Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Bojangles day

He danced for those at minstrel shows and county fairs
throughout the south
He spoke through tears of 15 years how his dog and him
traveled about
The dog up and died, he up and died
And after 20 years he still grieves

-- Mr. Bojangles by Jerry Jeff Walker

My son called last night from Ohio. There were tears hiding at the edges of his voice, but they stayed there; he doesn't like for me to hear him cry.

"I had to put Schatzie to sleep," he said. "The vet said she was just old, that there wasn't any more he could do for her."

In our family, "put to sleep" is a euphemism for euthanasia. Schatzie was a German Shepard that has been an important part of my son's life since high school. He was thirty this year.

And then, this morning, my daughter called to talk about it. She said her brother took it hard, but she was more concerned about my grandson, Dylan, who is nine and has never known a moment when Schatzie wasn't there. It is the first time he has had to deal with the death of a loved one.

I know there are people who will say, "It was just a dog." But I come from a family of dog lovers; I can't remember a time, growing up (and then growing older), when there wasn't a dog lolling around the house somewhere and they have always been as much a part of the family as anyone else.

As we grow older, we become, if not used to the idea, at least inured to the thought of the loss of a pet. My mother used to say that folks get hard-hearted; maybe so, until we have to witness such a loss through the eyes of a child.

So I cried this morning, and said a prayer for Dylan, may he never grow so hard-hearted that a death like this means nothing to him. And I prayed for Schatzie, too. She was a boon companion; may she rest in peace.