I knew it was coming. Dogs don't live forever. Patty R was a gentle boxer and part of our family before I was born. But now she was failing. I didn't know life without her companionship, so when the inevitable came to pass, I just couldn't help out. I couldn't see her lifeless. I couldn't wrap her in her blanket. I couldn't help dig the hole. But I could grieve for her. And I could be grateful for the loving kindness of our neighbor, Ike.
Ike lived across the street. He was Poppa D to us, a father of five and a second "dad" to my sisters and me. He would routinely jump in to help with tasks too strenuous for my dad. Shoveling snow and digging graves for pets fell into that category. Laid to rest at the edge of our yard, I visited Patty R many times at that spot. I felt guilty that I couldn't bring myself to help bury her. But time passed. I was little and I knew she understood. And from time to time, she'd remind me. We couldn't part with her chain collar and tags, so we hung them on a hook in the closet. Every now and then, someone would reach in and brush against them. The jingle would make me freeze and instinctively look around for her. It brought her back for a moment.
That was long ago and both of my dads have since passed. But their memories and profound influence on my life remain, as do the lessons that Poppa D and Patty R taught me. Be kind. Don't make it about you. And help without being asked.