I love the T-shirts that proclaim that Life is Good. And it should be our goal each day to see the good in life and in all that is around us. Our world provides us with ample reasons to be happy. This time of year, it’s the colorful mums and pumpkins, the changing leaves the welcomed sweatshirt weather.
But I’m struggling a bit with happiness these days. You see, my golden retriever, Flash, developed a raging case of lymphoma about a month ago. On Sunday I had to take her to the vet and have her put to sleep. She was five.
Though we have other pets–a 17-year-old cat, a 16-year-old cockatiel, a leopard gecko, a frog and a goldfish–Flash was my companion, my best friend and my confidant. It was Flash who went on my very early-morning walks with me, who lay on the couch and watched Harry Potter movies with me as she laid her head on my leg. Flash would prompt me to throw the tennis ball in the backyard for more times than I could ever imagine, and then bring the game into the house as well. Flash allowed me to feel a love from an animal that I had never experienced before in my life.
Flash radiated love, happiness and kindness. She was sweet, patient and the most cunning sock thief I had ever known. She would give kisses by pressing her lips against yours (not by licking you). Her favorite treat was a crisp green bean from the garden. After a long walk, she would settle into her favorite chair or onto the couch, always with a pillow under her head.
Flash loved people even more than dogs, needing to stop along our walks to nuzzle up to other walkers, as if she couldn’t stand NOT sharing her love. One of our typical routes would take us past Ahee Jewelers, one of her favorite places. I don’t know if it was the lights, the number of people she could see through the big windows, or whether it was just a nice patch of grass in front. But she would stop, sit on the lawn and look in. The nice folks who work at Ahee would return her greeting, waving to her, as big smiles spread across their faces. Often, I would see them laughing, amazed that this dog would plop down and smile back at them. When Flash was done saying hello, she would look at me, get up and start walking again.
Since the day I had to say good-bye to my beautiful dog, I have wondered what I could have done to help prevent her lymphoma. Was it how our walks often took us down sidewalks littered with commercial-grade fertilizer? I became angry at the lawn services that carelessly pour their product onto the sidewalk where dogs and people walk. Why can’t they be more conscientious? Why don’t the homeowners who are too busy to fertilize their own lawns at least take five minutes to sweep up the chemicals from their sidewalk? Why wasn’t I more adamant in wiping Flash’s paws after a walk to eliminate potential hazards?
To be honest, I sat down to write this column to complain about commercial-grade fertilizer. I had read on the Internet that it can cause lymphoma in dogs. I called the Harper Woods Veterinary Hospital to talk with a vet about this issue. But guess what? She said there is no documented proof that fertilizer can cause lymphoma. “As a whole, from what we know, it has little or no effect, even if the dog eats grass that has been fertilized,” said Dr. Elizabeth Doppke. Still, she recommends wiping your dog’s paws after traipsing through any kind of chemical.
So I am left with not knowing why my soft, furry, beautiful dog is gone after only five years. There is no one to blame. It just happened.
A good friend told me that when I feel guilty or angry when I think of Flash, I am not honoring who she was and how she reflected only love. I must respect her memory. So today I am letting go of the self-doubt and anger, and instead will focus on the love of Flash–how special she was, and how her little life has forever changed me.
I am grateful to Flash for sharing her life with me, short as it was. Life is good.