Remembering Simba

simbagiggyby Glenn Fairman   4/4/14
Holding his still warm and limp body in my arms, I could not even force myself to shed tears. He had been ill and we knew that he existed on borrowed time. Yet when the reality of his passing washed over me, the shock of it all was too immense: like a deep wound that cannot be felt in the moment. It would be many weeks before I was able to put words to paper…

All love stories have a beginning, and this one is no exception. I had found him at the pound after our pet Chihuahua was killed by one of the neighbor’s dogs. It was apparent that he had once belonged to a good home; perhaps he was once owned by elderly people? Regardless, this ragged long haired Pomeranian-Terrier mix looked up at me quietly from a cage chock full of barking creatures–his eyes revealing a resigned misery. He would not compete for attention. Nevertheless, it was those brown soulful eyes that kept drawing me back to that cage.

That night, I could not forget about him in there. Rushing back the next day, I adopted him, got the requisite shots, and luckily found a groomer who would clean him up–although it was late on a Saturday. Upon seeing him in his pristine form, I could not believe what a beautiful diamond had emerged from such a rough exterior. I brought him home to my family and he ran to my daughter’s arms. Within twenty minutes they were both asleep on her bed. It was a perfect match of heavenly proportions. She named him Simba after the character in The Lion King, although he looked more like a fox to me.

He was my daughter’s dog, but when she went away to school he became attached to me, and I to him. I walked him without a leash in the hills and around the neighborhood, yet he always stayed beside me. Simba’s nature was mild and enduring—thoughtful and forgiving. Even in spite of rough treatment from little children who might occasionally pull his fur, he never bit anyone and would merely escape under the bed until the nuisance was gone. One thing was certain, he did not like people raising their voices or fighting.

Simba, like all the Fairmans, loved boating at the Colorado River. No vacation was complete without him. The only hitch was–he really hated the water. But nevertheless, he would ride in the bow of the boat, thrusting his head into the wind and loving it as the cool dry air washed over him. He would stay in the boat and sleep under the helm, or when on the beach, stay cool by digging himself a nice damp hole to lie down in. He even rode on the Sea Doo with Melinda, despite the general calamity that might ensue from such a rash action. As a finale, he would occasionally jump from the back of the boat into the water— after twenty minutes of persistent coaxing from the kids.

A funny thing about dogs: they really don’t care what you look like, how much money you make, or what your status in life is. They are always there for you. Their love is never provisional or on hold. Even when I lost my way for a time, Simba was steadfast and true to the family. He never forgot his role or questioned the love of others. When you came home, he greeted you the same whether you had been away for an hour or a week. When Aaron and Melinda would come home for treasured visits from college, he met them as he always did—with a spirit of unreserved joy. What a lesson we can learn from our pets. We, who become so entangled in our own foolish little worlds, spend our time as if it were the cheapest of mortal commodities. If only we knew what dogs know.

One day, Simba got loose at our friends’ home while we were at the beach. Upon returning, he was nowhere to be found. I combed the available websites in the area and finally found out that he had been taken to the Orange County Shelter. You have no idea how worried and guilt-ridden we were that our “special guy” was lost. When I hurried down the next morning and bailed him out, I stood in front of his holding cell for about thirty seconds before he recognized me and then began making his unique grunting noises. Yes, it was Déjà vu all over again. Someone asked me how much the ransom cost me. To tell the truth, I would have paid a thousand dollars.

The perfect dog can serve as an anchor for a family and be a catalyst for so many happy moments. Simba loved this ragged plush Beaver when he was younger and the entire family would play “keep away” with him and the wretched thing. Over time, all Simba’s toys became known as “the Beaver.” Perhaps my daughter said it most succinctly, “He was the bestest pup.” When Melinda would have friends over, they would dote on him and he loved the feminine attention. He loved to be sung to and I composed many an impromptu ditty to serenade him. And not once did he ever complain of the indignity.

In the fullness of time, God teaches us things of great importance that no book can ever hold. Children leave to begin their own lives and our cherished pets live out theirs in fast-forward. We fail to realize that every morning that we awaken, our dogs are a week older. We can no more arrest this process in them than we can in our children’s lives. And so the infinite sadness of loss knit by the sinews of time inevitably claims all that we would love. God has designed it that way. As my son so wisely said, “Without death, how could we cherish life?”
I am reminded of the incalculable lessons in the Creator’s moral economy. In pain, loving, suffering, and loss–counter to the dismal attitude of the world–we are stretched–we are excavated in our capacity to apprehend the eternal First Things. If truth be told, carnality, in submitting to suffering, grows jaded and despairs of life. However, in affixing our gaze upon God, He transmutes the ashes of our suffering into something wholly precious and valuable. Even the searing loss of our beloved pets.

