Why is it that when a pet dies, it can just break your heart?
I wouldn't even call myself a huge dog or cat lover, but I've shed countless tears over close pets. Even as I remember their names, their cute little faces flash in front of me: Sarge. Prince. Rutherford. Dexter. Carlo. All loyal, wonderful dogs, quirky in their own ways.
Each represents a period of my life, and the memories attached.
Carlo died last week - my parents' farm dog. He lived a good life, and survived several near-death experiences. We had cried and said goodbye to him before. But last week was a surprise.
It was heartbreaking to tell my daughters; their sorrow was so raw.
Carlo was a one-eyed dog - the eye was lost in a scrap with a protective farm cat when he was young. When my parents saw his one pleading, kind eye, they knew he was the one for them.
My daughters learned a lot from this one-eyed wonder. He was always so gentle with them, and so happy to see them. Carlo taught them playfulness, gentleness, and a love for God's creatures. His excited tail wagged right into them as little toddlers, sometimes knocking them right over because of his one-eyed periferal vision.
There was Bandit, the raccoon we kept in the barn for a summer (but in our memories it's much longer) who nibbled on strawberries right out of our hands, slid down the slide with us, followed us around the yard right at our heels, and climbed up onto my Dad's shoulders.
And Mrs. Boots, the cat whose water broke all over my bed quilt one afternoon, just before she gave birth to a litter of kittens. She was the only farm cat ever allowed in the house, and she saved those kittens from an awful storm by scratching on the screen door and meowing to be let in.
We've sheltered our daughters from the heartache of losing a pet by refusing to own one - until this past Christmas. Then a little guinea pig came home with us from the animal shelter, and she's since been wiggling and squeaking her way into our hearts.
And you? What pets have you loved and lost? How did you say goodbye?