Love beyond understanding…
There is a commercial for Subaru that makes me weepy almost every time I see it. Willie Nelson sings “You’re my buddy, my pal, my friend…”, as a man prepares for a road trip with his dog, with a close-up shot of a bone-shaped birthday cake decorated with the number 14. The spot goes on to show the man and his dog marking activities off what looks to be the dog’s bucket list. The tag line is, “Love—it’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru”.
Now, I realize that that ultimate goal of the commercial is to sell cars. However, there is a category of advertising known as “image-building”, into which this particular spot falls. Instead of listing specifications about safety ratings, gas mileage and dealer incentives, spots like this instead help the viewer (or listener in the case of radio advertising) build an emotional connection with the product. I can imagine the pitch meeting for this particular commercial, with creative service professionals discussing how they could target pet owners as potential buyers for this car. That’s their job, and in this case, they performed it extremely well.
When I see this commercial, I can’t help remembering our first dog, Ernie The Wonder Beagle. He was actually a Beagle-Basset mix, adopted from the local shelter and estimated to be 1.5 to 2 years of age when we took him home. We enjoyed nearly 11 years of unconditional love with him, even as we became acquainted with his emotional issues.
It was pretty clear that at some point he had suffered abuse, and possibly starvation. He was skittish around people he didn’t know, especially men, for a long time. But with time and love, he learned that he could trust us, and could trust the people we trusted. He especially seemed to enjoy it when he had a chance to see The Aunts at Dad’s for Christmas Eve and he was quite affectionate with them.
He was both extremely sensitive and ridiculously funny. Countless times he emerged from our bedroom with a cotton swab he’d swiped from a wastebasket hanging out of his mouth like a cigar. He “stalked” his stuffed toys by circling around them on the floor before grabbing and shaking them with all his might, eventually throwing the offending toy down and descending on it in a growling, playful frenzy. He listened to 11 years of tears, joys, secrets and meltdowns from me, served as a heating pad when I was cold or had backaches or cramps, showered me with kisses and snuggles every day when I came home from work. He loved me when it felt like no one else in the world did, or could.
For about the last 11 months of his life, Ernie lived with cancer, and we lived with it as well. We and our veterinarians exercised our best judgement regarding how to give Ernie his best chances for both survival and a decent quality of life. There were several surgeries to remove tumors, multiple rounds of steroids and other medications trying to keep his cancer at bay. He was a brave little fighter, much more so than I was during his illness.
In the end, though, the cancer took him from us. Ten years have passed since he died. A couple of months after he died, we adopted Our Boy Roy, who came home with us on the same day that Ernie had, September 4…Ernie in 1996 and Roy in 2007. Roy’s adoption is a story for another blog post, one I will get around to writing, eventually.
As wonderful as Roy is and as much as I love him, I still miss Ernie every single day. Our pets provide us with a kind of love that is beyond understanding or explanation. We humans would do well to emulate the kind of simple love our pets give us and share that love with other humans.
Above, me with Ernie shortly after adopting him, September 1996, and on his last night at home, July 4, 2007, before he went to the hospital for the last time. He died one week later.
One of the best friends of my life, Ernie The Wonder Beagle. God rest his little Beagle-y soul.