My sister loved her dog, a pit bull named Tawny. My memory of Tawny is as an ageless lioness, limber, strong and perfectly formed. Sekhnet recalls her as a giant lioness. She was not small. She had boundless nervous energy, if you threw her saliva soaked white sock for her once you’d be obliged to do it a hundred more times.
The wet sock would be on your lap, at your feet, or next to you on the couch, Tawny, head cocked, staring longingly at you, at the sock, at you, making sure you saw her, knew the sock was there. Whatever else might have been going on, she had one concern, her paw up on you now, to focus your attention to the matter: throw, run after that sock and bring it back, drop it for throwing, repeat.
She was beautiful. She was gentle, too. She wouldn’t bite a hamburger, as the phrase goes. She was not cuddly, had too much energy for that, and her coat was not smooth and silky for petting, she wanted to move, to bring back the sock, a ball, whatever.
You could picture her on the savanna, with no fear of any creature, sitting under a tree gnawing a bone. My sister said that is how she died today, at the ripe old pit bull age of more than 13, deaf, unable to use her hind legs any more. Chewing on a bone, peaceful, as her loved ones sat around her and the vet administered the stuff to knock her out. Very gentle and very sad. My sister and her family are all crying tonight.
To those who have never loved a dog or a cat or other animal, I have to say, I am a little bit sorry for you. There is no love greater than that shared with a familiar, loyal animal whose life and warmth connect with yours. We are lucky who have experienced that kind of love with another human.
This love between humans and animals is not a new thing, either. The bonds between human and animal go back to earliest prehistory. The first friendly wolves who ran with humanoids, becoming the first dogs, defending the group, being rewarded with food and affection, a warm place to sleep by the fire. The pack was as familiar to dogs as to humans. Cats and other animals long ago joined into this most excellent arrangement.