Sometimes moving has its benefits, because one is forced to clear out the clutter, sort through all kinds of things, including old letters and cards. I did just that seven years ago when we came to the United Kingdom. One of the ‘treasures’ I rediscovered – a handmade card with a blue-lace trimming – touched me deeply. I’ve now read the same card again while clearing some clutter before decorating our lounge, and I feel choked up all over, once more.
This little card has to do with my dear dog, Fonty, a mixed-breed rescue dog with strong Border collie genes. The title on the card is poignant and simply says, With Deepest Sympathy – A Dog’s Prayer”.
Its contents took me back some 25 years to a cold and frosty morning (in the southern Hemisphere) when I didn’t hear Fonty’s bark at the back door. Instead, I found him lying on his mat, looking up at me in an apologetic way; eyes drooping while trying to make eye contact, trying to wag his tail. Strangely enough, his nose was cool. Yet dear human, I can’t get up any more . . . still haunts me to this day when he tried to get up to get a hug from me. My husband offered to take him to the vet, but I felt that he needed me there with him. I expected the worse as the cancer in his mouth was back, and when it was all over, a part of me stayed behind in the vet’s rooms that day. I mourned the loss of my dear pet for a long time. After all, he was part of our family for almost eighteen years!
About a week later, I received a handmade card from a quiet and unassuming neighbour, who mostly kept to herself because of a disfiguring skin disease. Yet, it turned out that she had a heart of gold – being a great pet lover – something I only discovered via the card and its sweet message.
“Dear Maretha, I was so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved dog. My feelings are with you. When I had to put my little dog to sleep, their place remains in our hearts and keeps their joy ever alive and helps the pain, always to remember them. Although I have a new little dog, I shall never forget Jackie. Hope you are keeping well. All my love. Ethel P.S. Look at back.”
She wrote amidst numerous cut-outs of dogs’ faces, “Don’t grieve that it should be you who has to decide this thing to do. We’ve been so close for many years. Please don’t let your heart hold any regrets or tears.”
Through the years many pets – birds, cats and dogs – filled our home with love and laughter. Before coming to the UK, we lived on the outskirts of a game reserve in Botswana. One afternoon when we returned from work, we found our bull-terrier, Jack Old Boy, faithfully ‘guarding’ the gate, but he didn’t jump for joy like he usually did when he heard the car. He just looked as if he were sleeping next to a large aloe, lying on his stomach, hind legs tucked underneath his body, head and ears up – ‘alert’ as ever – but he was gone, presumably snakebite.
A few days later, we found a puff-adder curled up between the rim and axle of my small car’s front wheel. My husband buried Jack Old Boy under a thorn tree. At that time, I didn’t receive any cards, but soon after, I began making notes about him, Fonty and our other pets. Thus, the first flickering of Fauna Park Tales – a series of animal and bird adventure stories for children set on an African free-range cattle farm – beamed and grew ever stronger.
A Dog’s Prayer
Treat me kindly my beloved friend!
For no heart in all the world
Is more grateful for kindness
Than the loving heart of me . . .
If it should be that I grow frail, weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep;
Then you must do what must be done –
For this, the last battle can’t be won.
We’ve had so many happy years
And what is to come can hold no fears.
You’d not want me to suffer –
When the time comes, please let me go!
I know in time you’ll see it’s a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I’ve been saved.
Ethel’s card – an excerpt – original author is unknown