They found her wandering the neighborhood, they took her in, and there she made her home, well fed, safe, and much loved. Each year she took a bit more of their hearts. They named her Betty Boop. They had other animals, especially cats, and, in fact, I always thought of them as “cat people.” Betty, mostly border collie and also part mutt was almost always the first one to greet you when you entered their home and the last to wave you goodbye with her tail.
She didn’t have great dog stature. She was medium in height and weight and nothing really extra special in looks. She was mostly white in color with some black around the edges. She was pretty well behaved for a doggie that had managed to wrap her owners around her four paws early on. She did beg at the table and she would scarf up the appetizer treats when they were left unsupervised on the coffee table. She enjoyed meeting people but she was never overly aggressive about it.
I only met Betty about 15 times but she made a good impression on me. I knew her heart was kind and her soul gentle. I knew she gave great love to her little family.
Last week Betty died. Hers was an untimely death for she was still young at heart and spirit. Her human mom wrote “she had been suffering from allergies -- and staph infections from scratching them. Apparently, the staph spread through her entire body -- she died from septicemia.”
Those bald words belie a broken heart, of course. People who have never experienced a “heart dog” do not understand the pain of losing such a beloved animal. They will think to themselves, “well, it’s not like you lost a child or even a person.” These are the people who can never understand what the loss of such a pet is like. They may actually say to you on the loss of a pet, “Well, you can always get another one.”
A variation of this extremely insensitive remark is “She lived a long life; you should be grateful.” People who have the privilege of loving an animal know that no matter how long their companions live, they never live long enough.
I imagine Betty’s family will be looking for another dog in need of a good home, one who has been abandoned and is feeling lost and very alone. Betty is putting her pawprint on such a dog right now, whispering to the lost mutt that a good family is coming, just keep the faith.
We’ll celebrate the new dog’s arrival. Mixed in that celebration will be tears for Betty Boop, not for her life but for at her memory. They will be tears of joy and pain.
Run free, Betty Boop. Enjoy the wind. Remember how much you were loved. Send us a rainbow or a butterfly once in a while to remind us of the beauty of your heart. We let you go with reluctance but we are so grateful for the time you were here.