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A Canine’s Role in the Symphony of Life

“It’s peculiar how this voyage is causing pain In manners we embrace as part of destiny’s command So we simply cling firmly Recognize the past As teachings exquisitely fashioned Meticulously composed To shape us as instruments That perform the melody of existence” — Vienna Teng, “Eric’s Song”

Life is often likened to a grand symphony or opera where various elements come together to create the masterpiece of existence. It comprises both moments of happiness and moments of sadness, all contributing to the harmonious music of life.

In November 2019, a remarkable yet fleeting chapter commenced with a simple conversation. My spouse, Kelley, entered my workspace with the words, “We need to talk.” Such a phrase typically hints at discussions regarding significant life or relationship matters.

This time, however, it revolved around welcoming another canine companion into our lives.

At that time, our beloved dog Penny was over 9 years old, having been a part of our family since December 2011. We named her Penelope, a tribute to Odysseus’ faithful wife, symbolizing the importance of loyalty to us.

Initially hesitant about the idea of a second dog, I found myself outnumbered by my family’s enthusiasm.

The quest to adopt a rescue dog began. Kelley and our youngest son initiated this new chapter by meeting a forlorn schnauzer at Pets Come First, a dog rescued from a puppy mill.

This unnamed and neglected dog was introduced into our home the Friday after Thanksgiving. Suffering from various health issues due to prior neglect, her exact age and background remained a mystery.

She had endured trauma and mistreatment, evident in her vacant eyes, lack of tail wagging, and absence of barking. Trusting humans was a foreign concept to her, making the outpouring of affection and care a bewildering experience.

Having never experienced the outdoors, walking on a leash, or the freedom beyond her previous cage, she sought solace in the dog bed by the fireplace during her initial adjustment period.

Our greatest desire in those early days was to hear her voice, a sound she eventually learned from Penny.

While I maintained a cautious optimism, my children and Kelley were resolute in their mission to rehabilitate this broken soul. Our eldest son bestowed upon her the name Bonnie. Kelley, especially during the challenging period of her father’s declining health, provided comfort to Bonnie every night. Our middle daughter organized “Puppy Day Camp” amid the COVID restrictions, dedicating time to bond with Bonnie, who soon found solace with our youngest daughter.

Gradually, joy illuminated Bonnie’s eyes as she learned to frolic and explore both indoors and outdoors. Our home became her haven, offering days filled with happiness previously unknown to her. In healing Bonnie, we found healing ourselves. Witnessing her transformation brought light into our darkest moments. Her unbridled joy became a precious gift, surpassing any material offering we could provide.

Throughout the writing of my debut novel and the subsequent editing of its sequel, Bonnie remained a steadfast presence in my office. Whether nestled in her dog bed, lulled by the rhythmic tapping of the keyboard, or by our daughter’s side as she tackled her graduate school assignments, Bonnie exuded a sense of comfort and companionship.

Her exuberant welcome for guests, including our dear friend Ben, who affectionately dubbed her “Dinky,” added a touch of warmth to our home.

During a recent spring break, while I immersed myself in writing and editing, Bonnie and Penny’s companionship filled the house with a sense of serenity. Their synchronized movements, whether ascending or descending the stairs, signaled their presence, accompanied by the gentle jingle of their collars. Bonnie’s unwavering loyalty and constant shadowing became an integral part of our daily routine.

Our adventures with Bonnie, from strolls in Spring Creek Canyon to scenic hikes in Millbrook Marsh and Rothrock State Forest, were marked by her infectious enthusiasm and spirited demeanor. Summer evenings were spent on the porch, listening to chirping birds or tuning into Red Sox games.

Each morning, after the dogs were fed and I prepared breakfast, Penny and Bonnie awaited eagerly, hopeful for a share of the meal. Their expectant gazes, fixed on me as I prepared fruit smoothies or cooked scrambled eggs, never failed to evoke a smile. Denying them a treat was simply inconceivable.

Bonnie’s metamorphosis was nothing short of miraculous, promising many more years of shared memories. However, the harsh reality of life’s transient nature soon unfolded. Despite our fervent wishes to prolong her time with us, the inevitability of mortality loomed large.

Bonnie’s deteriorating health necessitated a visit to VCA Metzger Animal Hospital, revealing the grim diagnosis of inoperable cancer that had spread throughout her fragile body. The heartbreaking decision to alleviate her suffering became imminent.

On a somber Tuesday evening, surrounded by love and gratitude, we bid farewell to our loyal companion. As Kelley cradled Bonnie in her final moments, a profound sense of loss enveloped us.

The following morning, as Penny and I ventured outside, the void left by Bonnie’s absence was palpable. Despite my initial reservations, I had grown deeply attached to her endearing spirit. Her presence, like a poignant melody in the symphony of our lives, had left an indelible mark.

In her final moments, Bonnie’s instinctive pawing at the blankets mirrored her past struggles, a poignant reminder of the hardships she had endured. Now, in the realm that Pope Francis envisioned for our cherished canine companions, Bonnie rests peacefully. Her brief but impactful journey from neglect to love epitomizes the resilience of the human-animal bond.

As she transcends to a realm free of pain and suffering, Bonnie’s enduring legacy of love and resilience continues to resonate within our hearts, enriching the symphony of our lives forever.