I lost my dog last week.
A friend and I were swimming at a quarry. My dog Raffi would swim and then wander off. After an hour, he would report in. I liked giving him freedom but when it came time to go home, Raffi hadn’t returned.
We waited another hour and still no Raffi. My eyes strained for his little black form. Nothing would have made me happier.
I decided to take my friend home, have supper and return later. To my surprise and relief, my wife did not blame me.
After supper, we returned to the quarry for a couple of hours. A naked couple was making love on a sand dune, but no Raffi. We returned home in silence, devastated, bereft.
I didn’t realize how much I loved the dog. Sure he was a pain-in-the-mutt sometimes. He jumped on me when I came out of the supermarket. Walking him could be a drag. But he was worth it.
Scenes of the things I loved went through my mind: his obvious happiness when I took him out; his bushy tail flying like a pennant in the breeze; his dolphin-like swimming through the snow; his sweet look of trust and vulnerability when I petted him.
I would never have those scenes again. I wondered where he was, and if he was in distress. Did someone find and keep him? I felt so helpless.
It’s amazing how much presence a dog gives. Now the house would feel empty.
I reproached myself for letting him roam free. A product of the 1960′s I try not to dominate. “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back, it is yours. If it doesn’t it never was.”
But I learned that a dog apparently doesn’t know any better. I needed to be more protective of him. I should have kept him on a long leash where he could still swim and roam a little. Now he was suffering, hungry and possibly in danger. I had failed him.
I was not his friend; I was his owner. There’s a fine line between being responsible and being suffocating. This has implications for being a father and husband too. You must be protective.
An experience like this often divides a couple. But my wife didn’t reproach me. She could see that I was as upset as she. We had a good cry. Raffi brought us closer, a reminder of what was really important.
Around midnight, the phone rang. A cottage owner had Raffi. (Our phone number was on his dog tags.) We immediately drove out and got him. I couldn’t wait to see him.
Of course, Raffi was ecstatic. But he was worse for wear, limping and quite weak. His nose is still warm and dry, not cold and wet as it should be. He has been lying around the house for three days now, slowly recovering from his ordeal.
Pretty soon he will be back to normal. But I am changed forever.
PS- A reader Lynda clarified it further: “You are his alpha and you should not allow him to stray from his pack. If he does, you do have to seriously woof him and show him you mean business about correct pack behaviour. A dog without his pack or human equivalent is a sad and sorry creature, as is a human without a true human society.”