Yesterday my dad said goodbye to one of his dearest friends. He was the kind of friend that is always reliable, who dependably shows up and does what friends do. A friend who brings peace just by being in the same room, a gentle soul who knew no enemies and whose greatest joy was most likely found in the most simple of things.
He answered to Spencer, and he always answered with a smile and a wagging tail. It was a long goodbye, for old age had long ago showed up in his gentle eyes.
It's amazing, this thing of having pets. We purposefully fall in love with someone who we will most certainly outlive. And when the inevitable comes we mourn and grieve as we would for our own child. In a sense, that is what these dear friends of ours are. They are our babies, our buddies, our ever faithful companions. Their wagging tails and wet noses greet us at the door, and their twitches and sighs comfort us in our sleep. They are stalwart, solid. These four legged companions observe us in all our humanness and are devoted to us anyway.
I think of my own sweet dog, who is the greatest gift of a dog a person could ask for. He is reliable and quite funny, his quirkiness provides our family with endless entertainment. He is also a very good running partner, ready to go even when I'm not. He pushes me this way, spurs me on to health by doing everything short of bringing me the leash when he's ready to go.
Our dogs are more than just dogs, they are friends and they are family. They are the ones who warm our feet on cold nights, who rest their patient heads on our laps while we eat. They love us in their own way, and love us simply because we are there for them.
They are also the ultimate picture of letting go. We get them, puppy new, and then let go of our ideas of unsoiled floors and a quiet house. They grow and we let go of routine as we replace our morning plans for long walks and games of fetch at the park. And then they grow older. Slowly and painfully we learn to let go of them. When the inevitable comes we let go. And we are always richer for it all, the risk and the love and the joy; because it is always better to live with a hand open and letting go than with one closed so tight you can't let anything good in. Then, just as Spencer did, these furry people grow old and sigh their last, and so we let go of them. Even though we knew it would happen we still feel the hurt and the missing in profound ways. We let go but they remain in memories, in love. Our faithful companions will always be that, and we will always be better for it.