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PBS Viewers’ Stories: Life with Stormy, by Greg Hess

Greg Hess and StormyHere’s another touching story we learned about, after we were featured in the PBS show, Why We Love Cats and Dogs.

Greg Hess, a viewer from Colorado, wrote to us and shared his story about a deep  commitment he made to his senior dog Stormy, whose health was in rapid decline at the same time that Greg lost his job. Greg and Stormy’s story is so beautiful, we had to share it with you. He writes:

“Rene and Jim,

I am truly sorry for your loss. What great Being Jerry was for everyone he came in contact with. I feel that your story has a very significant message too. That is, your commitment to Jerry in his time of need. Your willingness to do what it took to give him a life that many animals will never know.

I concluded in much the same way, that my own dog needed that kind of commitment. About a year and half ago, I lost my job. While thinking about the next move, I wondered how the next job would impact my our 14 ½ year old Beagle, Stormy. It dawned on me that since both my spouse and me would be gone all day, his life would mostly be just laying around being board. And in Colorado, it’s dark and cold for many months so trying to get out for a walk at night wasn’t very promising.

It wasn’t easy to commit to that. Even with the support of my spouse, losing income and one’s place in the work world presents some difficult hurdles to overcome. But the life we were able to provide Stormy for those 18 months was incredible. He went ‘everywhere’ with me. People new him from one end of the city to the other. He ate with us, walked with us, slept with us, there seemed to be no reason to exclude him from anything in our lives.

We had to have Stormy euthanized in January 2009. Like you, as his health declined, it became clear from our vet visits, that there were too many unknowns about his condition, which was probably a brain tumor or, the beginning of kidney failure. So we decided to just do everything possible to make his life good until it was time. I simply couldn’t put him through massive testing, prodding and poking to gain a couple of days or weeks.

So a grateful thanks for sharing your story. It’s really felt like I’ve been out on the fringe of society by taking off so much time to be with Stormy. His passing (as I’m sure Jerry’s did) has left such a large hole in our lives. I guess the more time one spends, the more threads we interweave between our pet’s lives and us. Perhaps it’s an unfortunate byproduct of losing Stormy, but it’s created a profound sadness in me for all the other Beings on our planet that will not come close to experiencing what dogs like Jerry and Stormy had.”

Here is a beautiful essay Greg wrote about Stormy:

Life with Stormy

By Greg Hess

nancystorm_pikespk_0.jpgWhen I started dating Nancy in 2000, her Beagle Stormy was already 7 years old. What was life with Stormy like for the remaining 9 years? Well let me tell you, being around a Beagle is like being around a little tornado. We put childproof locks on the kitchen cabinets only to find that Stormy easily understood how to pull potatoes out through a small gap in the cabinet door and then take them into the back yard where he gnawed a bite out of each one. Or walking him in the park and judiciously scanning the ground 2 ft. in front of that little tornado who could find the smallest crumb of food left behind by an afternoon picnic. Life with Stormy was trying to eat a snack in a closed room before his nose got wind of it, otherwise he could hound you until you caved in and gave him something too. Or incredibly for such a small dog, pulling a bag of tortillas from the back of a countertop, consuming them and then laying around belching from his overindulgence. You see there is a common theme throughout his life and it was food.

Life with Stormy was often like that. Trying to keep one step ahead of that Beagle mind. Like an old man with a list who wouldn’t rest until every task was completed. Looking back I feel fortunate that we recognized these traits were what made Stormy who he was, and we loved him for that. I believe this willingness to see Stormy as his own being, allowed us to conclude that for the last 18 months of his life, it would be better for him to have one of us leave work and be there for him all the time. That is why I see the story of Jim, Rene and Jerry as so significant. It’s a story that is about more than just being a responsible pet owner. The word that comes to my mind is devotion. The story of Jerry is to me, about an act of love that utterly transcends mere pet responsibility.

What I saw in Rene and Jim was a level of commitment that I dare say some people might not afford a human family member much less, a dog. And it’s difficult to even use the word dog, cat or pet because the definition can imply that these Beings are somehow less than us simply because they weren’t born human. For the 18 months that I was able to participate fully with Stormy I sometimes had a small shadow following me that made me feel guilty for devoting that time to him rather than to a job search. Now however, having seen what Rene and Jim were willing to do, we know it was the right decision. And it’s not that their story is telling us that we have to sell our houses and leave our jobs to do right by our pets. To me it says to have love in one’s life, it doesn’t have to be solely with human being and, it requires something of us . . . sacrifice and devotion. We’ve collectively bred these Beings to be dependent on us and I hope than some day, humans can aspire to provide all Beings what Jerry’s stewards provided him; a great life of dignity and love.

I would like to say thanks to Jim, Rene and Jerry not just for sharing their story, but for showing us what the life of our pets can be. To Nancy for making it possible for us to give Stormy the life all pets could have, and to my best friend Stormy, I hope I gave you as much as you gave to me.

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