I used to believe that animals did not possess a spark of the divine that the Father has surrendered over to mankind. I no longer am so certain. Simba taught my family how to love unconditionally and revealed to me that God finds pleasure in the simple and humble being. As he grew older and his health began failing, Simba’s life became a microcosm of my own. How will we handle our dwindling days? How will we redeem our precious time? I hope that one day I can love as unconditionally as he did. When the pain claims me, I pray that I am as brave as he was.

When Simba passed, the Fairman family felt deeply that it had lost a great friend, a true companion, and a bright spark in our lives. It should not surprise me that as Christ’s love will one day make us real, our capacity to love, perfected by the lessons of our suffering, will move the Father of Lights to breathe eternal life into those noble little beings that so quickened our joy here on earth.

I pray that all who read this will cherish in their hearts this intuition, as my words are wholly unequal to the task. Who would have thought that such a simple dog could have made all the difference in our lives? In longing for those little ones entrusted to our care in the here and now, are we not now being prepared for our heart’s one true desire?
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Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be reached at arete5000@dslextreme.com. • (1717 views)

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22 Responses to Remembering Simba

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Elizabeth and I like both cats and dogs, though we find the former more convenient when you occasionally travel for weekends (to conventions and such). Over the years we’ve lost many beloved pets, and in one case I used a cat’s pre-obituary (from The Door Into Summer by Robert Heinlein) in FOSFAX. In 1984 I read Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, a year or so after Gregory (my previous cat) had died, and I can still remember how painful it was to read the epitaphs for pets in the pet “sematary” (so spelled by the children who did most of the burying).

    Today we have several of our cats buried in the backyard. Elizabeth got some stones to be marked for epitaphs, but she never got around to doing it (and we’d be hard pressed to say which goes where now). But many of us know how well a pet can be loved as much as any human.

  2. Pokey Possum says:

    During my lifetime I’ve been blessed with several pets, the best of which were two horses (Duke and Debana), and two dogs (Baron and Yoda).
    The record number of kids sitting astride Duke’s thick black coat was seven at one time, and he allowed many of them to dismount by sliding down his rump while clinging to his tail. Duke took us on many pack trips into the Olympic Mountains, and there are many amazing stories I could tell about the feats of this steady, sober, and gentle giant.
    We had Baron, half lab and half German sheppard at the same time as Duke, and a more friendly and loyal dog would be hard to come by. He was eternally grateful, it seemed, to be in our family.
    Debana was a beautiful Arabian Pinto, brown and white with some black. She would play tag with me out in the pasture. She would toss her head before she ran off with me chasing her, then stop and turn to me. After a brief rest, I would tap her on the muzzle and take off running with Debana at my heals. She would have gladly continued playing long after I was too tired to go on.
    Finally, Yoda, my miniature Beagle. Same colors as Debana. “The best dog in the whole world” was the inscription I put on the little casket the carpenter next door made in her honor the afternoon she died. The happiest dog I’ve ever met, she made me laugh all day, every day. You would have loved her too, and the way she would throw back her head with her big ears flapping as she let out her wonderful Beagle howl. If God has chosen a pet to keep by His throne, it is Yoda. Although it would be tough to keep her from chasing those six-winged creatures.
    Thank you Glenn for stirring these wonderful memories. I’m sorry for the loss of your sweet dog, Simba.

  3. Rosalys says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Animals certainly do add so much to one’s existence! I’ve had pets whose deaths have created deep voids that had taken weeks to dissipate.

    Speaking theologically however, I can’t find any evidence that the many Fluffys and Fidos we have owned will be greeting us at the pearly gates. I like what Steve Brown (Key Life) has to say on the matter. If our happiness in Heaven is dependent on us being surrounded by our pets then they will be there. If God is who He is as revealed in the the person of Jesus Christ, then I doubt it will be necessary.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There was a Twilight Zone episode by Earl Hamner, Jr. (“The Hunt”) in which a country guy and his dog are killed hunting a raccoon, and finally come across a Heaven that won’t allow the dog in. The man decides not to enter, and they continue on to the real Heaven, which does allow the dog and turns out to be very much a country guy’s paradise (they presumably have a different one for city folk) — and that the other gate was actually Hell, which doesn’t allow dogs in because they smell the brimstone in time to warn off their human companions.

      • Pokey Possum says:

        Hi Timothy,
        I was a bit young for Twilight Zone and remember it to be kind of scarey, yet fascinating.

