© Perry Bergson
This picture sits by Luke’s urn; he certainly looks content as he receives a big hug from his mom.
It’s been a little more than six months since I’ve had a dog in my life.
While some well-meaning friends were quick to encourage Mrs. Bergson and I to adopt another canine companion, it hasn’t been quite that easy.
Every time I’ve written about our white shepherd cross Luke, I’ve felt compelled to start by saying that I understand that not everybody is going to share or even understand my emotions.
Lots of people have no connection with animals and I respect that. We’ve always been animal people, even if Luke was our first dog.
Prior to his arrival on the scene in 1999, we used to walk the dog next door, Sasha, who always greeted our arrival with an energetic little dance.
While that activity prepared us for the exercise, nothing could get us ready for how central a role in our lives a little white 10-week-old bundle of fur would play.
When we look back, there’s Luke and before Luke.
Now there’s after Luke too.
I see the dogs that Debbie Lehner and her terrific crew down at the SPCA have up for adoption and I want to help her. But I can’t.
It’s just not time yet and I’m not sure it will ever be.
Six months later, I still sometimes find myself looking for him when I come home.
It’s not fair because he was a sick dog near the end and his death was merciful.
But it’s not that dog I’m thinking of when I’m feeling sorry for him and myself. It’s the vital animal who ruled the Brandon Dog Park as a benevolent alpha male, only occasionally doing a little bit of explaining to a newcomer.
He would strut off into the bush beside the trail, coming back to check on us now and again. He knew that at both ends of the trail there were regularly treats dispensed, so we would join us for that.
After his snack he would head back into the bush with his big tail wagging, looking every bit the part of a white wolf.
He was sometimes a bit uncharacteristically standoffish with people at the park, mostly because he had work to do. The squirrels weren’t on the path; you had to go looking for them.
Dog park friends who visited us at home were always surprised by how attentive he was to them there.
He learned quickly, listened most of the time and was quiet and relaxed.
The people in his life loved him and he loved them back.
I admire that he squeezed every drop out of his life that he could. I can quickly count half a dozen times that we could have lost him over the years.
He ran off to do some exploring once as a puppy and found his own way home as we searched for him. He fell into a frozen river but worked his way out another time.
He had a cancer scare at age six.
He went into a partially frozen river and I went after him in November of 2008; both of us could have drowned that day as I described in a previous column.
He had a benign tumour the size of a small roast removed from his body at age 11. It took his spleen but not his will; he tried to take me for his usual hour-long walk the day after his surgery.
The condition that led to his eventual death in November came in September. His quality of life was not good in those final two months.
He passed away an hour after one last short walk, with my wife and I by his side in our home.
We tossed all of his stuff into a giant bin after he passed and left it there. We finally broke into the bin a couple of weeks ago and gave the last of his treats to a friend.
We laughed when the friend texted a picture later that night of the little dog happily tying into one of Luke’s snacks.
Luke’s ashes now sit in a beautiful urn, his collar wrapped around it. A framed picture sits behind it; Luke looks every bit like a dog trying to smile.
There was a time in my life when everything the musician Tom Petty sang was dreadfully important.
In a song called The Best of Everything -- which comes from his 1985 album Southern Accents -- he looks back wistfully at the girl who got away.
“Yeah and it’s over before you know it. It all goes by so fast. Yeah, the bad nights take forever. And the good nights don’t ever seem to last.”
We are blessed with a lot of things in this life but time isn’t one of them.
We spend too much of it doing the stuff we have to and too little of it with the people and animals we love. And the time we do get seems to go too fast when we want it to slow down.
Regardless of what you believe, it’s never easy to have a void in your life where there was once a beating heart. I have several, including family, friends and a big white dog.
Only a small minority of us don’t deal with a few of those voids on a daily basis. We all quietly carry our own weight, looking for better days ahead while we deal with the painful ones we’re living.
As Petty sang, “I wish you the best of everything.”
Perry Bergson is the Daily Herald’s managing editor. You can reach him at 765-1302 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org