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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 2-10-2023 – Show Me

One of the myriad of phrases Mr. Tweaks, who we lost on January 29th understood was “show me.” We knew that he knew what it meant because he would show us. He showed us in so many ways. Actually, in more ways than we understood, reflecting back on him. One of the signs of an intelligent dog is that they understand to look in the direction that you are pointing. He made the connection between the thing and our pointing. He then figured out how to point at stuff he wanted us to know. If he wanted to show us something, he would point his snout at the thing and pound a paw on the floor or table to get our attention. It was comical and amazing in the same breath.

He was a remarkable communicator. Sharp as a tack. He would show us when his water bowl needed refreshing. He would show us exactly where the ball sitting under the sofa for a month was when he wanted to play with that specific ball. He would show us where the newest toy was hidden (I think he could smell them). He would show us that he desired an ice cube by gently pawing at a cup of water without ever tipping it over. He could show us where a treat was that could he not get to without a thumb. He showed us where a stuffed raven was hidden in a drawer since 2011.

He showed the value of small things. He would stand on you, put his paws around your neck and nip the tip of a nose ever so gently with his tiny front teeth to share the joy of the moment. He would sit on shoulders and look out the window to enjoy an early winter evening. He would show us how to cheer up by pressing the top of his head into our foreheads, or by flipping one of his many toys onto us until we smiled. He lived for those moments.

He was adept at making sure we understood that he loved the furry throw blankets. Or how to tell us just the way to set up the bed pillows at night so he was most comfortable. He showed us that he preferred lamb dog food over all others, with some brands making the grade and others not. As he got older, he showed us he could not jump up or down from the bed as easily, so we adjusted things for him in ways he made sure we understood worked for him.

· He showed us what unconditional love looked like every day we had with him with his entire being.

· He showed us how to have fun or just be in the moment and let troubles roll away.

· He showed us how to be brave and smile even when he was not feeling well.

· He showed us grace in aging in the final years of his far too brief life.

On that last Saturday night in January, we had no idea it was his final night. We went out to dinner with a friend. When we walked up to the house, he was looking for us out of our front window. We were his whole world. I let him out and Julie went upstairs. As was sometimes our game when arriving home, Julie hid in a closet somewhere. When he came back in the house, I told him to show me where Julie was. With as much pep as he could muster, he went around the house until he found her, pawing at the door of the closet till she came out. It was one of the last times for showing.

He had two pressing medical issues, a bad tooth seemed like the main one. All the signs were that if we could get him though its scheduled removal, he would be ok. He seemed unsinkable. The other issue was a tumor that we knew was waiting in the wings but did not seem to be causing immediate problems. We thought we had another year. Yet, by morning light it was clear he anything but ok, and there was nothing we could do to make it right. Things we thought were tooth related were actually signs that his status was grave. His time was very near an end. He hid those things until he could not hide them any longer. His body betrayed him and showed us what neither of us wanted to see.

Our world suddenly upended that long Sunday morning. The thing we could do for him was the one thing we did not want to do, but that not doing what needed to be done was unfair to him. We owed him a painless end. All that would remain was suffering, and all we could do was to limit it. We got to hold him through his final moment and show him our love. While our capacity for unconditional love falls far short of that of an average dog, we showed him as much unconditional love as we could provide. We put an end to his suffering while opening up chasms within our own hearts.

We were a little reluctant initially to talk about how much we cared about this dog. Then friends near and far showed us things to help us through our loss. They showed us that they understood our deep love for a dog, through emails, phone calls, cards and even a few gifts to remember him by. Our vet sent card telling us he knew we did the right thing. People who never met him but whose lives had been brightened by his pictures told us he would be missed.

We have already started looking for another furry family member. We know that there will only ever be one Mr. Tweaks. But we also know something else he showed us—that dogs can bring out our better selves. We want to help another pup find a forever home and show us more of what dogs hold within their immense hearts. We are grateful for all the dogs who have graced our lives, and this one in particular. Mr. Tweaks will forever live in our hearts.

What are you grateful for today?

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