Tuesday, April 12, 2011


A member of my family died last week and this loss will be felt by all of us for some time. This is a strange obituary for me to pen, as "MACDUFF the Thane of Calder" was a 175 pound English Mastiff who died from a heart attack at age 9. I feel awkward writing about the loss of our dog. Some of you may think it is a frivolous exercise, or my time could be better spent commenting on the serious struggles faced by our nation and community. However, "Duffy" was a loving , caring , gentle member of our family who added to our quality of life and taught us a great deal about unconditional love. If a eulogy to a beloved pet is not your cup of tea, now would be a good time to stop reading.

"Duffy" was brought home as a 6 week old puppy. He was a beautiful Fawn color. (almost a golden silver) He was the third Mastiff to grace our family. We have lost all three as Mastiffs generally live about 10 years. They are a huge breed related to St. Bernards and Great Danes. They slobber incessantly and are not the most graceful of creatures, but they are wonderful with children, gentle, funny, loving and loyal. (if I had been more like Duffy, I wouldnt be a guest of the federal government)

Within a year, Duffy weighed over 100 pounds. He was a gorgeous dog who could stop observers in their tracks as they inquired about him and wanted to get close to him when he would be out for a walk. At home, his typical M.O. was to hang out wherever we were. He just wanted to be in the same room as any member of the family. He was energized by our presence. Duffy was not the sharpest knife in the drawer and was the victim of a terror campaign by our two cats on a regular basis. They would tease him and run up to him and bait him and he would always rise to their bait and wonder why it was he could never get close to them to exact some comeuppance. They ran circles around him and he never figured them out.

I won't go into daily details, but suffice it to say, Duffy loved his family, thought laying at your feet was as good as it got, and was a source of great pleasure and a great deal of laughter. At his size, grace and dexterity were in short supply. His tail could be a deadly weapon. On more than one occasion, groceries or other items I was carrying went flying as that wagging tail, signifying his joy at seeing me come through the door, would whack a very sensitive part of the male anatomy causing intense pain and chagrin. I was not his only victim over the years. He would look at you with his head tilted, mouth open, tongue panting, totally oblivious to the damage done. He was just happy you were home.

I hadn't seen Duffy in about three years. My wife and daughter had said he was slowing down and not doing well, but the news of his death still hit hard. If you haven't had a companion, a pet, this may be as interesting to you as golf on the radio, but this creature was a source of joy who challenged us to be as glad to see each other as he was to see us. I grieve his loss.

When my wife was in grammar school, her dog, Baron, died. She was educated by the Ursuline nuns, and a discussion about Heaven ensued. She expressed her belief she would be there with Baron. The nun quickly disabused her of that notion, telling her there are no animals in Heaven. At that moment, she rose up to announce to sister that if Baron wasnt going to be with her in Heaven, then she wouldn't want to go there either. I don't have any better insight today than she may have had all those years ago. I do know Duffy was a loving creation of a loving God. Duffy knew what love was and gave without measure or limit. God chose Duffy to exist and I loved him. A love like this does not cease because of death. It goes on.

We will be celebrating Easter soon. I will write about it more extensively soon, but the message of Easter is death is not the final answer. The essence of who we are, the love we experience and share, goes on. In the Catholic faith, we talk about the "communion of saints", the idea we will be in communion, in league, in touch, in intimacy with those we love and care about and this communion lasts beyond death. Is this the definition of Heaven? I don't know. What I do know is at the essence of all God's creation is a source of love and it transcends the loss of our containers...our bodies.

Duffy was an intimate member of our family. Maybe being separated from my family amplifies his loss, but our lives are less bright without his presence in our home. Unlike me, he didn't hold grudges, or seek revenge. He never disappointed his family or let us down. He didn't get jealous, ok he would forcefully defend a bone he was gnawing on, nor did he treat any of us any less or with less enthusiasm no matter whether we treated him the same way. Unlike me, he would protect those he loved from risk or harm and he seemed to forgive immediately.

Perhaps this large, gentle, creature was sent to be a mirror to us about how we should treat each other. Perhaps, Duffy's purpose was to teach us how to love unconditionally. Perhaps, his time on earth was intended to fill our world with joy and give us a glimpse at his creator and the purpose of our own creation. All I know is his death creates a hole in our family and I will miss him a great deal. Well done Duffy.


  1. There is a pain associated with the passing of these animals that can only be appreciated by another pet owner.

    You have my sympathy.

    Here's to Duffy. May all your memories of him be fond ones.

  2. Well said, Bernie. And Duffy was a lucky dog to have y'all for a family. Sorry for the loss to you and your family. Love to you.

  3. Dog is God spelled backwards. I don't think that's a coincidence. Dogs teach us all the lessons God wants us to learn.

    I am sorry for your loss. Duffy was obviously a lucky girl to live with you and your family.

    She will always be in your heart.

  4. Pet dogs and pet cats are both marvellous animals. My condolences Bernie.