If I ever have a day that goes so badly I begin to doubt what I've long believed true " that this fragmented world is held together beneath its veneer by compassion and love " I know what I will do.
I'll open the file that contains all of the responses I've received in the past week after I wrote a tribute to my 9-year-old dog, Ranger, whom I lost after he was diagnosed with cancer. E-mails, cards, phone calls ... I'm still astounded, and deeply moved, by the words and emotions they convey, not just for my situation but for the dogs and cats they've shared their lives with.
Several people talked about what they had done to get through the grief of losing their pets. In hearing those stories, I found solace. And because they have helped me, it would not be right to keep those words to myself ... perhaps they can help you, too, or someone you know who loses a pet. The difficulty is there were so many responses I'm only able to excerpt a fraction of them, and because they hadn't intended the messages for publication, I'll hold on to the names.
Several people recommended visiting Web sites or reading books that have helped them. A good Web site: www.petloss.com, and a good book: Mark Levin's "Rescuing Sprite." Writing about your pet is good therapy, too, as I learned and another writer affirmed: "I sat and wrote all of the wonderful things I would miss about him. It helped me find some closure. I think I'll read that list when I get home from work."
Then there's the whole issue of whether to go through this again by one day getting another pet. Too soon for me, but I have been convinced by several writers that what our pets give us during the course of their lives far outweighs the voids their departures leave.
"I have been through this experience three times now and it doesn't get easier," wrote one person. "... I swore no more " not doing this anymore." Fate had other ideas in that case as she wrote how a puppy of the same breed was part of a silent auction she attended, and "it was love at first sight."
Another wrote, "It is very hard to lose a great dog, this too has happened to me on a few occasions. Each one held a special place in our hearts forever. I always said I can't do this any more, eventually another dog or two found me. I can't imagine life without a great dog . Maybe somewhere down the line, Ranger will send you another companion he feels will benefit you and get comfort from your affection and love."
And as for the guilt that's hard to avoid when we have to make that decision, one writer recalled, "the vet said something I've never forgotten: 'You have it in your power to give him a great gift " end his suffering.' How true, how true."
Some people sent poems, a few original and a few of unknown authorship, and by far the most popular of them is one called "Rainbow Bridge," which describes a place where our departed pets play and wait for us in the meadows and hills, and then join us to cross a rainbow bridge together.
That's a comforting image, but after hearing the depth of emotion people hold for their pets, I would add another dimension to the scene. I envision it's a place where our pets can converse with each other as they wait. And what might they be saying? How about exactly what some of the people who wrote to me said about their pets, only this time the words would be describing the devotion of their owners:
"(They) have such an amazing way of worming their way into our hearts. Their attentive devotion, affectionate nature, constant forgiveness, and warm company brings so much to our lives."
A poem I especially like by Irving Townsend, "The Once Again Prince," was sent by a family who found comfort in it after losing their black Lab:
"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan."
Thanks to all who responded ... like Ranger, it will not be forgotten.
Michael Ivie, a military veteran, wrote a column on Sunday's Opinion page about the daily trepidation he feels having a son fighting in Iraq. He was also critical of the president and the war. He expected to get plenty of negative responses to his views, but that's why it's called an "opinion" page, and he was ready for it.
Somehow, based merely on assumptions, people read into the biographical note at the end of the column " "Veteran Michael Ivie of Gardnerville is an employee of the Douglas County School District" " that he was preaching these views to students in Douglas County. This troubled him and he's asked me to set the record straight. Actually, I'll just share his words: "I am a night-shift custodian and maintenance employee. By day I work as a landscaper. I do not teach or interact with students in any educational area. I also do not discuss or attempt to enlighten anyone else's children about politics or my personal political stands. That is the responsibility of every child's parents, not mine."
I would add just one cautionary note that his words not be taken too far. Even if he were a teacher, he would be entitled to express his opinions outside the classroom. If anyone suggests otherwise, I'm sure we can find a copy of the Constitution to set them straight. It is, after all, what every member of our Armed Forces takes an oath to protect.
- Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at 881-1221, or via e-mail at email@example.com