Many years ago a park style bench was purchased, and has lived outside the training ring at the Monadnock Humane Society, with the hope that it would be a Rememberance or Memorial Bench for the dogs, now gone, who were teammates of CATS members. This year, with the help of several volunteers, the dream is being fulfilled.
The bench was sanded and revarnished. Plaques for each dog were made and applied to the bench. It is truly, now, a wonderful memorial to the dogs that are no longer with us, but whose spirits remain in our hearts and thoughts.
Finally, after a rain postponement, on 13 August 2008, the bench was unveiled and dedicated during a social evening which included the welcoming of new CATS members. CATS President Mike Grab began the evening with welcoming everyone, giving a history of the project, and unveiling the bench.
Paul Gibbons then shared some thoughts on our relationship with our dogs and his hopes for this dedication ceremony. He kindly, after the fact, reconstructed these remarks so they might be included here.
We’ve probably all had the experience of someone saying to us – maybe even someone in our own family – when we are upset about the treatment given a dog, or the loss of one that we loved: “Hey, it’s only a dog.” Well, it’s not “only” a dog. What they may not have experienced in their own lives is the perceptiveness of dogs, the sensitivity dogs have for what’s happening for thier human companions, the emotions they have that range the full gamut from delight and joy to sadness and deep hurt.
I grew up without a dog in my life, and even when I started as an adult to have dogs in the household, I had not really made them a full part – in the deepest sense -of my family. I thought of myself as a “cat” person, since cats were very much a part of my early adult- hood. So it’s not surprising that others that had not known what the bonding with a dog can be like – which I didn’t really know either – would say to me “It’s only a dog.” But when Diane and I came together, her relationship to her dog, and her caring for dogs, began to pass on to me, and I discovered how wonderful it is to really relate to them, and how devastating it is to lose them.
So what is the deeper meaning behind this dedication of a memorial bench to the dogs who were a part of our lives, and with whom we enjoyed agility, but who have passed on to another place? I hope that this memorial bench, and the plagues now upon it and those that may someday be added to it, will through this day’s dedication become deeper than simply a “sign” pointing to something, but will also become a “symbol” – something that embodies that to which it points.
My hope for this memorial bench is:
That it connects us personally and deeply to our departed dog companion, not only reminding us of, but actually embodying, the dog’s spirit and emotion and love, and our love for him or her, every time we pass these plaques;
That it connects us to the special community of others (CATS) that we are lucky to have, people who have known such loss as well, who remind us that we are not alone – who understand our pain and support us, as we support them;
That it makes a statement to the larger community who pass by on their trips to MHS or to CATS, that these beings are important, and that a relationship with a dog can be one of the most precious relationships a person can have.
So I invite each of the persons whose departed dogs are honored by these plaques to come forward now, each touching briefly their dog’s plaque and filling it with your energy and love. And then I invite each to speak for a few moments about your dog, or dogs, honored here, addressing these questions: What was it that most especially evoked that deep inner bond you had with them? What were some of the best times, the delightful times, spent with your dog? How have you been able to move on, while still maintaining that special relationship with your departed beloved companion?
And share they did – very special rememberances, some funny, some deeply moving. Each unique story bespoke the love of the person for their partners. We were fortunate that only Judy and Sid Davis, and Pam Green were unable to attend. We missed you.
When the stories were told Paul concluded with “And now I invite everyone to join in a moment of silent remembrance, not only for these departed dogs, but for all our dogs, now with us or having passed on to the rainbow bridge – honoring their presence in our lives and reaffirming the place they have in our love.”
Mike then led a toast to all these and our other dogs, past and present.
The occasion then moved on to a lighter topic. New members were welcomed and introduced. They, too, shared a bit about themselves, their dogs, and their coming to agility and CATS. We welcome you all, whether you were able to attend this party or not! You are our future and that will be enhanced by your joining the CATS family.
With the formalities over, the party moved on to agility games overseen by Donna Allen, a great supper of pizza and rootbeer floats (and frozen treats for the four-leggers) arranged by Carol Stephens and the Social Committee, and lots of very enjoyable visiting. It was indeed a memorable occasion. Thank you to all that made it happen.
It is the hope that this celebration will become an annual CATS tradition. Plaques will be added in the future in honor of our canine teammates and welcome the new teams joining the CATS family and the sport of agility through CATS.
We look forward to seeing you next year!