Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, October 08, 2013 11 comments
Bonding with an animal is a very special kind of relationship, one that seems to find its way into my work regularly. How someone treats other living creatures communicates volumes about what he or she values.  If you want to know who will grow up to be a villain, look no further than the kid down the block who delights in maiming insects and tormenting stray cats. Similarly, someone who can connect only to a totem creature that's a narcissistic extension of himself (think Voldemort and Nagini) is likely to be coldly ruthless to every other living thing outside his tiny circle of self. Conversely, an aimless underachiever who rescues hurt animals demonstrates a courageous compassion that can blossom into heroism. Learning to care for and communicate with a living thing whose cognition is so different from our own stretches and grows us.

Once that bond is built, it's quite hard to say goodbye.

Yesterday we had to put down our 15-year-old dog, a shelter rescue Husky/Australian shepherd mix we adopted in November 2000. My hubby and I tended to think of Nicky as our "firstborn," the creature who prepared us to become responsible parents when our daughter arrived in 2002.

It was painful to watch his decline over the last several years. His gait became more stiff, his back legs atrophied. He could no longer climb stairs and eventually couldn't walk on his own. A hip harness to carry his back end on walks enabled him to stay mobile for a few more months, but the degenerative neurological condition eventually hit his front legs too. When the slow decline became a sudden, cliff-like-dive and he was truly suffering, we had to make the hard decision to let him go.

I'll especially miss his wolf-like howls of joy whenever I returned home--his way of saying "Woo-hoo! The awesome one is here! I'm so psyched to see you!" It was like having my own ticker-tape parade every day, the way that dog made me feel.

Today I'm deeply sad to no longer have Nicky's trusting, joyful presence in my life. Though I expect we'll stay dog-free for a while and enjoy our two sweet kitties, I'll keep on writing canine (and equine and other species) friends for my characters.

Do animals have a role in your life? Do you incorporate animals in your fiction? 

11 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry for your loss, Laurel! I do know how hard this is, and how deep that vacuum feels sometimes when the house is so quiet. Saying a prayer for peace and joy in all those great memories, and the knowledge that Nicky had a long and great life with you.

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    1. Thanks, Heidi. It's strange not having the built-in routine of care also. The cats need to little from us, though they have been extra-cuddly lately.

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  2. So sorry to hear about Nicky. He looked like a beautiful dog. They(animals) certainly wrap themselves around our hearts, don't they? Hugs!

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    1. Thanks, Leandra. He was a very special guy, truly my number 1 fan.

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  3. Very sad to hear. I lost my precious companion a few months back. Heartbreaking. Don't think I'll ever get over it.

    Take care.

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    1. Thanks, Wendy. Sorry for your loss as well. Pets do add something extra-special to our lives that's so painful to lose.

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  4. So sorry to hear about your loss. I hope that you all are taking comfort in each other and the happy memories you have.

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    1. Our cats have been extra-cuddly, which helps to a degree. His absence seems like an especially large hole because he required so much extra care the last few months. :-(

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  5. Hugs!
    Nobody gives us such unqualified, thrilled-to-see-you love as our pets.

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    1. Thanks, Jenn. Pets surely do help us remember our worth isn't tied up in achievements. All it takes is basic loving care to be a hero to a dog.

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  6. Oh no, I'm so sorry. He sounds like a wonderful guy, and I can imagine the house must feel empty and strange.

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