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In Doggy Heaven: Farewell to My Faithful Friend

In Doggy Heaven: Farewell to My Faithful Friend

At the equivalent of 105 in human years, our dog’s time had come. I miss him.


No sooner had my daughter posted the news of Ken’s passing than the condolence comments and crying emojis poured online. Friends and relatives called to express their sympathy. A neighbor hugged me in the supermarket, tearful, saying how much she would miss him.

But at the equivalent of 105 in human years, our dog’s time had come. Mischievous to the end, our beagle-lab mix had made a final, illicit foray into the kitchen garbage for meat scraps, which were fatally entwined with bits of aluminum foil. It did him in.

We adopted him when he was a year old, quelling demands for a dog from our ten-year-old son. Ken was charming but socially needy – a beagle trait I discovered when I came home to see that he had dealt with his anxiety over my absence from home by chewing through the arm of the living room couch, topping it off with an underwear chaser. Over the years we tried various gambits to keep both Ken and our furniture secure. Suffice to say that Ken’s lack of a dog whisperer prompted frequent redecorating.

Since I worked from home, every day was “take your dog to work day,” which both Ken and I found highly satisfying. Despite being only 30 pounds, he made me feel safe. His job was to protect home and hearth, and until his hearing started to go last year, no stranger approached without Ken woofing a shrill warning.

Ken lived in an era where dogs had become the new kids. I rolled my eyes when I dropped him at the groomer and heard her say, “Don’t worry, sweetie. Mommy will be back soon.” With four kids of my own, I was pretty clear that I was not Ken’s “Mommy.” I laughed at seeing sweater-clad dogs in strollers, advertisements for doggy day camp, doggy spas, holistic vet care, and doggy boutiques. Yet there was something poignant in them, too. As the childless and single population keeps rising steadily, pampering pooches offers a way for people to express their human yearning to nurture and to love. (I wonder if dressing dogs like children and treating them like four-legged celebrities explains another modern trend: doggy therapy.)

I admit that I wasn’t totally immune from the impact of this zeitgeist. I was relieved when the staff at The Loved Dog emailed a picture and reported that Ken was “socializing well” with other dogs while we were out of town. And I bought a raincoat for him because he so detested being out in the rain. The London Fog-style gear made him look like a doggy detective, his slim rawhide bone jutting out like a cigarette at a rakish angle.

Most Orthodox families don’t have dogs – having to take care of six or eight kids is more than enough responsibility, thank you very much. So when we welcomed guests who were trying out a traditional Shabbat experience, Ken’s warm greeting made our family seem more relatable and familiar. Our sleepover guests were also forgiving, or at least pretended to be, when Ken trotted into the dining room with the remains of a cinnamon Danish or box of Milk Duds in his mouth he had filched from their unzipped luggage.

“My wife would have killed me if she knew I was eating those again,” mumbled one abashed diner at our table.

I miss that old dog. I am still startled when he doesn’t greet me at the door. It feels wasteful scraping leftovers into the garbage instead of into his bowl. He made us laugh with his doggy antics and he had an uncanny sense when something was wrong. When I lay in bed with one of my frequent migraines, he lay next to me protectively, baring his teeth if anyone tried to move him from the bed, even my husband.

In Hebrew, the word for dog is kelev, which means “like a heart.” Anyone who has loved a dog can relate to how true this is.

A few days after we said goodbye to Ken, I asked one of my sons, “Do you think I’d be crazy to get another dog?” I was already gazing longingly at dogs on parade with their “human companions” in the neighborhood.

Before he could answer, his four-year-old daughter, witness to many of Ken’s messy antics, marched over and warned, “Don’t get another dog, Nana. Dogs are TROUBLE.”

We’ll see.

August 12, 2017

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Visitor Comments: 25

(9) louis, August 23, 2017 10:57 PM

Pets are healthy to have.

In this crazy automated world we live in, dogs and cats are some people's only connection with the natural world. We all need that as we are creatures of the natural world also.

(8) Duane, August 16, 2017 2:29 AM

Rainbow Bridge

One thing I love to read and LOVE is the Poem "Rainbow Bridge" is it easy to find.

(7) Miriam, August 14, 2017 2:11 PM

I'm so sorry

House dogs are part of the family, Your story is so well written. Every word shows how much you loved the 4 legged fur member of your family.

We lost our 16 year old Rocky to cancer 7 years ago and we still miss him very much.

Today we have Patches a sweet 6 year old Jack a Bee who involves herself in every conversation that goes on in our house.

Take some time before getting another dog but do it. Even with a house full of kids, all the furry one asks for is love.

(6) MCP, August 14, 2017 7:03 AM

I know how you feel

Thank you for sharing your thought and feelings. I feel your pain.
My wife and I recently lost our old and sick dogs. We had to help her go, because she was going through too much pain.
It was a terrible moment. After two months, I feel like she's a far memory, and at the same time, as if she's never gone.
So difficult to put into words.
I know that official orthodox Judaism says I'll never meet her again. But the World to come is not completely ours to understand, so I still have a spark of hope that one day I'll be able to play fetch with her again.

(5) Mike, August 14, 2017 1:30 AM

Not kids-but very much family

We took in Freddie to foster him for 3 months (his 6th home)- almost 7 years ago. At almost 13 with cancer and eye problems we continue to love and care for him as a loved and important family member. Those who rescue an animal are rewarded by Hashem with a friend and companion who only wants to be loved and brings a special joy to those who comfort them. I am sorry for your loss and hope that you welcome another animal into your family.

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