The Eternal Dog

When Tibbie came into my life, I was already past my 40th year.  After a few weeks I marveled how I had ever lived without a dog.  As a first dog, this 14-pound West Highland terrier would set the standard for those to follow—kindhearted, gentle, loving, spirited, playful, patient, trusting, intelligent, obedient, mischievous, a beauty to watch, and a joy to snuggle with; but also strong willed, determined, and a born ratter.  She and her pal Willie, also a Westie and six months her junior, would corner and kill many a field mouse at their various homes in California, Maryland, and Virginia.  At nine years of age, she survived a coyote attack, but her life hung in the balance for 48 hours.  When she recovered, she was the same old brave and loyal dog, and when she finally succumbed to cancer a week shy of 17, we still wanted to hold on to her.  I will never be the same person for having known her and will keep her in my heart to my dying day.

For this reason, reading Alston Chase’s new book, We Give Our Hearts to Dogs to Tear, was a cathartic experience.  Anyone who has shared his life with a dog knows the unique joy and intense grief inextricably bound up in the relationship.  We console ourselves that the dogs, whose life spans are so much shorter than ours, at least don’t have to endure our loss, the loss of their master, the primary focus of all their devotion,...

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