JIM DAVIS: Dealing With The Loss of A Special Pet
This will not be an easy column for me to write. Some of it, I expect, will be written through my tears. To the outside world I'm OK, but inside my heart is broken.
On Aug. 30, there was a death in our family. Winnie, our beloved little dog, had to be laid to rest.
She was 16 years old, and Marilyn and I treasured every minute of those 16 years. Winnie's sturdy little body finally gave in to the passage of time, and Marilyn took her to the vet to be put to sleep forever.
I'm an utter coward in a situation like that, and Marilyn had to do it alone; I couldn't bear to go with her. Winnie said goodbye to me with a lick to my cheek; I kissed her sweet little face, and she was gone.
Winnie left a hole in our lives that nothing could fill. Several times I thought I heard the tags jingling from her collar, and once I could have sworn I saw her looking at me from a chair where she used to sleep. Both Marilyn and I were devastated, and we're not over it yet.
I suppose there will be those who don't understand why an old couple like Marilyn and me find the death of a pet so difficult to deal with. I can't completely explain it. You either get it or you don't, but maybe the following story will show how special she was.
Winnie, a Bichon, came to us in July 1992 as a refugee from an animal shelter in Princeton Junction, N.J., where we lived. Neither Marilyn nor I had any idea, when Winnie joined our family as a tiny white puppy, how important she would be to us during a critical time in our lives.
In December 1992, the same year that Winnie arrived, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I underwent an operation which did not go well; it was determined that the cancer had spread. I was put on a drug that suppresses the hormone on which prostate cancer feeds, and I was sent home to a very uncertain future.
Here's where Winnie became so important to me and my family. When I got home, she knew instinctively that something was wrong, and that I needed her.
We fought the cancer together. I know it sounds overly dramatic, but I give her a large part of the credit for pulling me through for all these years. She became my soulmate and my constant companion, and I think she knew she was helping me immeasurably. When I would start to feel down, I would play with Winnie, even talk to her sometimes, and it would be all right. We were inseparable for the rest of her life.
Marilyn and our children, Barbara and Bill, were there for me too, and they gave me unlimited love and support, but Winnie seemed to feel that her sole purpose in life was to be my friend and to look after me all day, every day.
Most everyone in our neighborhood and among our friends knew and loved Winnie. It got to the point where people asked about her health before inquiring after Marilyn and me. And when Winnie died, she left a void in everyone's life.
Our good friend Nita Brunner wrote us a beautiful note about Winnie, from which I quote: "What a precious little blessing she was. That sweet face will pop up before your eyes a lot in the coming days. When it does, do her the honor of smiling. She would want you to be happy. She is no longer in pain."
We've decided to get another dog. She's a Maltese, a sort of miniature Winnie, so we're naming her Minnie. Up in doggie heaven, I think Winnie is barking her approval.
Contact Pinehurst writer Jim Davis at email@example.com.
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