Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The mayor has left the manor

Feb. 1995-May 2009

Bernie, our winsome Sheltie, who occasionally graced a blog post here at Words Matter, has gone whereever dogs go when they leave this mortal coil.

Since his stroke back in January, all of us knew he was on borrowed time, but like everything connected with Bernie, he put on his best face, and continued to provide joy for us on a daily basis. Unlike me, Bernie never had a bad day, or almost never. Saturday, and then Sunday, the day he died, he was obviously not himself. His usual morning perkiness was absent, and he didn't even bother to lift his head in our bedroom, when I got up early Saturday morning to write. Normally, he'd have followed me into my office across the hall, and slumped down behind my chair, where he could keep an eye on me.

[Bernie discovered how great couches and pillows were late in life]

My wife and I were crushed Sunday night when he expired in our dining room, dying with dignity, and minimal distress. Yesterday wasn't much better, and sitting here typing this post this morning finds my emotions still very close to the surface, and my eyes swimming with tears.

Anyone who has ever lost a close canine friend knows how hard it is to bid them "adieu." Bernie was unique, and we miss him terribly.

Mark, our son, put Bernie's passing and life into context, and brought a bit of joy to a day that was pretty joyless, and a challenge to get through. Here are some of his thoughts on man's best friend.

This morning has been tough. I read mom's email on the bus and was crying. The people around me must of thought I was going to blow up the bus or something.

I always knew it was going to be tough when Bernie passed, but I wasn't sure why. The past day or so I've been thinking it over. I think it comes down to dogs being anything you want them to be. They have needs, but these needs are minimal, and for most part they keep their agendas to themselves. Bernie was something different for everyone. Whoever came up with 'man's best friend' hit it right on the head. Bernie was everyone's best friend despite everyone having a different idea of what a best friend would look like. For mom he was her style, fashion, and cooking assistant. For Dad he was his best editor and walking partner. For me he was something of a silent baseball coach or brother who didn't know anything about baseball, but would put in hour after hour, despite not knowing what he was putting in work for. He never asked, "Why do you keep hitting the ball after I get it for you? Your advancement of the ball is a net worth of zero." Basically, the reason why he was so great was because he couldn't say 'No.' He's the friend that always wanted to hang out and do whatever you wanted to do. Sure, there were times when he'd try and sneak off and eat out of the compost or lie under the tree and rest and not chase the ball anymore, but if I hit the ball he'd go get it. Dogs in general are amazing in this sense because mostly they portray a blank slate with little opinion and it's almost up to whoever they're with to create the personality and voice for them in their own mind. And I think what's so special about this is that despite Bernie passing we each carry that personality of who he was to each of us in our own minds and he can live on.

I'm hoping to add a bit more context in the next day or two about Bernie, the loss of a dog, and one of my favorite books on the subject, over at Write in Maine. Look for it.


Lisa K. said...

I'm so sorry, Jim. As the caretaker of a number of well loved pets over the years, I feel your pain, and expect to do so again. My menagerie at this point includes four cats and a dog, all of which I expect to outlive.

RIP, Bernie. You were obviously loved, and will be greatly missed.

Jim said...

When we take on a pet, there is a tacit understanding that at some point, there will be separation and the emotional pain that accompanies that. Still we accept the bargain, and the final accounting always is weighted far and away on the positive side.

Thanks for your kind words. They are much appreciated.