“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
Clarence, a kindly guardian angel shared those words in the classic 1946 movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.”
And I’ve often found the words ring even more true when talking about our dogs.
As my fourteen year old lame corgi Maddie continued to struggle earlier this summer with various health issues, I was already feeling an all too familiar void coming my way.
While lamenting with a fellow corgi owner strolling by with his own corgi pup, I was advised to adopt another dog before Maddie passed on “to help ease the pain.”
He was speaking from his own experience.
“Thanks for the suggestion,” I said dismissing the advice right after our conversation.
After all, I already had a couple of little four legged friends back at home.
Still I knew the hole in my heart was growing as Maddie’s days continued to shrink.
I guess it was no surprise that I found myself ‘just stopping by’ a small shelter one afternoon while driving out in the country.
I’d been visiting a nearby cemetery where my parents and brother were buried, and was feeling a little blue.
As I first entered the shelter, I spotted a white five pound dog dancing with joy as he first saw me.
The silver wispy curls shining like a halo on his head reminded me of Clarence.
And this little guy was clearly a senior as well.
Estimated to be about ten years old, the dog was a dirty, matted mess when he’d first arrived. He had so much hair on his body that the shelter couldn’t safely guess at the breed buried below it.
This former stray, named ‘Dirty Harry’ by the loving staff, was cleaned up and had since been shaved down.
A half hour after my arrival a smiling Harry and smiling me walked together out of the shelter after completing adoption paperwork.
I’d chosen to leave the dirty part of his name far behind.
Back home Harry quickly got to work befriending Maddie as she rested on her plaid dog bed in the kitchen.
Harry continued to share his sweet smiles and dancing acumen daily in spontaneous recitals of joy right next to the stove.
Maddie appeared to approve, watching every move.
She once loved to dance herself on those short hind legs years prior to her lameness.
Harry quickly fell in love with his big sister, joining Maddie in her stroller on our trips to the farmer’s market and for outdoor band concerts down by the lake.
And also on that comfy dog bed.
Maddie was soon smiling brighter again herself.
Yet just two months and a day after Harry’s adoption, the music suddenly stopped.
Harry had left us while sleeping peacefully on my shoulder, just like he did every night.
My own vet suspected Harry was actually older than ten and detected a heart murmur, though it was still unclear why Harry had died that evening.
But one warm day a week later it became clear to me.
Earlier in the morning Maddie had also passed on.
I choose to believe Harry, her guide and protector, had flown back to get her.
He was an angel after all.
Maddie’s guardian and guide granted her wings to finally move on to a more beautiful place where she could kick up her heels and run free once more.
My heart is full again, just at the thought.