by Lauryn Smith
My dachshund, Rusty, will be nine this Thursday. I've had him since he was a puppy. He's been my buddy through a lot of smiles, tears, tornados, men, friends, etc. He was docile in nature even as a puppy but has grown into an even softer, more laid back dog. He doesn't really want to sit in my lap, he doesn't bark much, he doesn't pester my guests, and I can't imagine not having him.
Sunday evening, I went to dinner with my friends Chris and Katherine. Generally, our friend Cathy joins us as well, but she was out of town this weekend. I'm glad Cathy missed the following exchange. While eating, we watched reports of hurricane Gustav. Our bartender said "The people just need to get out. They need to leave their things, leave their pets, and head out of town."
From Left to right: Cathy, me, Chris, and Katherine
I told him there was absolutely no way I could or would leave my dog behind. He continued by saying "Save the people. A dog is just a dog." I told him my dog wasn't just a dog. I believe he has a soul. I believe he will greet me in heaven one day. My idea of heaven is also very different. I am tolerant of all beliefs. I believe space is infinite, allowing enough to allow room for everyone's heaven. My heaven will include lots and lots of dogs. He said "Animals do not have souls. They do not know right from wrong without being taught." Are we as humans not taught (to some degree, some I realize is innate) as well? I have a moral compass, but I also feel Rusty does too. He knows when he has done something wrong. He knows, and I am a poor discipliner, so I can't contribute it entirely to discipline. The bartender and I agreed to disagree.
Chris leaned on my side. In April, my house was destroyed by the tornado. Fortunately, no one was home (sans Rusty) or hurt. When I learned of the devastation to my neighborhood, I immediately panicked and rushed home to check on Rusty. He was my primary concern. As I approached my house, my heart stopped. I just knew there was no way he survived. It was an eerie moment too. Complete silence, darkness, the smell of gas, trees and power lines everywhere, flashing red and blue lights, and the emptiness of my echoed screams. Several firemen forbid me to enter the house. After lots of debating, they followed (yes, followed) me into the house.
My House the day after the tornado.
April 4th, 2008
My Stepdad, Bob and my friend Nick atop the roof.
I walked in to find Rusty in the only room untouched by the tornado. He was quiet and shaky. I stood there hugging him initially unaware of the fact that it was raining in my living room. I jungle-gymed through trees and jumped rope with power cords to get to him. Do not tell me a dog is just a dog! My wonderful friends, family, and co-workers first question was typically "How is Rusty?"
My family, friends, and co-workers are exceptional. Yours may be great but mine are truly exceptional. Humbling to find so many people care. I am truly blessed and aware that yeah, sometimes the initial bad evaporates and leaves a lingering of good. When you're really lucky, it lasts. It repaired old friendships and created new ones. And that just scratches the surface...
Chris had a spare bedroom and he allowed Rusty and me to move in (for several months) with him and his two dogs. There are not enough thank yous. Cathy (Chris' good friend) and Katherine (Chris' girlfriend) moved in as well. Cathy has a pack of dogs too.
I've always said I'd never understand those that didn't love animals. It's still true. I've mentioned my "cute neighbor," Steven, on several occasions. He is a dog lover too, but he doesn't believe dogs possess a soul. We conversed (and continue to disagree) on the subject for a while one evening. We also agreed to disagree.
And he is a Tennessee fan. Two strikes... ha.
Steven and me in our typical spot. Late in the evening. No makeup. Not enough sleep. August 2008.
Steven and me on the porch. This may have been taken the actual night of the discussion. Had to add this one as I love to see him wearing an Arkansas Razorback hat! July 2008
Okay, I will wrap this up. What defines a soul? It's not something I can see or feel-- or even describe with real justice, but I know it's there. It's the voice inside my head. How can you possibly prove it doesn't exist? You can't see or feel oxygen, but you know it's gone when it is taken away. I'm curious to see your opinion. Do animals have a soul? Does a spider have a soul? Does an atom have a soul? Does every human have a soul?
As a side note, going forward I will respond to comments. I appreciate all feedback and I realize I should offer more of it myself!!