Friday, March 2, 2012

One Life

Our first rescue dog Feliz passed from this life in 2008 after sixteen years of sharing her love. As we knew it would, her death broke our hearts.

Grief manifests itself in many ways. For a long time, we heard the click of her nails on tile, still saw her shadow at the door, and we lingered at the garage, waiting for her to show and claim a biscuit. All of those moments were products of our wishful thinking and old habits are hard to deny, but it’s amazing how well she trained us. If Stephen King’s story in Pet Sematary were true, we’d gladly welcome her back to this life, even if she were the spawn of Satan.

That’s how much we loved her.

Her full name was Feliz Navidog. Yes, she was a Christmas present, but not for us. We had given her to my parents with the caveat that if they truly didn’t want a puppy, they could return her to us. (What were we thinking giving a puppy to my elderly parents? HA!) Within two weeks, back she came. In hindsight, she was the best present we ever got. We nearly called her Boomerang, but in Spanish, the word Feliz translates to ‘happy’ and that suited her just fine. She always had a smile on her face.

When she was a pup, she had a dark muzzle, one ear up and one down, a curled tail and an unfaltering bounce to her step. People often asked us what breed she was. In truth, she was a German Shepherd Chow mix, but we lovingly called her a “Somma Dog”—because she was somma dis, somma dat. But one man’s mutt is another man’s idea of perfection.

Feliz had many admirable skills, despite her questionable lineage.

She was a practitioner of puppy telepathy, transmitting her thoughts to us with a meaningful stare. She also spoke the language of human beings with unfailing accuracy, developing an extensive vocabulary. Balancing a biscuit on the end of her nose then tossing it into her mouth had become her signature move. And in later years, she mastered sign language when her hearing was failing. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Every morning of her life—without fail—she awoke for the sole purpose of pleasing us. We saw it in her face and felt it on her warm wet tongue. She never tired of the routine or the mundane, even after her joints got stiff and her eyesight grew dim—because in her mind, she was always that puppy with a bounce in her step.

It took us a long time to get over her death, but after I blogged about my grief, many people responded that it wasn’t about trying to replace her, it was about giving another deserving rescue dog a good home. That’s when we made up our minds to move on and open our home to more rescue animals. We now have four rescue animals, two dogs and two cats.

They are (we are) Feliz’s legacy. One life matters.

Dogs remind us that love should be unconditional. In their world, friendships begin with a well-placed and unerring sniff—completely devoid of an ulterior motive or personal agenda. If you pass the sniff test, you’re in. No cover charge and no membership fee. And with a mere wag of a tail, a dog can make you smile and lift your spirits. We can all learn from them—because their love comes from a higher place.

Share your favorite pet story with me today. Funny or sad, we love them all.


  1. I know exactly how you feel. I've had plenty of dogs over the years and losing them was painful every time, but the last one was the hardest because I was living on my own. Beauty was a hybrid wolf and I had her for about 13 years. She was a little pup when I got her and I had this idea to eventually get another one and name it Beast... but then the little puppy turned into a 100lb dog so that idea went away :P

    For weeks after she passed, I'd wake up and think it was just a bad dream, imagine hearing her at the door wanting to come in, and assorted other things. I went through the typical 'I'll never own another dog' phase but it eventually passed, although Beauty will always hold a special place in my heart.

    Losing pets is always sad but it's a price worth paying because of the joy they bring when they're here.

  2. Well said, Marty. Must be why you're a writer. Sounds like you went through the same thing as I did, but at the time I had no idea how to cope until I blogged about it and heard from countless sympathetic people like you. That allowed me to move on and open my home to the pets we have now. I only wish I had a bigger house.

  3. I don't know who wrote this, but I have had wonderful dogs pass through my life, and my number one dog right now has only another year or two of comfort left before I'll have to make The Decision. This little verse can help us all keep up both perspective and courage:

    "When humans die, they make a will
    To leave their homes and all they have
    To those they love.
    I, too, would make a will if I could write;
    To some poor wistful lonely stray
    I leave my happy home,
    My dish, my cosy bed, my cushioned chair, my toy,
    The well-loved lap, the gently stoking hand,
    The loving voice,
    The place I made in someone’s heart,
    The love that, at the last, could help me to
    A peaceful, painless end,
    Held in loving arms.
    If I should die, Oh! Do not say,
    “No more a pet I’ll have
    To grieve me by its loss”.
    Seek out some lonely, unloved dog
    And give my place to him.
    This is my legacy I leave behind
    ‘Tis all I have to give."

  4. Kathryn--Just when I thought I couldnt shed another tear for my perfect pet, I did this morning when I read your amazing post. Thanks so much for caring enough to do this--for me and other people who will read this at another time.

    Being a writer, the only way I could get past the grief was to write about her. Once I did that, I had an outpouring of comments from other pet owners who shared thoughts like you did. Mostly dealing with the fact that it's not about the pain of loss, but about opening our home to a new rescue animal that deserves a good home. When I got my head wrapped around that, I was able to feel the legacy Feliz left me and we have 2 rescue cats and 2 rescue dogs now. None of them are like Feliz, but they are uniquely their own personalities and it's been sheer joy discovering them.

    Thansk again for sharing. I will never forget your kindness.