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E. Katie Gammill, Exhibitions Editor, Multi-Group AKC Judge


My little Sheltie is not at the door. Her routine is to sit by my suitcase as I pack for a judging trip and to greet me with enthusiasm upon my return.


While gone, my husband had to make a decision and he chose what was best for Bunny. I am stunned. Despite my sorrow, I know Bunny died with dignity on her home turf. She passed in familiar surroundings and is buried beneath the oak tree, cuddled in her special blanket. She joins past kennel mates. I am left with pictures and memories.


Dynamics change within the human and canine pack when a pet passes away. Accepting a pet into our home is a life time responsibility. Eventually we all are faced with the tough decision of knowing when it is time to say good-by to our beloved pet. A dog’s life, being is much shorter than ours, forces us to do so and this takes courage. Rely on your vet to suggest options and burial decisions.


Some grieving owners swear to never own another pet. Others rush out and buy a pet too soon. That hastily purchased pet will never live up to the owner’s expectations. Pets, like people, are irreplaceable. As my friends know, despite the years, I still miss Bunny.


We must all find our way to deal with the loss of a pet. Some people spend exorbitant funds to buy a few extra months, but who benefits, the owner or the dog? It’s imperative we have the courage to know when enough is enough. Quality of life is important. The saying “Any day above ground is a good day” doesn’t always hold true. Often pleading eyes beg for relief from suffering. Incontinence can be a problem; breaking down in the rear quarters in larger dogs is also a problem. Old dogs require special consideration.


This I know. Country folks live with life and death on a daily basis. It’s common to see walking wounded wild animals struggle to exist. There is a balance in nature and “survival of the fittest”. We understand life’s cycle and accept death easier, knowing all God’s creatures, both large and small, have a shelf life.


Comfort is as important as time. If an animal is in distress, life must be ended. It may sound cruel, but it is what it is.


Let me tell you more about my “side kick”. Bunny was sold. For unknown reasons the buyer never returned to pick her up. Seeing I am attached to her, my husband says, “May as well keep her. She won’t eat much.”


I can still see Bunny lying in the window. She would bark at my chair for her dinner, attracted by my reading light. Many times I was cooking in the kitchen. Quite pudgy and on a diet, one day Bunny carried her small feeding bowl to me to express her hunger. This is known as a “doggy protest”.


As she aged, Bunny would painfully arise and shuffle behind me as I moved room to room.


Bunny monitored my writing and often shut down my computer by sitting on the surge protector. Despite age, she strutted and threatened kennel mates three times her size. Toothless, she demanded pack order, ruling all with an iron paw. Years later I still seek closure. She seems irreplaceable. As I write about Bunny, there is a lump in my throat. This is how important a pet becomes to an owner.


In later years another puppy wiggles it way into my heart. Pushed out of the litter, he too, was a “bottle baby”. I call him Buddy. He doesn’t eat much either, but most of all, he fills the void left by Bunny so long ago. Spoiled rotten, Buddy is in it for the long run.


It seems heat cycles break my life into increments. Today, we don’t count the litters. We make every litter count. Litters are few and far between. People wait patiently until something is available. Each puppy is precious and it becomes harder to let them go.


My life as a dog breeder will soon end, my writing, judging, painting, contesting poetry, and family replace the thrill of a new litter. When buyers visit, I see pictures of their past pets and hear their stories. I explain it is impossible to fill the paw prints of a pet so cherished and suggest they buy a different color or sex in the new puppy. I listen to them with compassion and repeat time and again, my story of “Bunny”.


A dog’s life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely. Most pets skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly barking “WOW” what a ride! Humans should be so lucky!

EST 1998 Copyright ? Sept 2019



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