|"Meatballs with Baxter" - Digital, 2011
You think dogs will not be in heaven?I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.- Robert Louis Stevenson
The above illustration was inspired by a flash fiction story called, "Meatballs with Baxter" by Mark Belisle. It was featured on his Rogue Wave Fiction blog, on which can be found many short stories and short, short stories of a slightly off-center and always entertaining nature.
In the story, a man has an unusual conversation with his dog, who has come to know him pretty well. The breed is never stated, but for pictorial reference, I used a friend's dog, also named Baxter, who was a large and gentle black and white great dane.
The real Baxter passed away last week. So did a rottweiler named Taylor belonging to another family I know. Both these dogs were loved and cherished by their humans, and in their own way returned that love and comfort as only a furry critter can.
My childhood dog, a springer spaniel-lab mix named Buddy, passed away at 14 years while I was in college. He had been suffering from various maladies, and there was a feeling of relief at his finally being at peace. Yet, there also lingered, as usually does after a loss, regret at not having spent more time with him in years past, more afternoons playing in the yard, more walks around the neighborhood or park.
Coming into this world, a dog's life doesn't have many prospects. Many dogs will be passed around from shelter to shelter, never knowing a comfortable spot on a couch next to an affectionate owner.
Any kindness, care and love towards an animal that you share your home with, whether it spans a few years or lasts for over a decade, is always well spent. Whereas, the relationship with a person is complex with its expectations and fluctuations, a relationship with a dog doesn't require much beyond food and love. May the hearts of humans someday revert back to that simplicity.
Farewell, Baxter, Taylor, and all the pups who have left us. We thank you for your warm companionship and your unconditional acceptance.
And, please remember those left behind in shelters. Make a donation to a local shelter or animal advocacy group today for a pet that you or a friend has loved.