Happy Memories and Hard Goodbyes
Today our second son must do a very hard thing. With the help of his father, he will bury a dear boyhood friend and the answer to many childhood prayers. His dog, Copper, was hit and killed on the road early this morning.
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a big animal lover. I do not subscribe to the belief that animals are equal to humans. I do not believe that animals should be given human rights. However, for many people a pet is a special part of the family and gives a great deal of enjoyment and companionship. That’s what Copper was for Jamison. He was a boon companion and as I said earlier, the answer to many prayers.
When Jamison was in third grade, his teacher read the book “Shiloh” about a boy and his beagles. It was then that he fell in love with the breed and set about lobbying for one. He would pray nightly for God to send him a dog. He would pray every day at lunch that God would send him a dog. This, combined with a multitude of other requests, resulted in such a long list that it was actually becoming a problem at school. His long prayers, we learned, were slowing him down in the cafeteria. We finally had to urge him to keep it short at lunch, that God certainly knew his requests and would attend to them faithfully even if he didn’t mention them all every time he prayed.
In preparation, he began a dog fund. He brought a quart jar to me one day and asked me to make a label for it, which I did. “DOG FUND,” it said, all decorated with paw prints, and into the sock drawer it went. When the extended family heard about it, they began putting money in the fund for birthdays. If he earned a bit of money here or there, he would chuck it into the jar. Soon, it was jingling merrily whenever he opened his sock drawer.
Nearly 3 years ago, the summer he turned 12, we decided it was his year. We learned of a family close by who raised beagles and when a new litter arrived, they kindly let us come and look them over. With great care and deliberation, Jamison watched them for quite some time before making his choice. With equal care and deliberation, he chose the name “Copper.”
The night Copper came home, he called his grandmother and told her in glorious, living color about his new buddy. “I like how he looks across his chest. He looks triumphant,” I heard him say.
The ensuing days and weeks found him spending many happy hours outdoors with his four-legged kindred spirit. Together, they roamed the property, fancying themselves to be hunters of extraordinary stealth and skill. Together, the two of them sent many a bunny heart into palpitations as they rousted them from their hiding places. Once, in a moment of honesty, Jamison told me, “Whenever I’m upset at you and Dad, I go out and tell Copper about it and it seems like he understands me.”
Copper was a digger extraordinaire. He personally dug a few holes in his downtime that were so deep I half expected to see a Chinaman pop up one day, looking completely mystified. He was also an integral part of the Schrock Olympics. Remember those? Lively beagle, long leash, wild scramble around the big, red barn? He was the blur of fur darting in and out through the flying legs, bringing the eager little Olympians crashing to the ground. Summer and campfires won’t be quite the same without him.
Neither will the boys’ rodeos. Copper gamely played the part of the bull as the boys chased him on their “horses,” which looked suspiciously like bicycles to me. But what do I know? I’m just a mom with no imagination – or, not a boyish imagination at any rate.
The boys’ “Scary” games won’t be quite the same either. There will be no cheating by Jamison, wherein he would take advantage of Copper’s magnificent nose to sniff out the other hiders. The playing field is level now.
The boys have asked me in the past if dogs go to Heaven. Well, I said, they don’t have souls like people do, but maybe God would surprise us by letting them be there when we arrive because He knows it would make us happy. Whatever the answer is to this deep theological question, I do know this – Copper has been a special part of Jamison’s boyhood. They understood each other in a way that is unique to a boy and his dog. They made many happy memories together. And today, when he lays to rest a creature that was truly his friend, he will have his family beside him. Someday, when the sadness has gone and he can smile at his memories, I know that Jamison will be thankful for these gifts.