        I don’t remember this particular episode, but it sounds like a good one. According to God’s Word, Satan is a liar and deceiver and will even attempt to mimic God’s goodness to entice man into his trap. The earth, for now, is his realm. But a discerning nose will sense the alluring evil which reveals itself in the stench of its ephemeral wake.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Well, I was born in 1951 and was watching the series by the age of 8 (I remember seeing the pilot and a few other first-season and second-season episodes; we were then living in Greece and didn’t have TV, though I also saw and still remember a few 5th season episodes, and have seen many others since in syndication) even though I could be squeamish about horror movies. (I was well into adulthood before I ever saw The House on Haunted Hill in full). This was a 3rd season episode (1962-3).

      • Rosalys says:

        I remember that episode! “Twilight Zone” was a great show that has stood the test of time. Most of the episodes are just as good today as they were when they first aired, especially the early, half hour episodes.

      • thomas E. camfield says:

        That was a progressive at the entrance to hell, I’m sure of it. I do believe animals have a life force that goes back to God . When a beloved pet dies your soul receives a contusion and the memory of that injury stays with you the rest of your life, although it dissipates. I view animals as completely innocent completely obedient to the will of god, it is because of this innocence that it bothers me so much when they die. It is only fallen angels and man who oppose God.

        • Glenn Fairman says:

          a moving statement Thomas.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Well, there are certainly many who agree with you. When I pointed out, in a thread on the Daily Caller (from a piece by Jim Treacher about 29 Muslim car-bombers who blew themselves up in Syria) that they wouldn’t get their 72 virgins, another blogger pointed out that this would be a good thing for the camels, goats, and sheep in Heaven.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I don’t know why (perhaps I’m a little light on sentiment today), but the first thing that popped in my mind was this song by the Ramones: Pet Sematary.

    So long, Simba. Say hi to Shep.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    By the way, all of you should stop what you’re doing right now and go watch Sam Neill in My Talks with Dean Spanley. That’s all I can say, other than what I said in my review.

  6. Glenn Fairman says:

    From the AT Comments on this piece: a winner.

    EULOGY OF THE DOG

    George G. Vest

    Gentlemen of the jury, the best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter whom he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us—those to whom we trust with our happiness and our good name—may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to
    fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to
    throw the stone of malice when failure settles its clouds upon our heads. The
    one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world—the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous—is his dog. Gentlemen of the jury, a man’s dog stands by him
    in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the
    cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only
    he can be near his masters side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to
    offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the
    roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When richness take wings and reputation falls to pieces he is constant in his love as the sun is in its journey through the heavens. If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in
    the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege
    than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his
    enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in
    its embrace, and the body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all
    other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be
    found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Yes, that’s a terrific essay. Let’s sign Mr. Vest up.

      Dennis Prager was talking about a basic assumption that is one of the key dividing lines between conservatives and liberals (that means Leftists, and I would include libertarians as well). Conservatives see mankind as inherently flawed. The other side sees mankind as inherently good.

      But the only inherently good thing I’ve ever found is the loyalty and love of one’s own dog.

      We may temper our sentiment a bit by noting that dogs run in packs and commonly are unmerciful in running down and killing Bambi. Dogs (wolves) in their natural state will even gladly hunt down and kill man.

      But there is a synergy that exists between man and dog, of the domesticated variety, that is something greater than its parts. Man civilizes dog, and in doing so, man helps to civilize himself.

      We must also temper such sentiment with the realization that many men abuse their dogs and treat them like the kind of inferior that their fragile, small-dick egos seem to demand. I think I met one such person-and-dog on the trail the other day.

      I usually will stop and say hello to a dog (the people get, at best, a polite hello) and try to pet him or her. This particular dog that I met on the trail was accompanied by his master and mistress and he came up to me (having little choice, the trail being so narrow). I tried to pet him and he recoiled as if I was going to hit him. That, I thought, is a dog that has been abused by someone. The suspected fragile, small-dick owner (for you cannot call such a person a “master”) quickly offered the excuse of “Oh, he’s just tired from climbing this mountain.” And that sealed the deal on my conception of this fellow.

      But to be fair, some people do take in animals who have been abused and this automatic abusive-derived behavior can stay with an animal for quite some time.

      But even if we keep our sentiments from running of half-cocked, we can recognize that no other creature in creation treats human beings with such love and loyalty as a dog. And sometimes this love and loyalty is undeserved, which is a shame. But I think in most cases, it’s a synergy that automatically develops and that people long for. And they can even get a little goofy about it. I’m not comfortable with people who treat such dogs as a child, even including dressing them up in sweaters and putting ribbons in their hair. They are dogs and should be respected as such. We shouldn’t try to turn them into people.

