For the last few years I have been reading Tom Ryan's wonderful blog and Facebook posts
which are about many spiritual and emotional thoughts he shares with his readers. Most of his work depicts his exploits in his beloved New Hampshire hills and mountains with his marvelous dog Atticus M. Finch. If you are unfamiliar with his book and internet communications you still can guess what kind of man he is by the name he gave his canine companion. His posts contain quotes from works as simple as Winnie the Pooh and as profound as Emerson and Thoreau. ( I do, however, think Winnie the Pooh is extremely profound). The language is simpler, but Milne's ideas are just as transcendental as the Bostonian Brahams.
Two years ago, Ryan undertook the care of an extremely abused dog with the idea that he would give the old codger a few months of loving care and give him the chance to live his last days with a modicum of dignity and grace. Again, as a picture into Ryan's soul, he named the dog William M. Garrison. Will, of course, has a double meaning, for not only is it the name of a great person, but also symbolizes the hope that the dog has the will to live.
And so, the blind, crippled, deaf dog, angry at the world, responded to Ryan's patience, love, and above all , empathy, and lives and loves. Strangers, entranced by Tom's writing, have sent Will flowers, paid for his grooming, knitted blankets for him, and cared for him.
All of this concern is a tribute to Ryan's writing which is the epitome of what great writing is.
This week, however, the time has come to allow the dog to become one with Tom's beloved mountains. This morning Tom wrote that it is so hard for the heart to realize what the head tells one to do.
I understand how Tom feels because on July 2, my beloved Duffy died.
How did I love Macduff? When I first saw him, he was 12 weeks old, traumatized because he had just been separated from his mother, who no doubt lived in a puppy mill, and shipped via airplane from Saint Louis to New York. He was a miserable bit of fluff sitting forlornly in a cage. I took him out of the cage, held him in the palm of my hand, and we looked at each other.
At that moment, a spark went through both of us, and I knew, and from the way the dog behaved, I knew he felt that we would love each other as long as either of us lived.
When Duffy was 6 months old, I bought another dog to keep him company. I care for Pippen, but I adored Macduff. What my husband and I did not realize was how much Pippen loved Duffy. When Macduff was 15 years old, arthritic, crippled,almost blind, and seizure prone, we knew it was time to stop killing him with kindness, and we took Pippen to the vet with us, so the dogs and my husband and I could spend our last few moments together. We let him stay with the corpse for quite a while. Of course, we have no idea what he understood, but we were shocked by how depressed he became. His depression has deepened as the weeks crawl by, and now, 3 months later, I fear for Pippen's life. Is it possible that a healthy dog can die of a broken heart?
As Tom Ryan, Pippen, and I know with our reasoning faculties that love will last to the edge of doom, our hearts cannot reconcile the fact that the loved one is no longer able to share our lives with us. Robert Frost expressed this knowledge best in the last few lines of his great poem "Reluctance."
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question "Whither?"
Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?
As Louise Penny said in her book How The Light Gets In, the best qualities a dog has is he knows how to love, and he knows he is loved.
May you all experience such love.