn from past mistakes and meditate on life’s big choices. Throughout my life there has been a sprinkling of other dogs that I loved as dearly though not to the deepest level as that of the aforementioned three. And now there is Winnie.
Winnie is definitely that dog, as strong or stronger than any of the dogs before but no less nor minimizing of the good dogs I have known. It’s as if Winnie embodies the best of her predecessors and then some. Winnie is as stubborn and disobedient as the Dachshund and she is as supportive and responsive as the shepherd-mix. Winnie is an old soul like Juno the Pug when it comes to practicality and her ability to channel spirits. Winnie’s ability to communicate their wisdom to me enhances the value of our relationship.
That being said I don’t believe having a second dog now would in anyway lessen the pain when Winnie and I no longer reside together in this life. It has been suggested that having another dog to fall back on makes the absence of your number one less debilitating. Truth be told I will be a mess regardless. The very idea makes it so real I am hurting just thinking about it.
So on roll my thoughts much like the truck rolls down the highway, Winnie’s freshly awarded ribbons on the dashboard, her gentle snoring just over my shoulder. Again I’m deep in thought thinking about my cheek on her head, I hold her in my arms as I will up to our final day together. But the emotion I feel welling up inside now is joy. I don’t look forward to the last tears, but I won’t blink them away. I will welcome the tears now of dogs past because I have Winnie still in the present. And I will not blink away the tears I will shed in the future for they are reminders to cherish today.