This piece, authored by Karen Filippi of Somerset Cairns, Tunkhannock, PA, speaks to each of us who have watched the years tick off with a beloved companion (reprinted with permission, as appearing in the November 2008 AKC Gazette).
The AKC Gazette … the Official Journal of the Sport of Purebred Dogs Since 1889, is available as a paper subscription or through a free online digital edition. The Gazette is a treasure trove of information on the individual breeds which make up each “group” of dogs as well as being of interest in general to those sharing their heart and home with the canine species.
Ready and Waiting …
Summer, this year, seemed to come and go with my barely marking the days or weeks. Instead, it’s the months that have become the season’s mile-marker, and the year the milestone of time’s passage. This is, I think, also the measure of my progress through the seasons of my own life. And so, with summer gone and year’s end approaching, I find myself facing the prospect of other passings, other endings. Somehow, without my really noticing, two of my Cairns have grown quite old.
True to their reputation, Cairn Terriers are hardy, active dogs with relative few genetic health issues. Should they fall ill or be injured, they will often suffer in silence. This is another facet of the native courage that sends them headlong and heart-first into dark, narrow holes in the ground, seeking fierce quarry armed with tooth and claw.
The lifespan of a Cairn Terrier can, and more often does, exceed 15, 16, 17 years and more. Measured against human years, it is not very long. Yet it is long enough to encompass a childhood, a marriage, to span one or more of the significant passages that mark our own lives.
Time passes, and, as it is the nature of things, the irresistable puppy become the irrepressible adolescent. The adolescent becomes the mature, comfortable companion and faithful friend who, suddenly, a senior, slows but remains steadfast. And then …
How to consider, cope with, the prospect of such a loss?
It is a testament to the lives of these incredible creatures that their passing has such a profound effect that we are compelled to search for ways to express our grief and afford it the dignity it is due. While convention may still deny dogs a soul, for many the idea of the “Rainbow Bridge” speaks to our need to have them wait for us, somewhere, safe from harm. In so many canine lives, there are too few such places; it seems fitting there should be such a place afterward. Who can know?
What we can know, beyond doubt and, even absent faith, it the value of what they give to us. We are, quite literally, their individual gods and they love us without condition or judgment. They remind us to accept the world as it comes each day, to meet each moment with anticipation and awe. To hear the poetry in our shared silences and the harmony in our different songs. To fling our heart ahead in the sheer joy of living, and to run, full-out and free, to catch it up … again, and again.
When, all too soon, it is time for them to go, our memories of them will hold all this and keep it safe, ready and waiting, against the time when it will be our turn to follow. … For Tinker and Indi, in their twilight.