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Losing a Companion

January 2017

by Michael O’Brien

It’s Sunday. I am flying across the ocean. Unlike this summer past, I am flying to winter without the one who holds my heart at my side. It feels odd. I am especially aware of my incompleteness without her. Her hand steadies me when I wobble; her smile gives me confidence when I doubt myself; slows me down when I go too fast, and speeds me when I slow. I hope I do similar things for her; she truly completes me.

My favorite youngest daughter has a most difficult task this week. She has to help a friend find peace and comfort at the end of her time. I remember she found Starlene while she was helping at a bike race. Starlene was on her own, hiding under a truck, fighting fleas and ticks. My daughter’s friends took her in, and she moved with my daughter when an apartment replaced the dorm.

Since then Starlene has been by my daughter’s side, through losses, conflicts, moves to New York, Buffalo, Boston, and D.C. She’s been there as our dogs are, happy to see us every morning and happy to see us every evening when we get home. Ready to go for a walk, fetch the ball, chase off squirrels, anything we ask, even lay quietly with us during hard times.

After a decade or so, they are more than a pet; they become part of our life duty. We look after them, feeding, sometimes cooking, cleaning after them, doctoring them and bringing them to the doctor. Losing them is like losing family; but as with us, there comes a time when they have given us so much of their lives that they don’t have enough to keep themselves going, not enough left to push back pain to greet us or look after themselves.

Sometimes the vets can help; sometimes our dogs recover; this is one of those times when Starlene can’t get better. This time the vet will make a house calland help end Starlene's pain. All of us who knew her will have endless tears. Both for Starlene and her owner who stuck with her during the most difficult times.

Many of you all have dogs or cats who have spent years and years with them. If you think of it, give them a hug or scratch or treat this Tuesday and remember how lucky we are to have them waiting for us each day. 

Be good to each other; look after each other.