Today is Darwin’s birthday. I don’t mean Charles Darwin, but Darwin our beagle who turns 11 today. He came home with me and my spouse Lee in September on the occasion of our 10th anniversary, but he was born on June 2nd.
Yesterday a dear friend had the painful experience of saying good bye to her beloved beagles because they both had terminal issues that were causing pain. She made the decision a couple of weeks ago but gave these two lovely dogs two very special weeks and gave herself and her husband a way to say good bye with an open heart.
I usually avoid thinking about Darwin and mortality at the same time-it’s too painful to even think about. But because he is getting older and the ordeal my friend went through yesterday I have thought about it lately. Of course I know that having a dog means that you will one day lose that dog and will grieve that dog- but that’s head, my heart can’t bear the idea. But I know that someday he will be gone, my heart will break and I will treasure every moment he has given me.
I know everyone thinks that their dog is the best dog in the world and I am no exception. But Darwin is my soul mate dog- that once in a lifetime relationship. I am blessed with a wonderful partner and when Darwin came home with us he rounded out our family and made it complete.
He is by no means a terribly obedient dog- he is stubborn and strong willed but that is one of the things I love about him. His habit of “fencing” drives me to distraction. When the neighbor is in the backyard Darwin runs back and forth from one end of the fence to the other in a crazed frenzy that would give anyone a coronary and barking that deep beagle bark. In deference to our neighbors and my own sanity if this continues for more than a couple of minutes I’ll call him in. But more often than not he will look at me with this expression that seems to say “Why should I?” So, we learned to get him to “obey” by giving him a treat when he came in. Then we got to the point where just the sound of the plastic treat bag would bring him in so we tried to avoid the treats and just get him in by recreating the sound of his treat bag. Well it didn’t take too long before he caught on to that trick and now he needs more convincing that there is something in it for him in order to do what we ask.
If the back door is closed when he wants to go out in the back yard – he’ll just come over and stare at me. I’m supposed to know what he wants. When I come home he gives me that wonderful energetic doggie greeting which lasts about 15 seconds and then he runs to the back door. I sometimes think that I was put on this earth to be Darwin’s door man. But you know what? That’s fine with me.
He is a dog filled with quirks and personality. As he’s gotten older he sleeps more and when he goes to the dog park he is more interested in hanging around with us than playing with the other dogs. He used to coax dogs in the park to chase him around; not so much these days.
He doesn’t get into mischief as much as he used to. But every once in a while his inner puppy emerges and he’ll find something “interesting” to do when we’re not at home.
Darwin loves laps. He loves being next to you or curling up in the crook of your legs when you lie in bed.
Simply put Darwin is a joy.
I don’t have much experience in being unconditionally loved but Darwin gives me unconditional love every moment of every day. His love has taught me more about how to give and receive love than anyone. I know that his presence in our home has made my love for my spouse more profound and richer than I could imagine.
I have had a number of periods of AIDS related illnesses over the past 11 years and Darwin never leaves my side. When I am depressed or feeling hurt- he instinctively knows I need him and just comes over to be with me.
He inspired me to be active in PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) and serve as the organization’s Board President for four years. Our special bond was the subject of a chapter in the book “Paws and Reflect” a book of essays. Our chapter’s title is “The Beagle’s Gift”.
He gets me mad and he drives me crazy at times- but most of the time he is love in the form of a dog. And so what if he occasionally drives me crazy? He has captured my heart and that’s what matters.
Happy Birthday Darwin- you have etched a place in my heart that is there forever.