Only those who have lost their best canine or feline companion can know the profound sadness and emptiness accompanying that.
Rather than being a substitute for humans in our life, pets in fact are an appurtenance, an enhancement. In many ways they epitomize traits humans are barely capable of. We as people build walls and boundaries. We have ulterior motives. We have a hard time letting go of the past. We put ourselves first. We’re insecure about expressing love, reticent about showing affection.
Pets are cursed with none of these failings.
Having had dogs throughout my life, each of whom excelled in his/her own unique way, I can truly say that 5-year old Radar stood head and shoulders above the rest. Perfectly behaved by some fortuity of nature, never a-wandering, ever watchful over me, enthusiastically and unswervingly kind toward humans and other canines, yet protective of his home and people, joyful in the face of his adversity, his months of decline due to osteosarcoma and his ultimate loss were heart crushing.
The house is now empty, yet every morning like clockwork I still awaken at first light to take him for his walk. The first few days I felt adrift, but recognizing I needed a diversion, a new routine, I began running at this hour.
I live in a rural area and loved the morning walks taken with Radar — the quiet, the lack of cars and people, the cool breeze sliding down from the mountain tops. I could mentally organize my day while attending to his needs. I missed that. And so on day four of my grieving, as I got out of bed, the horizon just beginning to lighten up a golden pink, I, instead of shuffling morosely in the general direction of the coffee maker and the computer, put on my running shoes.
I’ve always hated running, but it has newly provided a way to work out my feelings through physical exertion, and allows me to celebrate my canine kid by tromping along the same route we followed during his way-too-short lifetime.
As much as I traditionally have shunned running, at this meaningful hour of the day it’s the right thing to do. It lightens, just a little bit, the burden of Radar’s loss, not just while I’m running, but throughout the day.