I don’t have a photo of Bert’s grave to show you. It’s the kind of grave I want; it’s a hole in the ground somewhere in the woods. I can’t tell you the exact spot because the area flooded the spring after his death and there’s no telling where the grave is now. I think Bert would have liked the idea of a watery grave. The dog loved him some water. I didn’t get a marker or anything like that because to me that’s just not what being gone is about. It isn’t what being remembered is being about, to me.
That’s what I am trying to avoid. I don’t want to sound like I’m telling you, suggesting to you, or even so much as giving you advice on loss, grief, remembrance, or love. I can’t do any of that and if you have someone in your life who can then stick with that person for as long as you can. I don’t know you well enough to see inside your soul like that. I want you, if you will, to approach what I am saying with an open mind but more importantly, with an open heart.
I loved my dog. For twelve years Bert was the only constant. No matter what else happened I had a reddish brown dog with some cream colored places and a white chest. His tail had a black spot on it that was there when he was a puppy it disappeared, then reappeared later in life. Bert was a splotchy tongued dog. He also knew more about how I was feeling than most people in my life.
A deputy got lost one night and I had no idea the guy was law enforcement. I was inside my living room, holding a shotgun on him and the man had no idea I was there. To me, it was a simply equation; if he fired on Bert, who was inside the house and trying his very best to tear the door down to get to the guy, I was going to open up on him. The scene was so damn tense I was physically sick for three days afterwards. I came so very damn close to killing someone, and if Bert would have been able to get out of that door, he would have. The deputy and I had a nice long talk after all the guns went away and he told me he thought that damn brown dog was coming through the door.
I’m not advocating shooting people over dogs here, don’t get me wrong. What I am saying is there are people in your life who will die for you, who will kill for you, and whose life means nothing to them if they can save yours. Even when those people aren’t human, hang onto them, as hard as you can for as long as you can.
There isn’t an answer here for you, I’m sorry, I am so terribly sorry. You have no idea how connected I feel to your grief because there are things that remind you of him each day and there are things that jump out at you at odd times to remind you that he’s gone. I feel that through you. I feel that with you. There, that’s part of what I was trying to tell you and didn’t know it until right now; I understand the depth of your loss. I lost my dog. He’s dead. It’s been two years and I still look for him. I still hold the door open sometimes and wait to hear his footfall. I will never again feel as secure as I did when Bert slept at the end of my bed.
I have an answer for me and maybe that’s part of what I’m trying to tell you. I’ve written this five times and each time it never felt exactly right. I didn’t know I was trying to say this until now, but I found an answer for me; I have decided to foster dogs. I can’t get my dog back. You understand it, don’t you, how incredibly unfair that is. The Universe, as mighty and as large and majestic as it is, one brown dog isn’t a lot to ask of all creation, just for one lifetime, is it? Why? Why can’t I just have my dog? Keep your supernovas and your horse headed galaxies and black holes; I want my damn dog. But that isn’t an answer.
I’m going to foster dogs, I’ve said that, but I’m trying to connect as many people with dogs and dogs with people, good people, really good people, with really good dogs, and maybe I can help someone out there find their own Bert. Someone out there might get to have their best dog ever. I want someone else to love a dog like I did. That’s my answer for me. It’s my way of dealing with the idea he is gone, and it’s my way of returning to the Universe, ungrateful bitch that she is, something that she only loaned me, that I thought was mine forever.
I didn’t know I was going to say that until now.
Now, I got it now, I finally know what I was going to say, what I needed to tell you. Trust your heart. Just like you knew your dog when you loved him, you’ll know your answer when you find it, ever long it takes. A heart that loves that much cannot be wrong. You will find your answer and what you do will be right for you and for him. Even if you don’t do anything other than show your son that dogs are worth loving that much, even that, is everything. That is truly everything, when it gets down to it.
Yeah, that was what I was trying to tell you.
Trust your heart. You may have already done more good in a small child’s soul than all the writing in the Universe.
This is about the fifth time I have written this and I think this is the answer I was looking for.