Last year, my wife and kids talked me into going with them to the movies to see "Marley and Me," which I expected to be just more silly, sentimental sweepings and swill from Hollywood - not my kind of film at all. But it was even worse than that. At the end the dog dies.
"Stupid movie," I heard myself mutter aloud, sitting in the dark theater as my wife and kids looked over to see the Emotional Blockhead wiping the tears from his eyes.
This past weekend my family and I lost our oldest dog, Beckett, to bone cancer. He has been one of us Hales for all of his 11 years, and now I can't get him out of my mind. Last night, in the middle of the night, I woke up bawling my eyes out to my partner, Jeannie.
Jeannie and I are getting married soon (re-married, actually). We've been together for 19 years now, but there was a time when we thought it was over and got a divorce. But we've been back together for awhile and have talked and talked about getting married again, and now are finally doing it. When we were planning the wedding recently, I joked that Beckett should be my best man. Yesterday, Jeannie remarked that she'd been thinking about that comment.
"You were right," she said. "He should have been your best man; he was your closest male companion. And he was your hiking buddy, the only one always ready to get up with you at 5 a.m. on a Saturday to hit the trails."
And we did have grand times out on the trails. Like most dogs, he was an inspired hiker, uphill and down, over rocks, through streams and an undaunted investigator of everything. He was especially good at finding a nice rotten salmon carcass or pile of bear scat to roll in.
Back at home, both of us exhausted, he'd curl up in his favorite spot on the couch and relax as perfectly and completely as any sleeper I've ever seen, cozy in his warm, black, and softly dreaming fur, a most handsome beast.
Shakespeare writes that the passing of time implores us to "love that well which thou must leave ere long." But we never do; we never seem to love so well that, when we lose a friend like Beckett, we get to look back and say yes, we loved him as well as we could, the way we wanted to, the way he deserved, the way he loved us. I don't know why we can't, or why we don't love as completely and truly as we want to.
As a Catholic, I lean toward believing it's our fallen nature. And while I strive to be more like Christ, I think I'd be happy just to be as good as my dog.
His body is being cremated today, and tomorrow we'll pick up the ashes and go about scattering them in some of our favorite places - Basin Road, Eagle Beach, and the backyard - and say goodbye to our dog Beckett, my best man.
Jim Hale is a Juneau resident.
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