Even a dead dog has his day
Editor’s note: While Biff America takes an offseason hiatus, we are re-running some of his favorite columns.
I had a strong sense the dog was dead. It was a black shadow on the stark, white landscape, visible from a quarter-mile away. Maybe it was the unnatural position of its body, or its stillness as my truck approached, but the closer I got, the deader it looked.
I was driving home on a rural backroad through wide-open Colorado ranchland. The road was snow-packed and slow going. I don’t ordinarily stop my truck to examine a cur carcass. But with time on my hands, and having seen no other cars for 20 minutes, the dead dog merited a downshift.
I decided to stop once I noticed the expired canine had company. Sitting quietly in the snow about 5 feet away was a similar looking pet that was white in color. It blended into the landscape so well, if I had kept my speed I might not have noticed.
I assumed that my stopping and backing up would spook the white dog away. But even after I got out of the truck and approached, it didn’t move.
Other then its posture, the deceased dog showed no signs of trauma. It probably was hit by a passing vehicle which broke its neck. The accident looked to have occurred recently. Mine weren’t the only eyes on the departed pooch. Its companion couldn’t seem to look away.
Even as I approached them both, the living pet never took its gaze off its dead buddy. It sat calmly, looking curiously, as if waiting for something to happen.
I spoke quietly to the survivor, trying to sense its mood. Was it grieving, or just unsure of its friend’s condition? It looked to be more curious than sad. I was hoping to get some sort of a humanistic feeling of loss and grief from the dog left alive. Instead, it seemed placid and at peace. It did not pull away when I walked over to pat it and never took its eyes off its friend.
I followed its lead and just stared silently at the lying victim. There was no noise, no traffic; the wind was the loudest sound to be heard.
I stood there for about 10 minutes in silence. I was so intent on watching the fallen hound that I didn’t at first notice its companion getting up. After one final look at its friend, it jogged off without looking back.
The dog had no tags visible; there was no one to call, so I drove away.
I’ve been confused, curious and a little haunted by my experience.
What was going on there? Was the living creature simply waiting for its pal’s soul to depart for cur heaven, or was it expecting the friend to wake up? Given animals’ heightened senses and instincts, I don’t really believe the white dog wasn’t aware its friend had died. But who knows?
The spiritualist – and animal idealist – in me would prefer a more profound cause and effect than a case of mistaking death for sleep.
I’d like to think the mourning cur was simply waiting for his friend’s essence to leave his container and go to wherever the souls of dogs go. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the same question that mankind anguishes and argues over is for animals a forgone conclusion?
Is there any bigger question than what happens when our lives are over?
There are many who profess to know, but none, to my satisfaction, are convincing, and most seem to want my money or my vote.
I would venture to guess that for most of us, it becomes purely a matter of faith. I personally believe, partly because it makes sense, but mostly because it makes me feel good. It just wouldn’t seem fair if there wasn’t some payback, second chance or accountability of some sort. But then again, who really knows?
One thing I know, I envy anyone who is convinced, even if they’re wrong. It would be lovely to be able to say goodbye to a fallen comrade with a resolute certainty of a better place.
I’ve told this story to many friends. Most are mildly impressed, some outright cynical. There have been many plausible suggestions regarding the animal’s behavior offered by those to whom I’ve told the story.
Some offer the “waiting for his pal to wake up” scenario. Others say perhaps both dogs were hit, and one died while the other was dazed. After much consideration, I contend that I was a witness of one friend keeping vigil as his pal entered the next world.
That might be crazy, or it might be faith S
Biff America can be seen on RSN television, heard on KYSL and KOA radio, and read in this and other fine newspapers. Biff loves his own dog very much.
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