There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places animals way down the hierarchy, but we do just the opposite. "Angels," we think to ourselves or maybe whisper to each other--because sometimes that's the only word for the creatures that fill our world with love.
I should say right out that I am a lifelong member of this group. So it should not be surprising that I have been musing this spring about two special animals, one absent, one present.
The Absent One is our beautiful dog Snobie. My husband first saw her when she was a tiny puppy, wandering all by herself on the busy streets of Mission, South Dakota. He took her in and took her to a veterinarian, who told him she was only 4 weeks old--too young to be separated from her mother and littermates and therefore doomed to be psychologically stunted. He said she would never adapt to human beings.
How wrong he was! She grew easily into a loving and well-mannered member of our household. Here at Bird Runner, she was my constant companion. Throughout all of her 14 years, she shared a contagious delight in life. No matter how many troubles accumulated in our human world, Snobie could make us feel that this very moment in this very place was perfection itself--exactly as it was meant to be.
Now the hole in my heart has her shape exactly. I can't ask another pet to take her place. It wouldn't be fair, as I'm afraid I would blame another dog for not being her. I miss her as much today as the day she died, two years ago.
But now alongside this loss has grown up a new attachment--not to a creature who greets me eagerly or who follows me everywhere--but to someone who avoids me as much as possible and has her own agenda, quite apart from mine. This is a young female coyote who shows up repeatedly on our trail cameras. She is delicate and energetic, with a tail that narrows at the top, like a pony tail. After several daytime clips revealed her russet color, I started thinking of her as "Miss Red."