I hope the hillbilly flavored title caught your attention, because I have something to say that I think all pet people need to hear. What I want to share is really nothing more than common sense, but most people who keep pets come up short in this area and eventually regret not having been aware of it. A good number of those who read my books after their beloved pet passes, take advantage of the e-mail address I provide and contact me with questions or concerns. High on the list of things they want to speak to me about is guilt.
Many suffer from deep feelings of remorse for not having spent more time with their pet while they were still with them. They were either too busy or too tired to take a few minutes each day to make memories worth reflecting upon. Even worse are those situations where those left behind are haunted by the memory of something bad they might have done, such as punishing their pet without cause. I relate so readily to these feelings, because one of my own cherished pets passed away suddenly and unexpectedly and I was left with a haunting bad memory of something that I had done. On a road trip to Florida, we stopped to let my West Highland White terrier, "Samantha" out to take care of business.
She was very old and both her hearing and sight were failing. While I waited for her to do her business, I walked over to a grassy area to stand in some shade. There was quite a bit of mud around this grassy area, so I was careful to stay on the small strand of dry ground that led to it. I told Samantha to "stay" where she was to do her business because I did not want her getting in the mud. Whether she actually heard me or knew what the gesture I made meant is unclear, but she understood and complied. Still, she kept a watchful eye on me as she went about her business.
I walked to the other side of the grassy area and found that the ground was completely dry there and that it was a better way to walk back to the vehicle without risking getting mud on my shoes. When I came out from behind the bushes, I was actually behind Samantha. I noticed that she was getting anxious because I had disappeared from her sight.
I could see that she was having trouble restraining herself from running out to where she had last seen me so I quickly called to her to let her know I was behind her. When she heard my voice, her ears immediately perked up and she started running toward the grassy area. I realized too late that her impaired hearing prevented her from knowing which direction my voice had come from. Remembering where she had last seen me, she headed off in that direction. Knowing she would have no regard for the mud, I quickly yelled "Sam, Sam no Sam?", but it only served to excite her more and she plowed right into the mud. It would actually have been a humorous scene if it weren't for the mud.
And it was not just regular mud. It was that putrid, greasy, smelly, clay-like mud that you find in bogs, the kind that doesn't wash off; that turns a pure white dog grayish-black. I was so upset with her. We were on the road with no soap and no towels and no way of handling this situation. I had to sacrifice my clean shirt to wrap her up in it to keep the mud off the seat of the rental vehicle.
The smell was horrendous. It was a nauseating odor that you just could not escape from. The whole episode was just so utterly inconvenient. Fortunately, down the road a ways I was able to locate a hose and Samantha got a much needed bath. Without the benefit of soap and warm water, the bath did little to restore her color, but most of the clay came off. The smell still lingered, but it was now tolerable.
I am ashamed to say that I made it a point to let her know that I was upset with her by washing and scrubbing her very roughly. I also scolded her. She seldom got scolded, but I allowed my stress to take over and she bore the brunt of my poor mood.
Not too many months later, Sam passed away unexpectedly at the age of 16 while at the Veterinarian's office. She was only there for treatment of a cough she had developed. I didn't even get to say goodbye. The loss was devastating enough.
She had been my friend and confidante for so very long. We had been through so much together and she had enjoyed a pampered life. Oddly, all that did not matter.
All I could remember was how badly I had treated her after she had gotten into that mud. The memory of how I had scolded her sat heavily on my heart. For just a brief moment, I had been an ugly pet owner. She hadn't done anything wrong.
She was a good girl. She was only responding to my call. It was all on me and I knew it, but I knew it too late. It took every ounce of emotional strength I could muster to convince myself that all the good times far outweighed that one failure in judgment. Exoneration never came to me. I hold that guilt to this day and at times like this, it eats at me from within.
But I have purposed that good is going to come from that bad memory. I promised myself that not only would future pets never have to endure a scolding, but I would make an effort to spend quality time with them each day. I determined that no circumstance was going to cause me to behave badly and build bad memories. I know it will still hurt terribly when I have to bid farewell to a beloved pet, but now I will be able to do so without being haunted by guilt for being ugly. Don't be an ugly pet owner. Avoid the guilt and pain that comes from doing the wrong thing even if it is only once.
Don't give place to any bad memories. Spend time with your best friend now while you still have time. Overlook their mistakes. Pamper them and love them and set the stage for nothing but good and enduring memories.
The author is a retired Coast Guard Officer with over 32 years of service. He is also a Baptist Preacher and Bible Teacher. He helps those grieving the loss of a pet to understand the Biblical evidence that proves they live on. His most popular book, "Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates" delivers hope and comfort to the reader in a very gentle, yet convincing way. Visit at http://www.coldnosesbook.com for more information and tips.