“Your dog has been poisoned.”
As I sat on the steps of my Washington home, reading the letter that had arrived in the mail that morning, it seemed that time stopped and some cosmic photographer clicked a shot of that moment in such a way that it is engraved in my mind forever. It appears in my mind's eye, even today, as a snap shot. In this out of body 'photo', I am a ten year old girl in pedal pushers and pony tail, sitting on the porch steps, holding a letter. I can see each blade of grass growing up between the concrete blocks in the walkway, the grains of wood in the porch steps, the weeping willow to the left. Tears are flowing from my eyesas my face is contorted with horror and unbelief, profoundly shocked and upset.
The letter I held in my hand was from Miriam, who had been my best friend before my family moved from the tiny town of Gebo, Wyoming to Bellingham, WA. According to Miriam, whose family had adopted our dog, someone had deliberately tempted Omar with poisoned meat and he had died almost instantly after eating it.
Omar Khayyam. The esoteric name stood out from the names of the other neighborhood dogs... Spot, Lucky, Buddy. But then, Omar, who was named by my dad in honor of a Persian poet and philosopher he admired, was a different sort of dog, a wolf-coyote mix who embodied all of the best features of both breeds; he was loyal, intelligent, playful, protective.
I had developed a special bond with Omar because I believed he had saved my life. One day we were walked through the prairie and a rattlesnake suddenly reared up, just feet away from me, rattling its deadly warning. Omar yelped and pounced, alerting me to the approaching danger. I leaped away and Omar abandoned his attack on the snake and ran with me, escorting me to safety. In my childish mind, I was convinced I would have died if he had not rescued me, and thereafter we became inseparable. When I found out we were moving and would have to leave Omar behind, I was inconsolable, but happy that Miriam’s family had agreed to care for Omar. Now, I was broken hearted to hear that he had been so mercilessly killed.
From this experience, I learned for the first time, that there are cruel people in the world. I learned never to discount the depth of a child’s attachment to a pet and grief over its loss, and I also leaned that childhood experiences can have long lasting emotional consequences, since it was many years before I was able to allow myself to get attached to a pet again.
To be continued...