A Tribute to Manfred
In September 1985, while dropping my Old English Sheepdog, Dudley, off at a local animal hospital for a routine teeth cleaning, I saw a middle-age man with an elderly dog, engaged in conversation with a staff member.
I wrote the following letter later in the day and gave it to the hospital receptionist when picking up Dudley. I asked her to read the letter, and if she thought it appropriate, to please forward to the man I had seen that morning.
Dear Sir –
I am the lady who came in with the sheepdog as you were talking with Sandy this morning. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and I realized that you are being confronted with the same sad situation that I was a few years ago...having an aging, beloved pet whose health is deteriorating.
I have been in tears off and on all morning; thinking about you and your dog, knowing so well the anguish you are going through.
During the last year of so of Manfred’s life, he developed one health problem after another. And the knowledge that one-day soon he would no longer be with me became more and more painful. I would sometimes wake up at night, hear him breathing softly beside the bed, and have to get up and go downstairs so as not to disturb my sleeping husband with my crying. I felt like there was a sword over my head, just waiting to drop. I had my Manfred now, BUT…for how much longer. He had given me limitless love, devotion and joy for 12 years, how would I be able to stand the emptiness without him.
Well, the day I had dreaded for so long finally came. Manfred had developed stones in his kidneys, which required surgery. This would have been his 3rd operation in less than a year, and he was on various medications. I thought about something I had seen in a book on dogs and that I re-read from time to time, hoping it would give me sufficient strength when needed.
It said that dogs have no conception of time…yesterday, tomorrow…they just know today. And while we can think our possible tomorrows with them, they are only aware of today and what they are feeling right now.
I held him in my arms as the vet gave him an injection. He never flinched, his breathing just slowed down and soon stopped. The vet then placed him in the back seat of my car, and I drove him to Lollipop Farms, where I had him cremated. He is now resting in an urn on a dresser in our bedroom, where I can still feel his closeness to some degree.
The next few months were filled with sorrow and a great sense of loss, but they were not as difficult for me as those months before Manfred’s death. I knew he was no longer suffering, and while I shed buckets and buckets of tears; I did so with no regret.
I just kept telling myself that the one reason I was so sad was because of the wonderful years Manfred had given me. Each tear was just another degree of measurement of the richness he had added to my life.
Of course, I now have Dudley, the dog you saw me with this morning. And while he never could replace Manfred, he is becoming just as special in his own right.
My thoughts are with you.
Note: A few days later I received a lovely thank-you letter from the gentleman’s sister, and I was very happy to hear soon after, from a staff member at the animal hospital, that he had acquired another dog.
Nearly 8 years passed before I saw this man again. In an uncanny quirk of fate, he and his current dog were at the animal hospital the same day I found it necessary to say a final “Farewell” to Dudley.
~ Suzanne Phillips ~