Has there ever been anyone who didn’t wonder why their beloved dog had to die so soon?
If there is, I’ve never met them.
This year, several of my friends have lost dogs they’ve loved. And every one I hear about feels like a death in the family.
Some of these dogs I know only through the pictures and stories their people share about them. But it still hurts to hear the sad news.
Every friend who loses a dog reminds us of the dogs we’ve loved and lost.
Grief is the club no one wants to join but everyone eventually ends up a member.
It feels so unfair that our animal companions live such short lives. Oh, there are some bird lovers out there who may have to arrange for a pet who might outlive them. But most of us grieve many animals over the course of our lives.
Why do our dogs have to die so soon?
Have you heard the phrase “memento mori?” It’s Latin for “Remember you will die.”
Sounds harsh, eh?
This phrase (or one like it) is a subject of meditation in several faith traditions. I most associate it with medieval Christianity.
It’s a reminder that life is fleeting. And that our actions should reflect that fact.
In truth, very few humans live as if they’re ever going to die.
Teenagers live as if they’re immortal. At least if their driving is any indication.
But even we adults with fewer years ahead than behind us don’t keep our deaths in front of our minds.
If we felt constantly aware of the shortness of our lives, would anyone ever keep up with the Kardashians or eat at McDonalds?
Somehow I doubt it.
We do have one reminder of how precious a gift life is. And it’s short, furry, and has a tail.
Dogs Remind Us Life Is Short
If we’re lucky, we might have a dog in our life for sixteen years. It’s far too short a time.
It feels like only yesterday that Honey was a fuzzy little thing chewing up my underwear and peeing on the floor. Could she possibly be turning six years old next month?
Only a few months ago, I noticed that Honey’s fur was turning white on her back. Her eyelashes are lightening too. And just this week, I’m seeing patches of white forming under her eyes—the first sign of the white mask a golden retriever gets as she ages.
Because our dogs age from infants to senior citizens in less than a decade, we have a constant reminder of the preciousness of life. And the smart ones among us don’t waste a second of the gift of time with our dogs.
We toss on boots to go out in the snow with our pups when we’d rather cuddle up inside. We take hikes on hot summer days, carrying enough water to keep a thirsty dog hydrated on the trail.
Heck, I’ve even dined on crackers over the sink because I was too tired from making my dog’s dinner to cook for myself.
No matter how long our dogs live, it will never be long enough.
Why do our dogs die so soon?
I think it’s a message from the universe to appreciate every day we’re given.
It’s too frightening to live as if we might die someday. But we’re lucky to have furry memento mori sitting beside us on the couch.
They remind us that life is short. Every day is a gift. So make the most of it.
Sniff like your nose is going to fall off. Roll in the grass. Devour your food like it’s the best meal ever.
If we live our lives with as much gusto as our dogs live theirs, maybe there is some grace that comes from loving animals that die so soon.
And maybe their short lives make us better people too.