My friend Elbow had to put her old Black Lab down for about the same reasons I let Bert go nearly five months ago. Our elder dogs lose mobility and they lose their ability to do things that large dogs must do for themselves. It is a bigger challenge to live with bigger dogs and Elbow has taken on some very large animals. We lost her Border Collie Frank last year and now it was Theo.
Theo and Frank came as a package deal. Elbow went down to the shelter to get a dog, and she wanted a Black Lab because they are made of the awesome, but there was a Border Collie in the same cage as a Black Lab, so Elbow sprung them both. Theo was gentle and loving and kind and quiet. Frank was everything evil that comes in a Border Collie; he was loud and frenetic and he was nervous. I suspected Frank of keeping an Espresso machine under the house, but for all his faults Frank really loved everyone and Frank meant well. His actions were not always what you’d want or what you’d need, but Frank’s heart was made of gold.
Theo was everyone’s friend. He was a large black smilin’ machine who greeted his loved ones with more enthusiasm than most people have for their children. Theo greeted with gusto. He wanted a friend to know, by dog, he missed his friends, he loved his friends, and everyone was going to hear about it, too. Theo was a one dog ticket tape parade. Theo knew the value of loving someone and he knew the value of letting them know it, too. I coined the phrase, “Theoistic Greeting” to set the standard of how a dog vocalizes a greeting.
Theo loved everyone and everyone loved Theo. I remember watching Marmalade the Cat stand up on her hind legs to rub her head against Theo’s chin. Theo stood there and gratefully accepted the feline love, for that was what Theo did best. Theo went to war for no reason against no one, even if he felt obligated to remove a trespasser, he did it with kindness.
There was a possum who lived in the barn and when Theo would catch the possum eating cat food or just plain walking across the yard, he would rush over and grab the possum and then walk around with the possum in his mouth for a while. Eventually he would set it down, and the possum would soon get up and walk away, again. Theo had the heart of a gentle giant and there was no dog more capable of loving his pack.
Theo once went nose to nose with a gigantic Cottonmouth and Elbow said her heart nearly stopped but the snake did not strike. Theo was just letting the snake know that, really, it wasn’t such a good idea to be there, and if it wasn’t too much trouble, move along.
Perhaps to some the death of a friend’s dog isn’t a tragedy. But now silenced is a voice raised loud in love. Now stilled is a sound that echoed across the land in greeting, not because of fame, or fortune, no, but a greeting raised to the heaven out of the simple joy of seeing someone who is valued and loved and who is a friend.
If the qualities of love, friendship, joy, happiness and family have any true and intrinsic meanings at all, Theo knew them all, and Theo knew them well. When we, as a pack, as a species, as a family, lose those qualities in anyone, great or small, it is a loss we should mourn if we feel that those things do have the value that Theo knew was there.