Cory was found running loose in Duncan, BC in late 2012. He eventually found his way to West Coast Rottweiler Rescue, where he ended up adopted by my friend, Paul. Tierce and Cory mostly got along and Tierce really enjoyed walks with him.
Almost two years to the day that Paul announced Cory’s arrival, he announced Cory’s departure. Cory suffered from spinal spondylosis, a degenerative condition that eventually made it difficult for him to walk. Complications of this and some other spinal damage ended Cory’s life on December 13th, 2014.
The bond between people and their dogs is such that it forges bonds between people who would otherwise never communicate. When TIerce posted about Cory on his page, a number of people responded. Do they know Paul? No. Do they know Cory? No. What they do know is the aching gap that opens up once you realize that you are never going to come home to your dog again.
So many of us repeat this process over and over again with a multitude of dogs. It’s like watching Titanic. We know the ending.
Maybe that’s what connects people so strongly when they hear someone has lost a dog. It’s like any deeply felt loss that someone who has not experienced it cannot quite understand until it happens to them.
What makes loss like this more difficult is the pervasive idea that animal companions should not be mourned because they are animals and not people. (The people who express this feeling don’t seem to realize that they are belittling the feelings of a human, the being that they are supposedly holding in higher value.) Despite the wrath of the mighty Internet when someone injudiciously decides to point this out, many people feel hampered in expressing their grief. (Don’t worry; I’m not one of them. Tierce will have a wake).
At the same time, this feeling that we are numbered among the privileged few to love a dog beyond all reason binds people like little else. You may not get the milk of human kindness for the many slights and injustices that life hands out to everyone, but if your dog has died… strangers will reach out to people across the world to let them know that they are not alone. That it’s not wrong to feel like a child has died. That the amount of love and money you just poured into an animal that died anyway was not ill-spent.
There’s a lot wrong with the Internet, but amidst all the horrors and news and kitten videos, there are places you can go where you know that people will understand. In death, as in life, dogs bind us together in the most amazing of ways. Avatars, ambassadors and symbols of selfless love.
The most remarkable aspect about the bond between dogs and humans is how they so perfectly reveal the human condition. They highlight our foibles, our failings and the highest, purest selflessness that one being can express towards another. I don’t believe that canine loyalty and companionship are the reasons we love our dogs so much and mourn them so intensely. I believe that we celebrate, love and mourn the vessel that we pour so much of ourselves into, the mirror that looks back at us and tells us that we’re not all that bad.