MONUMENTS AND MEMORIES – A Pet Lover’s Musings
Sometimes moving has its benefits, because one is forced to clear out the clutter, sorting through all kinds of things, including old letters and cards. Recently, I did just that, but got stuck on a particular handmade card with a blue-lace trimming. The caption, With Deepest Sympathy – A Dog’s Prayer, took me back some 25 years to the time when I had to take my dear dog, Fonty to Dr Craig, our pets’ Veterinarian for the last time. The growth in Fonty’s mouth was back. I’ll never forget that particular spring morning when I didn’t hear his bark at the backdoor. He was still lying on his mat. His look – apologetic, tail barely wagging, nose still cool – yet dear human, I can’t get up any more . . . still haunts me to this day. I received this card a few days later from a quiet and unassuming neighbour, who habitually kept to herself because of a disfiguring skin disease. Yet, it turned out that she had a heart of gold – being a great pet lover – something I only discovered via the card and its sweet message.
“Dear Maretha, (Till then, I didn’t realise that she even knew my name).
I was so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved dog. My feelings are with you. When I had to put my little dog to sleep, their place remains in our hearts and keeps their joy ever alive and helps the pain, always to remember them. Although I have a new little dog, I shall never forget Jackie. Hope you are keeping well. All my love. Ethel P.S. Look at back.”
She wrote amidst numerous cut-outs of dogs’ faces, “Don’t grieve that it should be you who has to decide this thing to do. We’ve been so close for many years. Please don’t let your heart hold any regrets or tears.”
Through the years many pets, whether birds, cats or dogs, graced our home with love and laughter. Before coming to the UK, we lived on the outskirts of a game reserve in Botswana. On a particular afternoon, we found our bull-terrier, Jack Old Boy, faithfully guarding the gate, but he didn’t jump for joy like he usually did when he heard the car. He just looked as if he were sleeping next to a large aloe, lying on his stomach, hind legs tucked underneath his body, head and ears up – alert as ever – but he was gone. Presumably snakebite, because we found a puff-adder curled up between the rim and axle of my small car’s front wheel. My husband buried him under a thorn tree. At that time, I didn’t receive any cards, but soon after, I began making notes about him, Fonty and our other pets. Thus, the first flickering of Fauna Park Tales, a series of animal and bird adventure stories for children beamed.
Pet lovers everywhere are often criticised about how they memorialise their pets, but I certainly will cast no stone. There is this incredible pet cemetery in Asnieres-sur-Seine, Paris. A French actress and journalist, Marguerite Durant started it in 1899. The famous Hollywood dog, Rin Tin Tin is buried there, but a monument to Barry, a Saint Bernard, situated at the entrance of the cemetery makes me ponder the preciousness of pets. “He saved the lives of 40 people and was killed by the 41st . . . a thought-provoking caption: or if you happen to find yourself in the vicinity of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge in the Old City of Edinburgh, a small fountain statue of Bobby, the Skye terrier will interest you. Remembered for his loyalty to a master whose grave he guarded for 14 years in the kirkyard at Greyfriar’s Church, he died in 1872 when animals were seldom considered as pets.
These little tales of devotion and loyalty highlight how valuable pets have become, enriching the lives of their owners who care and pamper them throughout their lives, and sometimes erect elaborate monuments for them when they die. Rather than rashly judging their actions, let us view such monuments as a reminder of our responsibility to care for and protect animals – domestic or wild – as best we can. And let us not forget the modern-day saints who pick up the pieces to care for animals who have been abandoned, abused or simply lost, often doing so at their own expense, never giving up hope of finding each precious creature a ‘furever’ home. Others like me, remember by writing stories about them. – An abstract from My Snippets Memoir by MMBotha to be released in 2017.
A Dog’s Prayer
Treat me kindly my beloved friend!
For no heart in all the world
Is more grateful for kindness
Than the loving heart of me . . .
If it should be that I grow frail, weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep;
Then you must do what must be done –
For this, the last battle can’t be won.
We’ve had so many happy years
And what is to come can hold no fears.
You’d not want me to suffer –
When the time comes, please let me go!
I know in time you’ll see it’s a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I’ve been saved.
Ethel’s card – an excerpt – original author is unknown