It’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
Sabrina and I call this numbering a ‘Snout count.’ Every time our six rescue dobies go outside or come back in, we sound off so no one is accidentally left behind.
Each morning, we lead our group of dogs up and down our two-tenths mile driveway. This exercise bestows multiple benefits: fitness, energy is expended which might otherwise express itself as destructive behavior or fights. Too, it builds pack cohesion. That driveway might seem the same as it was yesterday to me, but to the dog’s nose, much has changed overnight. For all these reasons, running the pack is not an optional exercise.
One of the members of this rescue pack of Dobermans was Magnum. He came to us year and a half ago, age about six. He was a big, solidly rigged bruiser who was very hesitant and mistrustful when he first arrived.
Over time, however, our love – as well as the magic of the pack – bought him to the point of fierce protection, and demonstrated affection for his humans. The ‘Magnum Hug’ involved him shoving his muzzle between your legs, and wrapping one paw around your calf.
Like many dogs, Magnum had more lip than he needed; they were not watertight. When he drank it sounded like a scupper hose slurping up bilge. When done, he would raise and turn his head, and a half-cup of water puddled beneath him on the floor. Then he would come rest his head on my lap. When I then stood up, I appeared to be urine incontinent; a likeness my Sabrina never failed to point out.
During our morning runs, Magnum would proceed downhill at a leisurely lope, then begin a methodical, determined walk back uphill; always the last to arrive. But, ever so slowly, he made fewer and fewer trips with the pack. In his last months, one trip was his limit; but he was determined to make that trip.
One recent morning, as Sabrina took them to the front door to run, Magnum took her hand in his mouth; gently, briefly. He was signaling he did not feel strong enough that day to make his run. Although in no way suffering, his appetite fell off for two days.
An examination from our vet revealed metastatic cancer. Love and Mercy shared counsel; mercy spoke the final word. Our boy was inducted into a deep, untroubled sleep; a sleep that would remove him far from the threat of spreading cancer, but, alas, also far from us.
There’s not a person who rescues animals who wonders what the animals suffered in their life before us. We wonder at a question which we, in truth, don’t want answered, for the inhumanity, the raw cruelty some humans visit on animals is beyond clemency.
We cannot undue what has gone before. We are stewards only of the now; not the moment to come, nor those which have passed. Our only choice is to make now loving, and warm and safe.
I find that I never so fervently hope an Afterlife exists as when one of our beloved pets die. If my Sabrina and I are permitted to be re-united with them, Heaven will have fulfilled its every promise.
But, until then, it’s, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…