The Only Way to Fail When You Have Loved a Pet
Grady and I were walking one rainy evening up one of the main streets in our town... just off the Main Street. As we reached the place we usually crossed to take the road to the village school, a moment was captured in time. If only we could turn it back and rewind.
Grady and I waited at the edge of the street. As we were looking both ways before crossing, we heard a voice across the street call, "Widgie!" Widgie!" The woman was calling for her dog; a beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog. The dog was running towards the street. Fast. Towards us. It had seen Grady and I guess it was rushing out to say hello to her. It had no clue that a car was coming from Main Street. The car was not going fast; perhaps 25 mph. The roads were slippery from the rain. The dog kept running. It all seemed in slow motion. I can count on one hand how many times I have screamed in my life, but deep out of my gut came a loud involuntary scream. The collision was inevitable.
After the impact, the dog picked itself off the road and dragged itself into the nearby bushes. We ran over, as did the owners, and we were with it until it lay lifeless... it just took a few moments. I thought it was interesting at the time that as soon as Widgie's spirit left, Grady turned and was ready to leave too. She knew his spirit had left his body, while Widgie's family clung to him and draped themselves over him crying --- like most humans do when the final moment comes.
There was something about the incident. I felt responsible. Jack says in his book, if he could have any wish, he would always be in the right place at the right time. I couldn't help but think If Only! If only Grady and I hadn't been walking at that time at that place! If only we had gone the other way towards the park instead of this way towards the school. I felt to blame.
I took a bouquet of flowers to the people the next day. They were very appreciative. With tear-filled eyes they told me "We should have gone through obedience training; then he would have come when we called." "We should have built a fence; he never would have been near the street." Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda. We all do it. The following week they were building a stockade fence. A few months later they had another dog, a Bernese also, and they were getting ready to start Obedience Training classes. They had learned the important lesson that the loving Widgie had come to teach.
We can get stuck on the guilt forever if we allow it to take over our minds. Or we can learn from it and do better next time. This is what life is all about. Life is the school, love is the lesson. We learn from every pet that comes to us what to do next time. Eventually, if we have enough "teachers" and we are willing to learn from our circumstances, we will get it right. It will come as second nature.
Widgie crossed Rainbow Bridge satisfied, knowing that he had fulfilled his promise. Like all other pets, he came into this life to teach. His loving "students" learned from the love of him...and the loss of him. This is why pets don't live so long. We need enough sessions with them to get it right. They live just long enough for us to live our lives with them and get it right. It's all by Design and so are the circumstances. I learned too. That's why I'm here on this blog and that's why I wrote "Jack McAfghan: Reflections on Life with my Master", to share what I've learned from Jack and from Grady. And from Widgie.
It's not our fault, it's just life. We only fail if we fail to learn.