“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 last 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 still had a couple of four legged friends back at home.
Yet I knew the hole in my heart was growing as Maddie’s days continued to shrink.
I suppose it was no surprise that I found myself stopping by a small rural 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 immediately 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 some of Clarence the angel.
And this little fellow 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 at the shelter. He had so much hair on his body that the staff could only guess at the breed hidden below.
This former stray was gifted the name Dirty Harry, cleaned up, and had since been shaved down.
A half hour after my arrival a smiling Harry and a smiling me walked together out of the shelter after completing the adoption paperwork.
But I chose to leave the dirty part of his name far behind.
Once back in my home, Harry quickly got to work befriending Maddie as she rested on her cozy plaid dog bed in the kitchen.
Harry would share his sweet smiles and dancing acumen in spontaneous recitals of joy right next to the stove.
Maddie appeared to approve of her new friend, watching every move.
She once loved to dance herself on her short hind legs years prior to her lameness.
Harry seemed to fall in love quickly with his new big sister, joining Maddie in her pet 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 soon was smiling brighter again herself.
Yet just two months and a day after Harry’s adoption, the music suddenly stopped.
Harry left us while sleeping on my shoulder, just like he did every night.
My vet suspected Harry was much older than ten and detected a heart murmur, though it was still unclear why Harry had died that evening.
But one day a week later it became clear to me.
Earlier that morning Maddie had passed on as well.
I like to think Harry, her new friend and protector, had come back to get her.
He was a special angel after all.
This little guardian and guide granted Maddie the wings to finally move on to a more beautiful place where she could kick up her heels and run free once more.
Yet my heart remains full, just at the thought.