We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine. Attempting to gently introduce it during a meeting of Paws, our pet bereavement group, proves especially challenging — admittedly almost inappropriate. After all, the idea of laughter was light years away for me during the days before and after putting my best friend down. For my partner, Charilyn, however, it came naturally in the weeks that followed. “How can you not laugh?” she’d ask, with tears streaming down her face. “Buddy was just such a character. It’s OK to cry, but just don’t forget the good times.”
That evening, despite my reluctance, we laughed through our heartache. And with just a year gone since the loss of Buddy, I still have to remind myself that incorporating a bit of laughter into my memories of him is OK, maybe because there are just too many good times not to forget. Besides, dog owners love to share stories. So while laughter might not always be contagious, help those who are grieving by finding their story, and listen intently as they tell it. Here’s one of mine.
A few years ago, I decided to throw a pig roast at my home. I had invited only about a quarter of those who attended. Everyone and their brother consumed my backyard. The remainder of my property served as a giant parking lot. Music and laughter filled the air that summer night, along with the aroma of roasting pig since early morning. Soon, Buddy learned that he was sharing his backyard with numerous other dogs. Overwhelmed by it all, I decided to remove Buddy from the chaos and locked him in my bedroom. After all, combine a few dogs, a roasting pig and some table scraps, and you’re asking for trouble.
From the comfort of my bed, he watched the party grow in intensity on the other side of the window. Through all the commotion, I could hear him bark and howl in torture at watching the other dogs eat and play. After checking on him periodically, I finally took him his dinner of the typical kibble. It was then that I saw something from Buddy I’ll never forget: a frown. Irate that I wasn’t including him in the enormous social gathering outdoors, he carried on as if someone were branding him with a hot iron. His desperate howls rang out even louder.
“Buddy’s ripped. He won’t stop barking. He’s begging to be let out,” some friends alerted me. “Don’t open the door,” I ordered. “I just don’t want him under everyone’s feet.” I even went as far as posting a sign on my bedroom door saying, “Keep Buddy in.” Charilyn even joined in the “Free Buddy” campaign. “Just let him out for a few minutes so he can say hi to everyone,” she said.“He’s already been out, I don’t want him getting under everyone’s feet, and the last thing I want is for him to get into the table scraps the other dogs are getting into,” I retorted sternly. Charilyn snarled back, “He’s a dog, JD. Let him act like one and have fun like everyone else.”
But I would have no part of it and continued to ignore the pressure.
I even took it to an extreme and got on the microphone to announce that said canine would not be partaking of the activities of the evening because it was in his best interest to keep him isolated from the party. My airport security-like pronouncement was met with boos and other forms of disapproval. Still, I held my ground. There are times in a dog’s life when he just won’t stand for it. And this night was one. Buddy sat staring through the glass door at passers-by with saddened eyes and drooping face. As the master manipulator he was, he knew at some point someone would break. And it worked. Some sucker fell for it, succumbed to his desperate plea for freedom, and opened the door.
I surrendered in defeat before all those who witnessed the results, and laughed until I cried. Buddy got into the remaining roasted pig carcass. Clearly he declared victory as he proudly carried, in triumphant display, the biggest meat-laden thigh bone I have ever seen.
JD Green hosts “The Breakfast Club” on Froggy 100.9 FM. He and his girlfriend, Charilyn Williams, have started Paws, a central Vermont pet bereavement group. It is free and open to the public, and meets periodically at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 790 in Barre. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.