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Thursday, May 04, 2006

A happy story about death

By special request for BooMan. I remember when I first met my dog Ben. He was a beagle puppy with a pack of other puppies in the bare dirt back yard of my uncle Ben. Ben was my grandfather's brother. My first name came from my grandfather and my middle name from my uncle. I named the dog after Ben. He (the puppy, not my uncle) had jumped higher than the others and I liked his enthusiasm. I was four. You don't put too much thought into picking out a dog when you're four years old. At first, Ben (the pup again although it also is true of my uncle) had the run of our farm chasing rabbits and jumping back from the big yellow tom farm cat. Tom (the cat, not my neighbor who also was a dear curmudgeon) terrified Ben, but little else did, including the skunk that sprayed him and left him smelling awful even after we bathed him several times. Ben (the dog although also true of my uncle) was rather lazy. He loved nothing more than sitting under the old apple tree at the foot of somebody. He wasn't particular (also true of my uncle) and he would travel from house to house for meals (again, true of my uncle, a World War II veteran who fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and France before returning home not quite right in the head. His wife, a particular woman, divorced him after he came home late -- or early in the morning depending on your point of view -- pissing in her flowers planted in front of the house one too many times.) But though he often scrounged food at the neighbors' -- and where we lived neighbors were a bit of a walk for him -- he always returned home for his meals as well. He was something of a character (also true of my uncle) and well-liked despite of or maybe because of his character flaws. As he grew into an old hunting dog, he didn't like the trouble of hunting if it meant getting up from in front of the wood stove (also true of my uncle).

I loved the smell of him. He smelled of the outdoors and he made me think of hunting prints although there was not much classy about him. He often listened to my troubles without comment except to lick my hand (the dog not my uncle who wasn't much for licking -- or listening to someone's troubles for that matter) and he was a great companion (true of my uncle as well.). When Ben (the dog, my uncle died later) passed away, I was living at home while going to college at the local branch campus. I cried over him and did not want him to be gone. And to be honest, he isn't. I think of him all the time. I can remember the feel of his fur, the way he liked his ears rubbed, the smell of him and the feel of his tongue on my hands. Nothing is gone forever as long as it is loved. Grief seems like a terrible thing. It isn't. It is the passing storm with the rainfall of tears to wash away the sadness and leave behind the good memories shining like a rainbow behind it. I think something that my uncle Ben said when he died is probably true about the passing of my dog Ben. My older sister, a registered nurse, and my younger sister, then a respiratory therapist, both were working when Ben came in to the hospital for the last time. He told them he had had a good life. And he was ready to go. And he did.


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