I got a text today from Mum saying that their dog, Louie, had died. I can’t say it was unexpected, his health had been deteriorating for a over a year now, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still sad.

He had been a big part of our life for a long time now, and it is hard to remember a time when he wasn’t around. We got him the weekend of my 18th birthday party, and I can remember what a hit he was, a cute and cuddly ball of brown fur being passed around adoring arms.

He was no pedigree animal, but a mix of various breeds that had somehow combined to produce one of those dogs that demand to be petted, all soft fur and friendly eyes. He was fluffy, though in our hot Wimmera summers it was necessary to trim him. I remember a vet with a sense of humour shaving him down to short fur, with the exception of a mane and a ball of fur on the end of his tail. He found this an affront to his dignity and hid for hours. The gales of laughter that greeted his emergence probably didn’t help.

Everyone adored Louie, he was not one of those annoying yappy dogs, or a high maintenance type, he just loved being around people and people loved him being around him. Even people who didn’t like dogs as a rule, and talked about them in derogatory tones, somehow found him their lap with them scratching his ears.

It was a tough decision for Mum and Dad, I am sure, to take him to the vet. After the kids had moved out that had grown even closer to him, if such a thing were possible. But every day had become and ordeal for him, and as Mum said, owning a pet brings responsibilities, not just joys. It’s a cliché, but he did live a long and full life. When I get to the end of mine, if I can look back and say that I brought as much joy into the lives of others, and was loved so much and gave so much love in return, well I will consider myself to have achieved a great deal.

There is a poem written a long time ago, about another dog that seems timely.

Epitaph to a Dog

By Lord Byron

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
BOATSWAIN, a DOG,
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18, 1808.

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown by Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn,
Pass on – it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one – and here he lies.

It could have been written about Louie. I have no way with words like Byron, this post will have to be good enough. But, that’s the thing, whatever I did was good enough for him, because he loved me, and I loved him. In his eyes I was something special, and I never fell short.

Louie went into that final sleep today, held in the arms of someone who loved him. There are people who say animals have no souls, but I cannot believe that. Deep theological thoughts aside, I offer one compelling argument for why I believe Louie is in a better place right now, and it is as simple as this.

Dogs must go to heaven, because a heaven with no dogs would be no heaven at all.