Curtis Dahlgren
DOG TAILS: Inspiration, en-courage-ment, and en-"thus"-iasm
By Curtis Dahlgren
May 17, 2016

"If you have an ounce of common sense and one friend, you have no need of an analyst." – J.C. and J.C. (actress Joan Collins, directly, and Jesus Christ indirectly)

DEATH. A one-syllable word with such grave implications, spiritually and psychologically. Sorry, no co-ed bathroom humor today. I lost my best friend yesterday. Brandy was my bed-partner for almost 14 years, my partner. Brandy was a boy. A boy dog. A black one. He got the name because my neighbors had a dog named Whisky. Brandy was born in the U.P. and grew up on the Michigan bank of the Menominee. He got to see our new place on the Rock River in Wisconsin, his new permanent home. My grampa Dahlgren once lived on the same river. Never got to meet him.

Brandy's nickname was Charlie Hustle. He chased a ball like Pete Rose. Before getting fixed, he had a litter of pups with a husky. I took the only black one. Junior only lived four months, born with a defect, but he lives on in the cover photo of my Facebook timeline. He had no interest in fetching, but one day I was pulling a toboggan full of firewood to my cabin, and out of nowhere Junior grabbed the rope with his teeth and started walking backwards, trying to help pull the sled. Thus my theme, "So many in the wagon and so few people pulling the wagon."

But back to his dad, Charlie Hustle. Labrador retrievers can understand 200 verbal commands but the main commands Brandy obeyed were "Wag your tail" and "Get in the car." He knew so many English words he would try to speak it ("ah wan one" and "ah wuv u"). Well, at the end he tried to tell me how much pain he was in. I didn't realize that the tumor on his front leg had weakened the bone, and he was trying to walk on a broken leg the last four days. He didn't want to jump in the car for his last ride because pain meds were wearing off and I only had one left. Miracle of miracles, I found a vet in the clinic on Sunday afternoon and we put him to sleep in the back seat of the car he loved so much (another blessing story for another day).

Anyway, the first thing I noticed about Brandy the puppy was that he would look me right in the eye, waiting for a signal, an eye-opener for me. Growing up on a dairy farm, social skills were just not a high priority. I was never "shy" shy, but for most of my life I had a hard time making eye contact with humans; it just seemed "too much"! So Brandy taught me the valuable lesson of the importance of eye contact, but I still didn't allow him to lick my face, and he had to forego that. Until his last day.

After the vet gave him the first shot, to start making him sleepy, I was talking to him in the back seat. After the fatal injection, I got close to him and he gave me one last lick on the face. Then his tongue went limp. He had been licking his sore leg until it bled. I think my left ankle had been having sympathetic pains with his right leg long before his pain got unbearable. The owner of the Rock River farm and I buried Brandy there under a willow tree alongside a creek.

I had grown up on a farm with a creek flowing through the cow pasture. Shortly after my grandmother died, I had a dream in which she was standing in the driveway and she said, "This family is going to be blessed," and we were. Brandy was part of that blessing. I'm not saying all dogs go to heaven, but some of them should, especially if they always looked you right in the eye. God never said He would raise up our dead pets, but He never said he wouldn't either, and He says dogs can eat "people food" that falls from the table. Before there were physical cows, there must have been spiritual cows in heaven ("cattle after the cattle kind") We know that there are horses in heaven; maybe God has His own favorite dog.

It hurts, God knows, when we lose a pet or any other loved one. I hope this column becomes an annual favorite, because we can learn so much from our animals.

The morning after Brandy's burial, I opened the door and immediately sensed the aroma of blossoms. The sound of a milking machine motor a mile away was heard. I hear that every morning. Cows never stay milked! LIFE GOES ON.

On the way to town, I drove past a herd of Holsteins, most of which were lying peacefully on the grass, and then smelled the aroma of newmown hay. I prayed that the human race could someday soon be as peaceful as those contented cows. As I neared Brandy's "new farm," I saw a family of newly born ducklings alongside the road.

An English writer once said that just because the crickets of the field make more noise than the cows chewing the cud beneath the English oak, that doesn't mean that the crickets are the only occupants of the pasture. The world is our pasture, but God says, "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you."

Men shall say "Peace, peace, when there is no peace, and sudden destruction shall come upon them." So stop saying that. History doesn't repeat itself exactly, but nothing that does happen should ever surprise us – nor make us bury our heads in the sand. After passing that herd of cows this morning, I said "The streets of our cities should be so quiet." Next year in Jerusalem, the city of peace? Maybe "Brandy's Story" can help peace prevail somewhere! The thought, at least, makes remembering memories a bit easier.

I tried to teach Brandy not to beg, so he started demanding. He would roll over on his back and demand a tummy rub. Then he showed his toothy smile. On the last morning he lived, he rubbed his ear against my leg and demanded an ear rub. He was a strong-willed child. Indeed my only child. I honestly believe such a child ought to live again.

Wine is fine, but Brandy is dandy, especially when looking you straight in the eye. Here's to the Kingdom, and maybe I'll see you in Jerusalem. Next year?

P.S. Oh, and the other thing is, this is a week to remember our fallen police officers. Black lab lives matter. And cop lives matter too. I shed a tear for Brandy, but only one tear. I say "Congratulations, Brandy, on your graduation. TO THE OTHER SIDE."

I hope I haven't "offended" any atheists. One of my Top Ten columns was "Why do such things have to happen?" The opening quote was "If there is no God, how does the next Kleenex pop up?" A non-sequitur of course. Like "If there is no God, how does Spell Check work?"

It works by design of course. Just like the whole physical universe, right down to the smallest newborn puppy!

If you Google a name or topic, you can get millions of hits in three-tenths of a second. And you don't think God can hear your prayers, whether in grief or no grief?

DEATH. That one-syllable word with such grave implications.

PPS: Brandy's last day began with only a few clouds in the sky. The first one I noticed almost looked like a man with one hand raised giving a benediction. I turned on the car radio and heard one:

"May God stand ahead of you to show you the Way; stand behind you to give you a little push; at your sides to uphold you; above you to protect you; and within you to help you do the work He gives you." – Christian Crusaders (paraphrased)

Chiao for now, Charlie Hustle. En-thus-iasm means God-in-us, and you were full of it. Like the grass that wilts, life must go on enthusiastically. Even when cut short. No pun intended.

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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