The Indianapolis Star

Dear Editor:

Monica held her tiny little eight and a half pound body close to her, fighting sobs as Dr. Rader gently applied the sedative. Tears running unashamedly down my cheeks, I gently petted her a last time as she closed her eyes, saying, “Go to sleep little girl. We love you.”

I fully realize that the life of a tiny 14-year old Maltese dog named Betty doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grant scheme of our perplexing existence, but this little dog was touched with something magical. Standing over her grave as we buried her in our shade garden, our Saudi foreign exchange student, Thamar, summed it up best. As he choked out the words, he said, “Betty, you loved everybody. You would even love George Bush if he came to visit at our house.” And you can bet that she would have, too!

We have two other small dogs, the aging Stella, 15, a Maltese whose nickname of “Stella Stinkman” reflects her frequently gassy state resulting from her enlarged heart, and the 3-year old Vivian, a chunky ill-behaved little thing. Betty and Stella have slept with us very night since they were puppies, Betty positioning herself on the pillows resting against the headboard.

I frequently woke up in the morning with her face inches from mine as she stared over a pillow. As I would slowly open my eye hoping that she was asleep, she inevitably would begin licking my face. At that moment she looked exactly like a baby harp seal, and I could almost hear her saying, “Okay, old man, time to get up and take me outside.”

In addition, Betty had several well earned nicknames, my favorite being “Betty Beep”. Quite frankly, what passed for her bark sounded more like a broken squeaky toy. Her usefulness as a guard dog was limited to possibly causing a would-be burglar to laugh himself to death.

While she gradually slowed over the last several years because of an increasingly debilitating collapsing trachea, she lived a rich and full life to the very end. She ate like a ravenous hog despite her small size, and she was always ready to roust herself from her many slumbers on various pillows on the kitchen floor when I would simply say the word, “treat”.

Over the years, this little dog crawled into our hearts in a manner that is extraordinarily difficult to accurately articulate. No matter who would come to the house, be it dinner guests or small children, everyone ended up holding Betty. She defined the word sweet, and she would stay in a person’s arms as long as you would have her. Everyone, and I mean everyone, loved Betty.

While I know that there is nothing unique about losing a beloved pet, I can’t help but feel that something profound has happened to both Monica and myself. That “tiny little dog”, as Mo would frequently describe her, was the embodiment of selfless love. She asked for nothing and gave everything.

In the end, as I try to hurdle a broken heart and celebrate her wondrous spirit, I can’t help but think of all those haunted parents who have lost children to accidents, disease and wars. If there is a just and merciful God, I want them to be comforted by the thought that somewhere under a cloudless blue sky their child is gleefully running and laughing with a joyful little dog named Betty at their side.

I am.