Saturday, May 26, 2007

Learning From a Dog

By Keith Fisher

It’s the old story of a boy and his dog. As in all stories of this type, the boy died . . .uh . . . I mean the dog died. These stories are usually sad, but there’s always a final scene when your breaking heart is mended, there is solace.

Although in the perennial story, when the loyal majestic dog is killed defending its master, there are puppies, and the protagonists can find consolation in knowing that there will be another dog.

When I was a boy I was lucky to have such a dog. Her name was Peggy and she was a good companion. When I slept outside, she kept my feet warm inside my sleeping bag. She didn’t die heroically saving me; she just died. I’ve had many dogs since, but none were quite the same as Peggy.

I was about nine when she died, and I was heartbroken. I made a headstone; I made a coffin. We had a family funeral and we prayed we could see Peggy again in heaven. Because of my loss, my parents purchased a used book titled: All Dogs Go to Heaven by Beth Brown. Published in 1944 by F. Fell—New York. It’s an interesting novel told from the dog’s point of view, but it’s not cheesy like the Don Bluth animated film.

Even though I intended to read it, I discovered it was fiction and therefore it couldn’t provide real answers to my questions. Whatever the reason, I never discarded the book.

While moving books from shelf to shelf the other day, I came across it. My curiosity was piqued so I set down to read. I was delighted to find a human protagonist who was a struggling writer. In the back of the book, on two pages in my nine-year-old handwriting, was a note explaining my feelings about my dog and a desire to see her again.

My discovery was made more poignant because I had written so many large words. I remembered my mother’s story about my first or second grade teacher telling her that I could carry on adult conversations. It wasn’t an epiphany, but I realized (as others before me), I must have been a writer before I was born. It seems I’ve spent my life unlearning what I already knew.

So, here I am, some forty-or-so years later, learning about life from a dog who died years ago, gleaning encouragement and still hoping of seeing her again. Who knows, maybe she might teach me how to punctuate sentences and stop using adverbs, or she can teach me about em-dashes VS semi-colons. It wouldn’t be teaching an old dog new tricks. It would be helping me remember what I once knew.


Tristi Pinkston said...

Amazing how the death of a pet can impact us so much -- I'm still sad about my rabbit, who died of heatstroke twenty-one years ago.

C. L. Beck said...

We learn so much from animals, even though it breaks our heart when it's time for them to go.

This was a touching story; thanks for writing it.