Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One

Harley and Me

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Image courtesy of my niece…

I’m a dog lover.  I always have been and I always will be.  If you’ve ever walked with me and a dog patters by, I always get distracted and ignore the people next to me.  It’s all about the dog.  Dr. Oz has a few pets, including a Black Lab named Rosie – how cute is that!  He offers the following advice on owning a pet (from his blog on DoctorOz.com): “Owning a pet can have positive effects on your cholesterol and help fight depression. Petting your animal has been clinically proven to reduce blood pressure and increase serotonin, a hormone that helps to elevate your mood.”  I can tell you, that in general, I am much happier when there is a dog around.  The only problem is, that like many people, my heart has been shattered by the loss of a pet.  I grew up with a beautiful black and tan American Cocker Spaniel named Rascal.  I’ve written about him in passing once before, in an article about depression, that I’ve already re-posted once.  I had Rascal from the time that I was 7 until I was 21.  He was my best friend, constant companion, faithful confidante and all around best dog in the world.  He had a joy in life that was infectious, a sweet disposition, the patience of a saint (I’ll write more on my boy later – but really, I deserved a few more bites than I ever got), and the compassion that only dogs can show.  Here is where it gets depressing…

I went home to Nova Scotia, many years ago to get my wisdom teeth out.  My dog was a senior at that point, but still stayed by my side as I was recovering.  He always stayed with me when I was sick or suffering – it’s that compassion that dogs have that people could use a little of.  He was sick himself at that point with cancer, but as anyone with a dog can tell you, their people come first.  I knew that this would be the last time that I would see my beloved dog, and it broke my heart.  My last night at home (I was living in Toronto), he was trying to sleep on the cool tile in the hallway.  I had to be with him, so that he would know that he would always be my best boy, my sweet prince and my beloved booboo forever.  I lay on the floor next to him crying all night.  I pet his velvety nose, his soft ears, held each of his paws in my hand and hugged him.  My patient boy knew that I needed this and even though he wanted to sleep and he probably would rather have escaped, he let me complete my ritual.  I was trying, I guess, to memorize my dog.  He sighed, and instead of getting up, licked my hand as if to say, “I know that you need this, and even though I’m tired and I’d rather dream about my dog cookies and running through the grass the way I used to, I’ll let you.”  Dogs sacrifice for us…and when they get older we need to sacrifice for them…

Which brings me to my furry nephew Harley.  I dog sat this weekend.  Harley is also a senior, having celebrated his “Bark Mitzvah” (13 years for a dog).  Harley is also an American Cocker Spaniel.  A beautiful blond, unlike the dark handsomeness of Rascal.  Like Rascal, Harley has a merry disposition.  He was that silly goof that was always into everything and getting into trouble.  You can never stay mad at Harley – he’s a cutie.  He cares about only 3 things in life – 1) food, 2) love and 3) sleep and yes, it’s in that order.  When I read the book “Marley and Me”, their trouble-making Yellow Lab reminded me of Harley.  Harley is not the smartest dog in the world (sorry Donna), but he was always an adorable love sponge.  He used to get so excited when I’d visit that he pee all over my leg.  I couldn’t be that upset – who else has that much emotion over a Jill sighting?  He had a ready smile – really – he was a smiling dog and loved nothing better than to sit in your lap and have you pat him, for hours.  His poor sister Snickers (now in doggy heaven) always got shoved out of love’s way by Harley – but she knew he needed the attention more.

When Snickers died, Harley had a shock. He’d never been alone, and within the last year, the merry little boy had changed so much.  When I came to take care of him, he initially was afraid of me.  It lasted about 3 seconds, but he just leaned his little body against me, in relief.  I had to carry the former bounciest dog around, down the stairs to take him for a walk.  My shock was when he couldn’t find his way back into the house.  Little Harley had aged, and the happiest dog ever was tentative in a way that I had never seen before.  He was fairly calm as the day wore on, even taking a nap, but seeing him so fragile has hurt my heart.  This morning, I woke him up at 9 for a walk, and again, he had trouble getting started and finding his water bowl.  I was going to take him out again, but once we got to the living room, Harley decided that he needed a nap more than a call to nature.  I sat with him on the floor, so that he could lean against me, like he used to, and I gently patted the sweet little boy.  As he tried to get comfortable, I kept my hand on him, so he’d know that I was there (he has some vision problems) and to help keep him calm.  I needed this just as much as he did and once again, I started crying because even though it may not be Harley’s time, I know that once day, this joyful little dog will go on to heaven to be with my sweet furry niece Snickers and my Rascal.  It hurt that this love sponge, needed affection so much less than he used to.

I always wondered why dogs live such a short life compared to humans.  The best answer that I’ve ever heard came from an article on lgd.org courtesy of vet Linda Bobo.  She was putting down a family dog and after, she and the family wondered about the very same thing.  The family’s four year old son came up with the following: “Everybody is born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody and being nice, right? Well, animals already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”  As much as a dog breaks my heart, I will have one of my own one day because the unconditional love that they provide is worth the pain.  I hope that anyone who has or plans to get a dog knows that they grow up and grow older.  They need the same love and patience as a senior that they did when they were a puppy.  Don’t abandon them in their time of need – they would never do that to you.  

Today, I am grateful for the love that dogs like Rascal, Snickers and Harley have given me.  I’m grateful that I was able to give Harley a bit of comfort.  I’m grateful that I know so many people who have or have had dogs that love them even when they are no longer the fun, cute puppy that they grew to love.  A senior dog may be slower, and greyer but they need as much love, or more than a puppy…

Author: Jill Schneiderman

Hello and welcome to my blog. This started as a one year experiment to try to improve my health, turning to Dr. Oz for advice. One year became two and after that, the writing bug hit and writing about travel, lifestyle and my own musings became more fun so my blog evolved from The Whiz-Ard That is Dr. Oz into Jill of Some Trades. After the death of my mother, I added grief to my list of topics and this became a place for me to remember the good, but embrace the sad as well. I'll never write about any one thing - there is just so much in the world to comment on. Life is all about crying and laughing and learning, sometimes all at once and this is what I hope that my blog is for you.

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