Friday, August 26, 2005


Today’s blog was written two weeks ago. It is a personal and rather intimate blog written to console myself and members of my own family. But it would seem an indignity if these reflections were not honored by putting them in safekeeping for all time rather than in the bottom of a chest or drawer. So for safekeeping, I have chosen the Web.

Today is a sad day. Our family has lost a family member. Last night Youngest Daughter’s (YD’s) loving, loyal, and ever-faithful little dog passed away. The little dog that she and her fiancee, now husband, got when they were still students, some 10 or 12 years ago. Viscount has been an integral part of their (and our) family, ever since.

Viscount was a little dog who reveled in inclusion. He didn’t normally jump up on chairs but when we gathered around the table on holidays or a Sunday afternoon, if there was a vacant chair at the table, Viscount would jump up on it and sit there upright, paying the boldest attention. It seemed important to him to be included. To participate in the laughter and discussion at eye level with the rest of us. And I do believe that more than once, I saw a dog grin when someone delivered a comic line.

How many human phrases Viscount knew, I can’t be too sure. But I know it was far more than even we suspected. But they say a dog is capable of learning no more than fifty phrases, and so when YD took Viscount to Dog-Training school, we were not surprised that he was disinterested.

He was so disinterested that after the first class YD kept him at home. As for his disinterest, we simply concluded that Dog School did not pan out because his storage of understood phrases was well beyond his max. I am convinced that Viscount had a greater vocabulary of abstract words like "funny", "love", "sharing", and "special" then he did of "sit", "ball", "frizbee", or "fetch". The latter words understood, but the former phrases the type that occupied his mind. And during family discourses, when conversation waned, Viscount jumped down from his chair and demonstrated his affection for us all by doing "funny" and "special" performances for our amusement.

One of Viscount’s performances was rolling on his back or side and then thumbing his tail loudly on the floor. But depending on the floors at various of our homes, he thumped the longest and had the most fun, when it was a floor that resonated loudly and when he had an audience that enjoyed his performance as much as he enjoyed doing it. Carpeted floors were a dismal disappointment, but my kitchen floor was a favorite. It always responded with a very loud "Thump, thump, thumpity, thump." And when we were sure he was thumping his tail as hard and loud as he could, we would say, "Viscount, are you thumping?" And Viscount would look at us with laughing eyes and thump his tail even louder.

Viscount was a little Sheltie dog. But among dog members in our family we have basset hounds as well. So whenever we got together the dogs would romp about together. Then one day, YD and her Hub took Viscount to a Dog Walk-a-thon. For the most part, Viscount strutted along in stride with a slackened leash. But every once in a while he would pull with determination on the leash, oblivious to YD’s objections. YD soon noticed that he only acted that way when he spotted a basset hound in that sea of jogging dogs. So we knew Viscount didn't just identify his own family though the canine ritual of latter-end-smell, he identified them through a sophisticated observance of how they looked from the front – the special beauty he saw in the faces of valued kin. The beauty and familiarity of basset faces with their long ears, sad eyes, and saggy faces. He identified the bassets from a distance and was certain that each one he saw was a friend he knew and loved.

Viscount was convinced he could climb trees. Every time he spotted a sassy squirrel in a tree, he made a heroic effort to climb the tree and often surprised those squirrels by climbing higher than a dog should be able to climb.

Now in the past few years, our family has morned the loss of our dog-father basset, and now our dear beloved Viscount. And when things like this happen, we find we always come back to the same old thoughts about whether or not dogs have souls or a place in Paradise. I have two reasons for believing with unshakable security in dog heaven.

Number one. There is none in this world more charitable, more caring, more dedicated, more honorable, more true, or more deserving of heaven.

And Number two. God has told us that he sees every little bird that falls and if that is so, I know he is watching with love over every little doggie as well.

God bless you, Dear Viscount. Thank you for bringing us much joy while you were here. We will remember you always. I pray your paradise will have chatty squirrels aloft in trees you can climb, basset friends, a vacant chair at the table, and a sound-enhancing board floor for you to thump your tail on.


Blogger Eleanor said...

Beautiful post, Roberta. Viscount- what a strong and noble name for a canine friend.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Wandering Willow said...

Lovely story about a wonderful dog! I posted about the loss of my little rabbit Bunnita, and got so many responses from hearbroken people who have lost their animal friends too.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

eleanor, thanks for the kindness. Although Viscount was a special dog, I never really thought much about his name but he did live up to it -- strong and noble, as you suggested.

Hi wandering willow. I recall reading your obit for your special little bunny. It was so touching. Obviously Bunnita was as close to your heart as Viscount was to ours.

9:40 PM  

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