I recently had a conversation with a friend about pets. We discussed the love we both shared for our pets. We also agreed that we consider our pets significant family members. I shared a story with my friend about my dog Chopper. He wasn’t anything special. He was just a mutt. The only papers he came with were the ones he slept on. My brothers and I fell in love with Chopper at first sight. He had curly black fur and big brown eyes. He was a stray puppy that a family friend had rescued from the streets.
We offered to take him from her. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. I used to enjoy his fixation on his water bowl as he treated it more like a swimming pool than a drinking bowl.
He also had a sixth sense. Whenever I felt sadness, Chopper would lay his head on my lap or extend his paw to me. He was my friend through grade school, high school and college, which were some of the toughest years of my life. It was a blessing that he lived with my family for so many years.
Growing up with a dog as a best buddy is an experience I will never forget. As the years passed, many of my friendships and relationships ended. Regardless, Chopper and I maintained our friendship. He was also my bodyguard. As gentle as he was, he growled at anyone that got too close to my brothers and me while we slept. I felt safe around him because I knew he would give his life for me without hesitation.
Although nonfamily members just saw Chopper as a dog, I always thought of him as a family member. He lived with us for nearly 18 years. I first saw him through the eyes of an eight-year-old child and last saw him through the eyes of a twenty-six year old adult. Towards the end of his life, he became ill. He lost weight and vision in both eyes. His big eyes turned from brown to white. He could no longer walk or feed himself.
Unfortunately, Chopper was dying. My family had a tough decision. We knew it was time to show him compassion and let him die peacefully. My father and I took him on his final ride to the local vet who had cared for him for so many years. While sitting in the waiting room, I held Chopper on my lap and stroked his fur for the last time. At one time it was black and shiny, now it was gray.
Finally, the veterinarian was ready for Chopper. I held Chopper’s paw so the veterinarian could euthanize him. By this time, the tears started to roll down my cheeks. The veterinarian told me Chopper went peacefully and didn’t feel any pain. I took one final look at Chopper’s lifeless body knowing I was leaving behind 18 years of loyalty, friendship and love. Since his death in 1996, I have never gotten another dog. I figure I had the best dog so there was no need for me to get another one. Many years ago, a poem was written about a place for deceased pets.
The poem refers to Rainbow Bridge as a wonderful place where our pets spend eternity.
It’s either a part of Heaven or nearby. My gut instinct is that when it’s my time to die, I will be able to visit Rainbow Bridge and see Chopper and my other pets again.
Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page Life with Grandpa and he also just wrote Just Bite Me: A Guide to Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Walking Nightmares, which is available on Amazon.com.