Our condolences go out to Gov. Roy Cooper and his wife, Kristin, over the death of First Dog Chloe.
The death of a dog is no small thing. A dog is more than the term “dog” implies. Dogs – at least those dogs that are loved – take on very human characteristics. No creature is more loyal or loving than a domesticated dog. Cats pale in comparison.
Our dog, deceased, was named Amazing Grace, called Gracie for brevity’s sake. She was a four-pound, black French poodle who dwelt in our home and hearts for 12 wonderful years.
She was imbued from tongue to tail with unsurpassed love that she distributed abundantly, especially to my wife and our two little girls. She was so sensitive that she would sleep with one child half the night and along about midnight get up and go to the other child’s bedroom.
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In the afternoon, she’d lie on an ottoman at a bedroom window overlooking the street, waiting for my wife to return from her teaching job at N.C. State University.
As soon as she espied my wife’s car, she would dash to the back door to be ready to greet her with a frenzy of joy and rejoicing.
When Gracie’s accumulation of ailments warranted an end to her suffering, we made the dreaded trip to the veterinarian. It was my wife, not chickenhearted A.C., who held the beloved in her arms while the vet administered the life-ending release from her pain.
On the way home, with my wife holding the still form wrapped in Gracie’s favorite blanket, we were overwhelmed with grief. I pulled the car over and we sat there for several minutes, giving full vent to our emotions.
I was scheduled to address the Wake County SPCA the next day and had planned to take Gracie along. As I was explaining her absence to the audience, I lost my cool and choked up. I couldn’t have had a more understanding audience.
With both girls at school, Gracie’s funeral was attended by my wife and me and by our neighbors, Ed and Ruth Arden Green, who also loved and were loved by Gracie.
As I dug the somewhat shallow grave in the hard earth in the woods behind our house, a moment of levity invaded my grief.
Treva Jones, one of our reporters at The Raleigh Times, had recently recounted the death and burial of her dog, a sizable animal, the breed of which I’ve forgotten.
Treva said that as her husband, out of breath, leaned on the shovel during the grave-digging, he sighed, “Thank God, she wasn’t a St. Bernard.”
Governor Cooper said that Chloe had tumbled down the stairs several years ago. After that incident, she could not walk for a week, but made a full recovery.
“She had a will to live,” he told a reporter. “She walked with a limp, but she still played and wagged her tail and told me with her eyes and nuzzle at the end of hard days that everything was OK and that she didn’t care if I happened to screw up,”
The news article didn’t say what happened to Chloe’s remains, whether she was cremated or buried on the mansion grounds.
But there is only one best place to bury a well-loved dog , according to Ben Hur Lampman, who in 1932 wrote a tribute to his dog in a Portland, Ore., newspaper.
“There is one best place to bury a dog,” Lampman wrote. “If you bury him in this spot, he will come to you when you call – come to you over the grim, dim frontier of death, and down the well-remembered path and to your side again.
“And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel, they shall not growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he belongs there.
“People may scoff at you, people who see no slightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no whimper, people who may never really have had a dog.
“Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing: The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.”
This column is dedicated to Gov. and Mrs. Cooper and to those of you who have loved and lost a dog.