Three friends from Church Point, Louisiana were asked, “When you in your casket, and your friends and church members are mourning over you, what would you like dem to say?”

Thibodeaux said: “I would like dem to say, I was a wonderful husband, a fine spiritual leader, and a great family man.”

Fontenot commented: “I would like dem to say, I was a wonderful teacher, and servant of da church, who made a huge difference in people’s lives.”

Boudreaux said: “I’d like dem to say, ‘Look, he’s movin!'”

What is a dog?

Over the past few days I have been a little emotional. Emotional about a young dog I never knew who passed away of cancer. Okay, so why am I all emotional about a dog I never knew? Why should I be so worked up about it? Why not simply say “I’m sorry for your loss” and move on?

Well because this particular Whippet’s story hit close to home. Her name was Luna and she was diagnosed with lymphoma. My eldest Whippet, Kelsey, was diagnosed with lymphoma three years ago. When I found out about Luna being sick, I simply and silently followed the messages as they appeared on the Timbreblue Whippet mailing list. I felt badly for her owners and hoped within that she would get better. A couple of days later I opened an update from Carrie, her owner. What I read just tore my heart out and stomped on it. Luna had lymphoma and wasn’t doing very well at all. Then I could remain silent no longer. I felt this intense need to reach out and offer hope in the form of my sweet boy Kelsey who triumphed over his cancer and that maybe, just maybe, Luna could too. I sent the email and offered my support and told her about Kelsey’s success. I then added Luna to my prayers every night in the hopes that she too would conquer her cancer. The next day we found out from Carrie that they had been given two options: euthanasia or a three day chemo protocol. I have to be honest and say I lost some hope at that moment – to suggest euthanasia meant the cancer had spread significantly. But I continued to keep hope alive and kept praying for this beautiful Whippet.

Then on Thursday (yesterday), I was lying in bed, having just woken up from resting my eyes. I grabbed my iPad and started going through my email when I saw the message from Carrie which read “Luna Jubb-Elledge (6/24/08 – 7/7/11). My heart sank like a brick. I sat up in bed and quickly read through the message. What had happened? What went wrong? Well, it seemed Luna simply had lost too much ground to the cancer to respond to the chemotherapy. She was telling her owners it was time to let her go.

I am a very strong supporter of people being responsible for their dogs in every way. Not just cleaning up their mess when you take them for a walk or feeding them properly or taking them to the vet every 6-12 months for shots and checkups. I mean supporting the dog, doing all that needs to be done to make that dog’s life fulfilled and happy. This includes knowing when the time has come to let them go. Not to them linger in pain just to spare our feelings, to spare us from losing them. A responsible dog owner will do the right thing at the right time. Carrie and her husband did the right thing at the right time. Luna simply had succumbed too far and her continued existence would have been one of pain and suffering. So they let her go.

I sat on the edge of my bed and simply cried. Tango, my youngest Whippet, was lying on the bed next to me and got up wondering what was wrong. She is a very empathic dog. She licked my hand as I reached out to her. I hugged her and simply cried with her in my arms. I really had built up so much hope that Luna would have pulled through this. If her life could have been extended but for a year or two, that would have been an awesome victory. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. As I cried, I could not help but think of Kelsey. I put Kelsey into Luna’s shoes and thought of what it would be like right now if he were the one who had died. So in doing so, I shared in the grief and loss that Carrie and her husband were feeling that day. I know that Luna is now in a better place, free of any pain or ailments. She is with the best vet in the universe: God.

So today I have to move on. Luna has left a vacuum in the world – it will be filled with another Whippet. But no Whippet can truly replace such a beautiful dog as Luna. Based on what I know of her, she was an incredible dog who loved life to the fullest. As her owner Carrie said, she lived as if she knew she had only 3 years to do it in. So everyday was full of life, spirit and happiness. I posted this to my Facebook today:

Luna (2008-2011). You endeared and enriched the lives of those who knew and loved you. Now go forth into the waiting arms of God to endear and enrich the kingdom of Heaven. I never knew you but I share in the grief of losing the opportunity to have known you. God speed Luna.

So in closing I return to the subject line of this blog post: What is a dog?

A dog is a companion to enrich our lives, to be there when life gets tough, to offer us gentle kisses and a warm embrace. A dog is not just an animal, a dog is a faithful spirit sent to us from Heaven, to support us, to love us unconditionally, to show us that to play is the most important thing in life, to have a youthful spirit is vital. A dog is our family, a dog is someone to laugh at without consequences, someone to laugh with, someone to hug when you have to cry, someone to melt away the stress of the day. A dog is warmth, forgiveness, happiness, innocence. A dog is the embodiment of love. Some might say it is silly to mourn the death of a dog, but then do they really know what a dog is? For those of us who have dogs and love them with all of our hearts, a dog is one of our closest family members, a member of our pack. So losing one is like losing a member of the family and carries no less sorrow than losing a human friend or a human family member. They are with us but for a short time, but that doesn’t lessen death’s sting. A dog is an angel on Earth, here to make our lives even more enjoyable. When they leave us, they return to Heaven and wait by the gates in the hopes of seeing us again.

Farewell to Space

The space shuttle Atlantis launched today, marking an end to the 30 year reign of the space shuttle program. Perhaps I could go so far as to say the space program as a whole. I am livid about the state of our space program now, thanks to a President who is short sighted and apparently doesn’t have the spirit of exploration within him. Human beings have always sought to explore their surroundings, to try and understand how things work. Early in our existence we wondered, “What’s over that hill over there?” or “How far does this land go? What else is out there?” Now we find ourselves in a position of stagnation, exploration has withered and is almost gone. The next frontier is clearly space. People have been saying that for a long time now. Yet, we still refrain from pushing hard to explore it, to understand the mysteries there. I have always said one very mattter of factual statement and I will say it again and again: How long do you think this planet of ours will exist to sustain us? We cannot stay here. Its time is finite, our sun will one day swell into a red giant, consuming Mercury, Venus, Earth and even Mars. The inner planets of the solar system will reside inside our star as it slowly dies. Granted this isn’t expected to happen within the next few million years, but it will happen. We have the technology to beyond the confines of our planet, to explore other places in our solar system. We have had this technology for over 40 years now and yet we don’t use it. We cower behind budgets and monetary excuses. Do you think it was a free ride for Columbus to explore the new lands he discovered? Do you think it was cheap for the Wright Brothers to build their first airplane? How much do you think it cost to invent the first TB vaccines? In every aspect of discovery there is expenditure. You have to spend something to gain something in return.

We should also consider the fact that China is spending massive amounts of money on pushing their space program into high gear. They already have a completed core module for a space station. They are currently actively developing the technologies and components for missions to the moon. Meanwhile we Americans are sitting on our asses, drinking Coronas and complaining about spending money on space exploration. I think it’s ridiculous. So the Chinese will someday rule space? Is that something we want?

So in closing, I dread the thought of losing the space program. I believe we are all called to explore, investigate and expand our knowledge of the world, the universe, around us. Staying anchored to planet Earth is about as stupid as never leaving your house because it cost too much to drive to the mall or market. How long will we hide behind these excuses? Will we ever set foot on Mars? I hope so. Sadly, I doubt it will happen in my lifetime. The longer we wait, the further we get from truly exploring beyond our solar system. Our ancestors would look up at the stars at night and wonder what they were, we need to go there. We need to reach for those stars!