C. S. Lewis once wrote:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Our lives have been deeply, beautifully enriched by the dogs that have passed through our family over the almost forty-four years that Scott and I have been married. First was Obi-Wan Kenobi, born and named appropriately in 1977, the year Star Wars first hit the theaters. Later there was Else (pronounced Elsa) and Pippin and Gandalf and Liesl, then Saxon and, briefly Murray, along with Teddy and Silke (pronounced Silka) and Godfrey. Each of these dogs touched our lives in special ways with their own personalities and quirks and challenges.
Avid pet lovers will understand this next statement. While we loved every one of these dogs deeply, and received love from every one of them, some of them reached even more deeply into our souls than others. Those very special ones left profound and eternal marks on our hearts. Sir Godfrey Graybeard was one of those.
Who was Sir Godfrey Graybeard? We don’t actually know who he was for the first ten years of his life. But we knew him intimately for the last four years of his life.
On January 24, 2017, Scott took Kathryn and Nathan along with him to the Butler County Animal Friends Humane Society to check on a little, elderly dog we had learned about the day before on Facebook. When he arrived, pushed Kathryn’s wheelchair to the back, and opened up the gate to the enclosure where this little gray dog was waiting all alone, this scruffy little guy methodically and deliberately walked straight to Kathryn’s wheelchair, put his front paws up on her lap, and laid his head on her knee. It was clear that he had found his home, and that we had found a family member we hadn’t even known we were looking for.
It truly did feel like a hole we never knew our hearts had, was filled instantly that day. He was unkempt and kind of stinky, but he had this debonairness that shone through all of that. And Godfrey just seemed like the perfect name for him. The “Sir” was added later as we began to see more and more of his noble little personality come through. And “Graybeard” was added once he donned his first (of several to come through the years) costume. He was the most distinguished little four-legged pirate we had ever seen.
He slipped into our home as if he had been created just for us, although he was already at least a decade old. We knew that he probably wouldn’t be with us very long because of his advanced age, but we also knew that we wanted to cram as much life as possible into the time we would have together. And we did.
Godfrey loved everybody. He always believed that any visitor who came to our home was there to see only him, and he would calmly proceed directly to them with obvious confidence in his belief that they were his new personal friend, come to be honored by spending a little time in his presence. Likewise, we never encountered a person who didn’t fall immediately in love with him as soon as they met him.
He delighted in being groomed. He would stand tall and proud as he was brushed, trimmed, and blow-dried to perfection, and then he would literally strut out of the shop, holding his head high, certain that every one was admiring his infinite handsomeness. He made us smile so much.
Our pup relished road trips and always rode with such dignity, whether he was looking out of the window (none of this crude tongue-hanging-out stuff for him!), or just sitting primly on the seat.
This little guy adored being held and snuggled, and somehow managed to snuggle back with his whole heart, without losing one whit of his dignity. From his first day with us, he would spend his evenings moving around the family room, taking turns spending time in the laps of those he loved. As he got more and more tired during this past year, he spent increasing amounts of time sleeping in the arms of his beloved people, and there was never a shortage of arms ready to welcome him.
Sir Godfrey was just naturally packed with so much personality, but he had a gift of exhibiting this big personality in a quiet, laid-back, aristocratic way. Although he never hesitated to lift his leg and soak any wall or bush (or blade of grass!) he happened to be passing, he somehow even managed to make that look proper in his own comical little way. But he was never a barker or a jumper or a licker. He just moved through his days, being himself in his own very comfortable way, exuding peace and love to all who came in contact with him, and making people smile and feel warm and just all filled-up inside.
Today, just before lunchtime, we said our final good-byes. A piece of my heart died today. I can’t imagine how the hole we each feel right now will ever heal. He was so small, but always, always bigger than life. Four years was not nearly enough time together, but I can honestly say that we cherished every minute of those years.
Take a little photo journey through our four years with him to get a glimpse of this little angel-in-dog-form member of our family.
I will love you forever, sweet Sir Godfrey Graybeard. You were truly one of the very, very special ones. Thank you so much for dropping into our lives for the last few years of yours.