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Dave Balch: More Lessons from the Dog

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It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote about how our Standard Poodle, Simone, leaned in the car in anticipation of curves in the road, and then I used that as a metaphor for us all to anticipate the curves ahead of us in the road of our lives. She passed away yesterday after 15 years of wonderful companionship and unconditional love. With a heavy heart I started to reflect on how I feel about it all, and what other lessons we can learn from her passing.

First let me say that I am realistic enough to know that not all of you are animal lovers. Those that are, that have cherished pets of their own will easily identify with my situation. To those of you who are not, however, I would only suggest that you read this in the context of losing a best friend. This is not a criticism, or a suggestion that you should feel differently than you do, it’s just a fact of life that not everyone feels the same way about animals in general or pets in particular. Even if you do not understand the bond that many of us have with our pets, the lessons still apply.

The first thing I realized was that I had no regret. I know how easy it is to lash out at someone we care about because we are stressed, and we always regret it later. To me, that just underscores how important it is that we deal with our stress and manage it well, in order to avoid acting in ways that we will regret later. Too many people take out their frustrations on pets; I know I certainly was tempted several times, but now that she has passed I’m sure glad that I didn’t.

Another thing that I realized is that time is short and we never know how much more time we will have with the people and animals that are important to us. We were lucky in that Simone lived several years longer than poodles her size (about 50 pounds) normally do and that her decline was gradual, giving us some time to adjust to the idea we were going to lose her soon. We aren’t always so lucky, though, and when we suffer a sudden loss due to an accident or unforeseen medical incident (such as a stroke or heart attack), we don’t have time to reconcile.

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The Supremes!!! I am sitting here in my kitchen on my laptop laughing my head off. Thank you for that.

Sweet Simone. What a good dog. Take care, Dave.

October 12, 2009 - 9:41am
HERWriter Guide


Thanks for your story and my condolences on the loss of Simone. She sounded like one of the good ones. I don't have any pets at all, nor do I ever want any! Not because I dislike them, but because I like animals so much that to have one in my home, I'd have to devote a certain amount of time to him or her and with my busy life, kids, work, marriage and yearly travels abroad, I couldn't manage it. (ok, I'll also confess I'd go nuts with animal hair and their claws scratching my hardwoods!) I neither eat not wear animals but I know if I did have a pet (and I'd pick a shelter dog, I think) that I'd throw my heart and soul into it, much like a parent-child relationship that would end up with a deep friendship. (I'd always be Mama though!).

I don't think I'd freeze an animal for the reasons you did (but who knows?) but I have kept my nursing pillow from all my three kids (same pillow) and would almost return for it in a fire - such is my love for all that pillow symbolized. I've also kept some of their tiny newborn clothes as well as artwork and hair clippings so it's not a giant step to freeze something. And really - the only difference between freezing for later burial and immediate burial...is time.

You sound like a great dog-Dad and Simone was lucky to have you. And you still have the great memories that thankfully can never be buried. Thanks for your story.

October 10, 2009 - 4:04pm

Thank you for sharing YOUR story... before Simone's decline she was that way as well, following my wife everywhere she went along with our other dogs. I kid her that she was like the Pied Piper.

To complete the story, our other two dogs are also Standard Poodles who are both black and, with Simone (also black), we called them "The Supremes."

I have always found avatars to be quite interesting - you can tell a lot about a person by the way they choose to depict themselves to the world. Your photo is wonderful and the fact that you chose to include her speaks volumes about how you feel and who you are.

October 10, 2009 - 12:09pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am sorry for the loss of your companion. I love love love this story. I am a avid lover of dogs and have one myself. I can say she is quietly laying at my feet in any anticipation that I may move and she will follow me wherever I go. If you look at my picture, there she is in all her glory.

I enjoy hearing loving stories of pets since they are such a huge part of your life and love you no matter how bad your breath is in the morning. Thank you for sharing this story. It was very moving!

October 10, 2009 - 9:51am

Hi Diane

Thanks so much for your words of comfort - Simone was very special. In fact, our vet said that she was "the perfect dog," a phrase that is going on her marker.

We can learn so much from our animals, if we just take the time to look.

October 10, 2009 - 8:18am

I'm so sorry about Simone. It's so painful to lose a family member. Our dogs, too, are beloved members of our family, and when we lose one we're just lost for a while. I'm glad you're doing what comforts you; it's hard to find such things when you're so sad. Take care. You couldn't have done any better.

October 7, 2009 - 8:59am
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