Well …. In unbelievable haste, we cannot deny that the festive season is upon us! Each year it seems to present itself a few days after Easter with all of us
unprepared and dreading the rush but excited at the same time. Of course it’s a time of excess and feasting, choosing gifts, decorating trees, baking (or buying) goodies, playing host and preparing the house and garden if you are; Planning family gatherings, Christmas Carols and individual yuletide traditions.
Feeling like throttling an already dead Bing Crosby for “I’m dreaming of a bloody white Xmas” is a given when supermarket shopping from October onwards. The tedium of it, like Great Aunty Vi’s bubonic embrace on Xmas day as she drags her BYO oxygen cylinder behind her like an obedient leashed goanna.
Oh! but we love it – even with Aunt Vi – actually especially because of Aunt Vi – she seemed like 100 when you were a kid – and now that she actually has reached the century mark, Xmas Day would be inconceivable without her.
It’s a time of rush, rush, rush but astonishingly some people even find the time to think of Christ’s birth……! (There’s always the odd non-conformist).
All cynicism aside, in amongst the buttery smell of shortbread, the spices of cakes and puds (think cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg) and the never ending assortment of sweetmeats and nuts – cashews, almonds, macadamias and walnuts, many of us deeply value the connectedness of this time.
And speaking of walnuts – a dog by this name, yes, “Walnut” brought home to me the power of the emotional links we create both with our pets but also with fellow humans in ways which can sometimes only amaze.
Some may have heard of Walnuts story. He was a very old whippet in Cornwall who lived with, and was cherished by the one owner for this whole time.
Walnut was the constant companion through thick and thin. He was there for one broken engagement – 2 engagements which led to 2 marriages, the advent of family and the owner’s career pathway.
In eighteen years so much can happen. It’s noteworthy to have one animal as witness to this huge tract of a human life – the bond between master and dog was huge.
One constant however was Walnut’s (and his owners) love of the beach nearby. They walked the beach regularly and Walnut absolutely adored it, never tiring of the excitement of the salty air, the waves, the seagulls, the open sky.
Walnut was reaching the end of his life span. His muzzle grey, his eyes becoming vacant, his legs no longer able to support him for more than a few steps.
His owner knew that it was time.
But before this leave taking, one thing needed to be done – a final “walk” to the beach. The owner posted on social media that Walnut would be on his last visit to the beach and if anyone was around with their pet at 9.30 a.m. the next day and fancied a walk with them they were most welcome.
Expecting maybe a few, people came in their hundreds! Even those in other countries timed their walk to coincide with Walnut’s so they could “be with him”.
All breeds, all people; some friends, mostly strangers, shared that last walk but of the two only the owner trudged through the sand holding Walnut blanketed in his arms.
He lowered the ancient animal’s front paws into the shallows. Walnut dipped his graying muzzle down towards the water and gave it a gentle sniff. For the last time he smelt the salty air, the sun shone on his head and shoulders. All was well, as it was likewise for his silent companions all gathered around him.
What united all of these people? The quirky uniqueness of the concept? The curiosity aroused by such an invitation?
My personal take is that this last outing of owner and pet was so monumental in the master’s heart that it became a pilgrimage to be shared and witnessed; and in the grief of letting go there was comfort in the connectedness with others. In honouring the dogs last journey the love between him and his master was not just theirs alone but imprinted upon all who were moved by it.
Walnut was euthanized by the family Vet within hours of his walk.
But has he really gone?
A story which immediately affected hundreds – then millions through mass communication resonates somewhat with the Xmas message.
What happened over two thousand years ago which moved a few and then millions? Some hold- with great conviction – that Christ’s birth and death offer eternal life for all who believe in the redemptive power of enduring love and faith in God.
Others may acknowledge historical fact and even enjoy the whole giving and greeting vibe but can’t quite come at the “life after death” attachment to the email.
But I like to think that all the times people rush to the aid of a stranger, give selflessly out of compassion, stop to consider another’s point of view (especially when it is so against one’s own) or yes …. even walk a pet to honour a special relationship in Cornwall, they are enacting what Christmas is really all about …. The amazing power of love to unite and transform us, either for a second – or who knows – the whole of eternity?
May your Christmas be wonderful and your pets treat you kindly.