“…a bitter sorrow ’tis to lose a brute
friend, dog, or horse; for grief must then be mute.
So many smile to see the rivers shed
of tears for one poor speechless creature dead…”
The air was thick with my little girl’s grief… as we stood together in a remote backyard corner of my parents home, near the final resting place of other dear companions our family has enjoyed o’er the years.
Sweaty and weary, my voice was serene through deep breaths brought forth from the exertion of the 4-foot hole I dug into loamy soil.
I spoke of the love my daughter had for her pet, of the memories that will linger in her thoughts.
A meager gesture, but yet solemn. My daughter is but a youngling girl and, though wise beyond her years, still possesses a child’s sensitivity to love and loss.
Moreover, she holds an ambition toward veterinary science and intends to devote her life to the medical care and treatment of animals.
As the health of her own dear pet became dire, she sought to help her become well again.
In her child’s relentless hope, she knew that her friend would recover in due time, to again enjoy long walks around town and naps in the grass.
Alas, it was my gentle firstborn daughter who first discovered that Bella had died… and it has broken her tender heart.
Yesterday was a busy day, both at my place of employ as well as within my household.
Between the usual number of tasks and appointments of the workday, were harried intermittent exchanges with my beloved at home with the children.
When my wife sent me a text message informing me that one of the dogs was sick, I was waiting “on hold” with one person while hastily typing out an email response to another. It was not a good time.
Though not utterly insensitive to her concerns, I trusted her to “handle it” as she does so capably for the vast multitude of daily dramas that often afflict our busy family of six people whom are quite involved in their community.
I replied some brief words alluding to the fact that we might make arrangements to take the dog to the veterinarian. I made an offhand suggestion of meager support and returned again to my duties, hardly giving the matter a second thought.
Later, as the first rays of Sun began to dip below the horizon, I received word that Bella had died and that my daughter was distraught. Immediately, my failures became apparent to me.
I broke off the “important meeting” I had taken such great pains to schedule, and fled homeward.
Gathering her into my arms as soon as I stepped into the house, I let her sobs dampen my shirt. A bitter bouquet of sadness and Old Spice.
We then went for a brief drive around town. I just wanted to talk with her for a few minutes before beginning the task that lay before us.
I could sense the strength in her, despite her sadness; even discerning how this sad episode might bear fruit in her future as a veterinarian… if such becomes her calling.
Afterward, my beloved and I loaded the creature into our vehicle.
Gaelynn and I drove out to my parent’s estate in silence. Glancing over, I could see her thoughts turning within.
Once arriving, I bade her go indoors with my mother to prepare a proper monument to accompany the gravesite… then I, still dressed in my work clothes, carved out a sizable entombment.
Deep enough to quench the scent and allow the remains time to decompose into the earth, I carved a rounded rectangular grave and gently lowered the beast into her final resting place.
As a father who cherishes his daughter, and fiercely protects her from much of the darkness and evil found in our world, a part of me despises the pain of Death that must be learned by those with the consciousness to understand.
However, in my desire to raise her to be a strong woman (in a world that so desperately needs strong women) I also understand that this is a bitter pill that will yet benefit her in time.
For now, though, my daughter has lost a friend.