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Just A Dog?

September 10, 2014


A dog is a dog.  We know this.  If a dog was not a dog we wouldn’t call it a dog.  If a dog was a cat we’d call it a cat.  So why do we say a dog is “JUST a dog”?  Is not being a dog enough?  

The phrase “just a dog” is often used when wanting to demonstrate priorities.  We know people are far more important.  Most would give their lives for another person.  Few would give their life for a dog.  But if a dog is really just a dog, then why do things such as these well up with such emotion when the just-a-dog dies?”:

Seeing the pile of unfolded clothes and remembering her lying on top of them, looking back at you, and without speaking a word, say, “It’s O.K.”

Stacking the emptied dog dishes in the dishwasher.

Putting the sweat pants that kept her warm, that she “wore” as she died, in the laundry basket.

Putting back into storage the fan that was to give her more oxygen.

Seeing the pills – the ones that were suppose to save her.

Washing the spoon with the uneaten peanut butter-wrapped pill.

Washing the spoon with the melted ice cream and uneaten pills.

Putting away the gloves you had gotten out in case you had to force feed the pills.

Seeing the empty spoon – the one that held the meat covered pills that she ate on the last try.

Just a dog?

Putting the sofa cushions you slept on with her back on the sofa

– remembering pulling her close.

– remembering how warm she was.

– remembering how much she liked your arm around her.

– remembering being soooo tired, but fearing what sleep would bring.

– remembering waking to her coughing in your face.

Just a dog?

Remembering the look of concern on Xerx’s face as he looked for her to come down the stairs, but only hearing her cough.

Remembering Xerx standing at the front door, head cocked, wondering what was wrong with her as I carried her outside to see if she had to go.

Moving back to Xerx’s rug the toy he let her use to hold her head up when she was struggling to breath.

Seeing the dog still here laying alone on the bed.

Just a dog?

Remembering so vividly turning around and seeing her struggling to come into the room where you are, sweat pants dragging behind, wanting so desperately to be held, not wanting to die alone.

Removing the pillow case from the pillow she died on

– remembering how comfortable she looked, betraying the reality of how dying hurts.

–  remembering those last gasps for life.

– remembering the silence when it was over.

Just a dog?

Putting away the shoe box not used when a bigger one was found.

Remembering how limp she was as you placed her in the rug-lined box.

Thinking how it was a tight fit, but then remembering how she liked tight spaces.

Hearing your sister say, “Put her rabbit in with her” and then wrapping the rabbit’s arms around her.

Just a dog?

Packing the bag your sister had packed with dog things.

Knowing the joy she brought your sister.

Knowing the smile she brought to your brother-in-law’s face.

Dreading the day your sister comes and leaves with only the bag.

She was just a dog?


…and a lot more.

0.0 mpen 14.0908_3378 nyla

Nyla – the morning before she died.

One Comment

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  1. September 10, 2014

    Tom you have written this with great poignancy, yes, she was just a dog but she was part of a family (families). Dogs and cats can be replaced (not really) they are always in our memories, I for one have fond memories of my dogs and cats, they will never be forgotten, ever. Our pets do naughty things, nice things and surprises we don’t expect, but they are always there for us.

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