I remember a song I heard in the early Eighties called “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before.” It was written by Hal David and Albert Hammond. It has been recorded by several artists and bands, in several different languages, but the one I remember the most is the version by Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson, from 1984. I have always loved parodies of songs and I’ve written several over the years, so when I was thinking about a name for this story about dogs I’ve loved and lost, the title “To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before.” just jumped out at me.
I remember having several different pets, other than dogs, that I truly loved. Most of them loved to receive affection but were not that great at returning it. There’s no animal that I know of that returns affection quite like a dog. Their love seems to be unconditional.
The first dog I remember having as a friend was named Clete. I wrote about him awhile back in the post titled “Our Best Friend.” I’ll put a link at the end of this post in case you missed it. Check it out to see the strange way he got his name. I don’t have a clue what breed he was, but he was a brown and white mid-sized dog. He was with us for several years before he died. He was family, and it broke our hearts when he left us.
Then, there was Bonnie. She was a mutt. Her mother was a small black Chihuahua named Pretty, but Bonnie was much bigger than her mother. She was very smart, too, but something was wrong with her. She had a litter of puppies, but they all died within a few days after birth. The same thing happened to her next litter, with one exception. As puppy after puppy died, one little black and white male kept growing. When all the others were gone, he was still going strong. I named him Sparky. He was a miracle and I loved him. I was so happy he didn’t die, but that happiness was cut short. Early one morning when I went to see him, I found that he had died during the night. I was so heart broken.
My aunt, who was my dad’s sister, had given Bonnie to my parents, and they had let me have her. I was told my aunt wanted her back. By this time she had given birth to another litter of puppies. They all died except two. Those two had made it several months and were still going strong. I named my favorite one DeeCee from the name on a pair of jeans I had at the time. My grandmother said I could only keep one dog so I gave Bonnie back to my aunt and later, I gave the other dog to a distant uncle. When I would come home from school DeeCee would always run out to meet me and jump up into my arms. We played together all the time. Once again, I had allowed myself to love an animal, setting myself up for another heartbreak, which did eventually come.
One day we came home and my best friend wasn’t there to meet me. I searched the neighborhood and looked everywhere for him, but hours turned to days, and days turned to weeks, and I finally realized he was gone for good. I never saw him again.
I had other dogs over the years, but I wouldn’t let myself get too attached to them, so when something happened to them, I wouldn’t be hurt so bad. Several years ago I wrote a short story called “Billy And His Strange Pet.” It was an allegory or parable about my experience with losing pets that I loved. I’ll put a link at the end of this post in case you missed that one.
I grew up and had children of my own, but I still would not allow myself to get attached to animals. Several years ago, God revealed some things to me about myself, and he began to soften my calloused heart. That healing started with a true understanding of forgiveness and continued on to include an appreciation for life, love, and family.
We need to appreciate the time we have with those we love, and when they’re no longer with us, we will have the memories of the love we shared together, whether that love is shared with humans or animals. It has been said many times that love is a universal language. The Bible says God is Love (1 John 4:8, 16) and love covers all sins (Proverbs 10:12), so everything we do should be done with love (1 Corinthians 16:14). Give love, and cherish the love you receive. In the end, it will make a world of difference, to you and everyone in your life.
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Billy And His Strange Pet
I Forgive You Mr. Richmond