In Memory of
December 1999 – January 16, 2015
As I write this, I’m still filled with so much sadness. Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. I know that it was hard for you too; I saw it in your eyes when you looked up at me. Your fur was wet with my tears. You see, yesterday was the day we had to say goodbye after 15 years of being a part of each other’s lives. I know that some people will think I’m silly for writing this to you because you were just a dog. Dogs get old and die. They can’t even read paragraphs or understand words.
They don’t even have a strong concept of time, of the passing months and years and of aging. But you know what? I don’t really care what people say or think, and I’m writing this more for myself than anyone else. Writing this will help me work through my grief and process my thoughts which are now a jumbled mess in my head. Dogs get old and they die. That’s a fact of life, and we have to accept it whether or not we want to.
Maybe I am silly for writing this, but you were such a huge part of my life for so many years. I have shed many tears for you over the past week; most of them in private. So many different emotions have flooded through me this past week. My heart still aches as I write this, but I need to get my thoughts written down while the pain of losing you is still fresh in my memory. Even now as I look back at the pictures I took during our final day together, I feel the tears coming, and the stabs of pain rush forth anew. Time will take care of that for it heals all wounds. One day I’ll be able to look at your pictures, and there will be no sadness. There will be only a fond memory of the wonderful dog you were and much gratitude for having been blessed with 15 years with you.
It seems just like yesterday that you were the small, wiggling 6 week old pup that I brought home from the animal shelter. You brought so much joy into our family during those early months. The first time that my mother laid eyes on you, she immediately declared that you were the ugliest puppy that she’d ever seen! But you know what? You quickly warmed her over and won a special spot deep in her heart for 15 years. She’s really sad too. We all are. I remember the first time you met Denise.
You didn’t really care for her very much. It’s almost like you knew that she would soon become a huge part of my life and eventually my wife, but that’s ok. You quickly warmed up, and you two had your own special relationship.
I guess in my mind you were always invincible. You were strong and courageous; I was sure that you would always be a part of me, but you got old. I just didn’t see it right away. These past 8 months have been a challenge for all of us. I’m glad you were able to finish out your 14th year with dignity and reach that special 15th milestone in December. You will never know how hard this past week was for all of us. Watching you decline so quickly was heartbreaking, and it forced me to make a decision that I had prayed every day that I would not have to make. But you’re not hurting anymore. You’re not in pain. I choose to think you’re off running and chasing after something somewhere deep in the woods; your youthfulness and vigor having been restored once more. I’m grateful that we were able to spend your final hours that last Friday afternoon together in the woods once again. You always loved being in the woods as much as I do.
Saying goodbye was so hard on Friday, but I stayed with you until the end. It was the least I could do for you after you gave us the best years of your life. Your vet, Dr. Gill, was gracious and compassionate at the end. He is truly a good man. I hope you found just a small measure of comfort in knowing that Denise and I were there with you at the end. How appropriate it was that we buried you in the sunset of a winter’s day, as the sun set in your own life. The spot we chose for you on the family homestead in the country has an amazing view of the sunsets in the west and of the beautiful starry sky at night. I thank God for the beautiful picture that he painted for us in the sky that evening as we buried you and said goodbye.
That was truly special. Your two brothers, Opie and Oliver, miss you too. They will help all of us work through the pain of losing you. It’s good that we have them, and they are much comfort to us. But there’s still a piece of my heart that you occupied and took with you when you left.
You see…people and animals come into our lives and they claim a part of our hearts as we grow to love them. And when they leave, they take a piece of it with them; a piece that will never ever be there again. Your piece of my heart is gone, Wiley. But I cling to the memories of the good times that we had, and then I just smile. There’s a quote I read recently which says “until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains un-awakened.” Thank you for being the dog who woke that part of my soul, for being the one who taught me what it was like to have a dog that loved me unconditionally. You were a part of some of the loneliest years of my life during those early years, and you helped me get through learning to live on my own and being alone. All those times I came home to a dark place at night – I knew you would be there with your wagging tail and comforting presence. I thank God that he gave me a compassionate soul and heart that had the capacity to love you back so deeply. Many people don’t have that. I’m one of the lucky ones who do.
