Bonnie and Babu, forever known as “The Puppies,” joined our family 13 years ago on Valentine’s Day. Two energetic and dangerously cute little balls of puppy fur were the perfect therapy for the gray and leaden days that followed the passing of my mother, just a week prior.
Babu’s story has been told here. Bonnie’s came to an end yesterday as she left us, gently and peacefully, with the two people she loved the most by her side.
Bonnie Underfoot Valentine Pennywhistle Gooberella Beetlebright was special. They are all special. They love unconditionally and invite our better angels. If we are lucky, we’ll find that one dog who loves us more than all the rest, at least until the next one comes along
“Bonnie” reflected her sunny disposition and sense of humor. Underfoot was a “family” name for puppies that wanted to go everywhere we went and help with whatever we were doing. Valentine was in remembrance of the day she joined us. Pennywhistle was the sound she made when she talked, which was often. Gooberella was her goofball personality and Beetlebright lit up our lives every day for over 13 years.
I know there are many who would agree that the grief we feel for the passing of an animal friend is profound, and often as poignant as the loss of a person. As far as humans are concerned, we have a hope, a promise and a belief that we will see them again in the afterlife. We’re not so sure when it comes to our loyal and steadfast friends in the animal kingdom. It is my personal belief that a merciful God who would gift us with such joyful and loving entities must surely provide for their spirits as well.
We attach a great deal of emotion and personal history to our pets. Puppies are easy to love. People are not always so. A good dog is good practice for those feelings that might otherwise start to rust or atrophy from lack of use.
Dogs teach us to live in the present moment, and the passage of time marked in dog years must surely be richer than the time we humans abandon to worry and distraction. I have in mind a better calendar than the one we currently use, one which marks time not in months and years, but by the canine companions who accompany us during our different phases of life. That first puppy teaches us enduring lessons as we grow up together. The pups of early adulthood share in the adventures that become our best stories later in life. The next ones share stories with our own children, and console us in those years when it seems like life takes away more than it gives. Finally, we have the companions who comfort us during the years when empty seats surround the table, and our circle becomes ever smaller.
I am not a singer. Some of us lack the talent or the inspiration to give ourselves permission for such a spontaneous expression of joy, but I always sang to Bonnie. Her songs were silly and playful, and they celebrated her many names. She was my biggest, my only fan. I sang to her every day of her life, and I sang to her as that life slowly drained from her body and into the spirit realm.
With her final moments of awareness, she still responded to our voices and loving caresses. At the very last her eyes sought us out with the same anticipation and trust, and puzzlement. We told her not to be afraid. “Off you go,” we said cheerfully, as if we could ever hide how we truly felt from her. These were the words that gave her permission to go and play, and do “Bonnie things,” and then we sang once more to her until she was gone from this realm.
There is a painfully empty spot now where Bonnie’s bed used to be, and an empty place in our hearts. A light has gone out, and the world seems a bit dimmer. Grief is the price we pay for love, but it is the greatest bargain in the universe. In time, our grief will change to gratitude, for the laughs, the adventures and the stories. Another puppy will come along; new light will be kindled, and new songs will be sung. The loving memory of Bonnie Beatlebright will endure.