'That'll be nice.' He said.
It was more than "nice." It was balm for the soul. No-one would ever call Bayhurst Woods 'Breathtaking' or praise the abundance of wild flowers, but the quiet gentle beauty of our native trees soaring cathedral like above age old twisting trails suited my mood. Before too long I met an elderly couple who stopped to fuss over my dogs.
'We lost our old girl.' The woman tells me. Having spent all last Friday hunting for my Dad's Patterdale Terrier, I panicked, knowing I was involved now and would have to help search.
'Lost her six months ago.' The man confirms. 'First time we've been able to walk in these woods without her.'
They both smiled, anxious not to burden me with their grief but I saw the scars they tried to hide.
So we spent the next ten minutes chatting, parting still as strangers but the memory of this chance encounter stayed with me.
This is for them, the nameless old couple I met briefly in Bayhurst Woods, and for all those who know the joy and heartbreak that we allow into our lives when we open our hearts to a dog.
The Power of the Dog
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passsion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.
When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair--
But ... you've given your heart to a dog to tear.
When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.
We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long--
So why in--Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?
I think I know the answer to Kipling's question. When memories are all that's left, be certain to create the best you can.
Julia Hughes, Author of A Ripple in Time