As I lay in bed Friday night on the eve of your passing, I remembered a short piece that I’d written back in 2002 during your 3rd year with me. I searched through the archives on my computer Saturday morning and found it. It’s your story, Wiley. I chose to leave the punctuation and words exactly as I penned them back in 2002, and I didn’t change a thing. It was written at a much earlier point in my life. I was much younger. We both were. I can’t think of a better way to end your tribute than by sharing your story. Goodbye, Wiley. I will always love you, and I will always miss you. However small it may be, a part of me is gone.
****** Originally written on Saturday, October 26, 2002 12:49PM ******
A Love That Transcends Language
By: Stephen Coleman
Here on earth, one of the greatest gifts known to humans is love. For to love, and to be loved in return is a priceless treasure. There are many types of love. One of these, is a dog’s love.
I met Wiley in February of 2000. I was an employee at the former Forrest County Humane Society, and he was a homeless pup 6 weeks of age. Wiley was born sometime in December of 1999. In February of 2000, he was found by the Hattiesburg Animal Warden abandoned in a McDonald’s parking lot in Hattiesburg. He was found alone, with no mother, brothers, or sisters. When he arrived at the FCHS, he was so clean, shiny, and healthy, and I loved him from the first moment I saw him. No one could figure out what breed he was, not even the vet.
Wiley had been at the animal shelter for several weeks when an outbreak of parvo, a deadly and very contagious disease, began to strike the puppies. Not wanting Wiley to become a parvo victim, I agreed to take him home for a couple of days until the situation was under control. While he was at my house, he quickly worked his way into my life, and into my heart. I was a freshman in college, and my parents were planning on moving to the northern part of Louisiana in June of 2000. Not knowing what my housing situation would be like, I was reluctant to adopt him. So I knew I had to return him to the animal shelter to try to find him a good home. Wiley went back, and stayed there for another 4 weeks. Every day, when I’d arrive at work, those warm brown eyes would light up when he saw me, and his tail would start wagging so furiously, I thought it would surely fly off! The days went by and no one claimed him. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer. In April of 2000, I officially adopted Wiley and he became my buddy for life. He was named for Wile E. Coyote on the “Roadrunner” cartoons, since he is brindle colored, and bears a remarkable resemblance to a coyote, a baby one at that, since he’s a small dog who weighs in at around 16 lbs.
After my parents moved away, I lived with some friends in rural Perry County for several months. Wiley grew to love the outdoors and he constantly ran, played, chased rabbits, swam in the pond, and explored in the woods. Every where I went, he constantly tagged along, like a stealthy shadow, and he was my constant companion. In December of 2000, I moved back to my hometown of Petal, to live on my own. Wiley moved with me, and still lives with me to this day.
Wiley is my constant companion. In the summers, he delights swimming alongside me in the Okatoma Creek, or going to the lake and futilely chasing the minnows through the sandy shallow waters. We have made countless trips to Louisiana together, and never have I seen a dog who loves traveling as much as Wiley. As soon as I open the car door, he jumps on the seat, curls up in a ball, and goes to sleep. With all of my family scattered out in northern Mississippi, and my parents in Louisiana, frequent road trips are a common thing for me, and needless to say, I think Wiley looks forward to these trips more than I do!
At night, Wiley jumps in my bed, gives me a glance, then curls up in a ball at my feet. Sometimes, during the night though, he moves and burrows right next to me, as close as he can get. When I wake up in the mornings, he will be curled up with his head resting on me.
A dog’s love is unconditional. They don’t judge, or care what you’ve done. They love you no matter what. No matter how bad my day has been, or what has happened in my life, I am comforted by the knowledge that Wiley will be at home waiting for me, like a bright light at the end of a long dark tunnel.
Yes, love truly comes in many forms. Sometimes it even comes in the form of an ugly puppy at the animal shelter. I truly believe that dogs can feel love too, though perhaps in a different way from us humans. Each night before we go to sleep, I call out “good night old boy, I love you”. And as I lay there in the darkness, I know in my heart, that love transcends language and though he can’t speak, Wiley loves me too.