I lost my companion of 16 years yesterday. Buster, our family member died. Buster had been with us throughout the childhoods of all of our sons. He had been with us through my mid-life crisis, through Gwen’s cancer and death of her mother and so many seasons of life. He didn't care if I was living a big life or a small one. He just loved me as I was.
It has been a heart-wrenching time. Watching him experience and take a sudden decline in health this past week, made us wonder, spend money we did not budget, and cry tears of loss and grief as we said our goodbyes.
At the vet’s office, we knelt beside him. His eyes were alert but his body was not. I leaned over him and held his head and simply said, “Thank you, Buster. Thank you.” I kissed him goodbye and sobbed like a baby. For a moment, I felt like holding back my wave of emotion in front of wife and sons, but no dam in my heart could withhold the loss I felt. It just came and it needed to come. His loss is a loss that is almost unspeakable. Losing a dog is one thing but losing a companion is another.
My only words spoken -- to thank him for his very good life -- were really the fullness of my heart. All these years of walking together on wooded paths, across mountain streams and meadows fair with flowers and sunlight; we were companions through many seasons of my life and his. He offered me what few people ever have: true companionship.
Buster was not a thoroughbred except in his heart. He was pure in his affection for our family. In effect, he had raised my sons as their only dog, been the only pet they had ever known. Two of our sons were away when this happened, one a soldier, the other a university student. We had prepared them through multiple phone calls this week of the inevitable. One of our sons came home quickly when we called him. He would not miss saying good bye. Our youngest son, in his senior year of high school, finally had Buster all to himself as our own nest emptied. There had been a special, irreplaceable bond between boy and dog, father and dog, and mom and dog. The four of us quaked as we sat in the room and watched his life leave his body leaving us only memories.
Today I am left to wonder about his soul or lack of one. There is no one here to lick the cereal bowl and to walk into my office and lay down by my side as I write or counsel pilgrims. I will walk alone this afternoon on the same path that Buster and I walked for seven years together on the shoulders of a mountain, beside a river flowing... flowing, but to where?
I once read a simple statement that I have never forgotten about a man’s dog. It simply said, “Lord, help me to become the person my dog thinks I am.” Buster, evidently thought our family was pretty special. He always begged to ride with us in cars or to be in a room where we were; never feeling quite secure when he was by himself. Maybe he was dysfunctional. Perhaps he was. But he surely was loved and accepted as he loved and accepted us. It was companionship that was a gift. His companionship offered me a quiet, unrelenting incentive to become a better, kinder and more tender, compassionate man.
Thank you, Buster! Thank you!