The country singer / songwriter Garth Brooks has a song called “The Dance.” It’s a simple but powerful song, where the writer speaks of a breakup in a relationship. Essentially, the jist of the song is this: the writer is lamenting on the fact that had he have known the relationship would ultimately be in failure, he probably would have missed “The Dance.” Or in other words – sometimes, even though the end or loss of something hurts – it’s not necessarily the end that counts. It’s the Dance in the middle.
I got a call Sunday that I much rather would have not received. It was from my mother, teary eyed and heartbroken – giving me one last chance to say farewell to my “childhood” dog George – a dog I received for my 16th birthday, and as a family we had raised for 11 years. He had hurt himself beyond medical repair, was in a great deal of pain and suffering, and well – you know the rest. It was hard. It was really hard, probably more so for my parents.
My parents have been through the broken roller coaster of life in the last 3 years, and as we all like to think – undeservedly. A failed company my Dad put his heart and soul in for well over a decade went bankrupt. They were forced to move away from a home they eventually lost – to a strange place in New York they eventually grew to love. Not long after gaining normalcy, they were forced yet to move again to Tennessee. I watched my Dad, my own personal hero, handle it with valor and stride. I watched a guy who had spent the better part of his life taking care of me and his family, mentoring, nurturing, loving me – get beat down over and over again – and still get back up. I stand today with more respect for him than any other man in my life. I watched my Mom stay by his side through thick and thin, going wherever her husband went, because for my Mom – that’s what she does. She loves with loyalty and heart of a christened knight.
But then there was George. George did not move with me when I left the nest, he stayed with Mom and Dad. He needed to stay, where he was he had greener pastures, his backyard, his picnic table throne, his squirrel minions, and plenty of love. For those who have had dogs before, you’re quite aware of the unconditional love they offer. For those of you who don’t, I’m not sure what to compare it to. Ben Williams is attributed with saying “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face,” and I would personally have to agree.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my experiences with George lately – and one central theme comes to mind over and over again – purpose. I’m bemused at the fact most of us go through life spending our whole lives looking for purpose – a reason for existence. George never had to question his. He knew it, he lived it, he exhumed it in all he did. George’s purpose was joy. He gave it up easily, mixed it with loyalty, protection, and humor. He stuck through the heartbreak of my parents moves, and the distance and loneliness that state borders do to separate us from the ones we love. In the midst of it all, there was George.
George knew what he was here for, I’m certain he had received his mission briefing well before any of us knew he would become ours, a blessed edition to our lives. Part of me, well… Part of me also thinks George knew when his mission was over, when it was time to throw in the towel and go home. I’m sure some would say that’s just me full of “wishful thinking and self healing” …But I don’t think so. I think he knew, accepted it, and was ready.
I wasn’t there for George’s passing. And as I write this cathartic bit of an essay, a few tears stream down onto my keyboard. Call me emotional, I don’t care – you’re probably right. It doesn’t matter. If George was here, he’d nudge me on my lap with that “get over yourself and come play with me look,” and that would be okay – because it would make me laugh.
And that… that’s a legacy worth remembering.
In Memorandum –
George “Georgie” Dawson
January 1999 – March 2010
Friend, Companion, Joy-Bringer