      And who would want to? People are usually the opposite of all the good attributes of a dog.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Harry Truman supposedly once observed that if you want a friend in Washington, DC, get a dog.

  7. Glenn Fairman says:

    Although I’m no theologian and have no interest. per se, in arguing for or against the souls of animals, I see no inherent obstacle to eternity being populated by what gives its redeemed (us) the pleasure that comes with love in all its panorama of virtuous forms. Certainly the Bible is silent upon it. Indeed, at creation, God created all things that were man and beast and pronounced them with the appellation of “Good.”

    It appears from my reading of scripture that we shall have remarkable bodies that will enjoy the pleasures of the banquet table, just as Christ’s ascended was more than flesh and more than spirit. He was the New Adam–a first Being of sorts—a great archetype of what we one day shall be. For a Divine Being who could create the universe ex nihilo, I see little problem with our beloved animals being purchased back for us through love, just as He too purchased us by virtue of His Abounding Concern.

    The word says that “Eye hath not seen nor ear hath heard of the richness he has prepared for those who dwell in Christ Jesus.” Being reunited with our beloved pets is not in the same league with a desire to have TV in paradise or 12 packs of Coronas in perpetuity. Animals gave voice and substance to our love, just as our parents and friends did and do. Such a great reunion of love doesn’t seem so far fetched at all.

    If any of you had read C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce,” you would have remembered the part where the Great Female Saint made her journey down from the Highlands of Heaven to persuade her husband (who had begrudgingly made the trip from Hell or Purgatory) to choose Paradise. In her train were a huge throng of children and animals that her love had given life to and who attended her in joy. Now I’m not a Catholic, nor do I necessarily believe in such a way station as purgatory, but since the story itself is a dream (or nightmare, depending on your theology) I don’t believe that Lewis’ was looking to convey orthodoxy, but the richness of heaven where there are no shadows–and where everything is inescapably real.

    Our desires will be for beautiful things, this is true, but we shall not be stupider in Heaven than we were on earth. And that means we shall still retain our highest desires that we had on earth. And since the Business of Heaven is about growing love—–why not animals? They might even talk!

  8. Rosalys says:

    I have cat and a horse, both long dead, that I wouldn’t mind seeing again. I’m just not counting on it. Whatever the Lord does or doesn’t give us in heaven, His plan will be sufficient for overwhelming joy and happiness. Our biggest joy will be our being with Him, and He will wipe away every tear.

  9. Timothy Lane says:

    An interesting historical example of devotion to a pet (which I found in Ben Macintyre’s Double Cross) involves Lily Sergeyev, who was a British double agent during World War II. They eventually persuaded her to move to London to send false messages to the Abwehr from there (part of the deception campaign, Operation Fortitude, for D-Day). But due to an obscure and probably obsolete British law, she was unable to bring in her dog, Babs, who a few months later was reported as having been killed in a car accident. She had been given a security check by her German controller, and because of the mistreatment of her dog refused to tell it to her British controller (and considered skipping it for months). In the end, a month after D-Day, she finally admitted what her security check was, and it turned out that she had never failed it. But she had provided enough worry for the British to get at least some degree of revenge for Babs’s death.

  10. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I had a beloved dog named “Shep” when I was a kid. It was an English springer spaniel. I’ve been told by people that this breed isn’t particularly known for its intelligence. But this dog was highly intelligent and clearly displayed a range of emotions, guile, and cunning. Much like a child, he was always trying to get away with stuff but knew of his guilt when he was caught. This is in high contrast to the Basset Hound we once owned (and “owned” is the word, for it was too stupid to be considered much of a companion). One day “Champ” finally wandered off and that was the last we heard of him. Champ was known for his drool and letting the cat sleep on top of him, and little else.

    Shep, the English Springer spaniel who came later and stayed much longer, was kinder (perhaps smarter) than most people I know. He knew enough to come in out of the rain, so to speak. But being his breed, he didn’t much want to. He loved water and especially loved being covered in mud (and other nastier, smelly things). I think this harkens back to their instinct of trying to hide their own scent. That is at least a kind way of looking at it. He resisted baths but very much enjoyed them once the initial plunge was over.

    Shep was around before our city had leash laws — laws made necessary not because of vicious dogs, per se, but because of stupid and vicious people. With the death of common sense, and the rise of the feminine-oriented “protect us from everything” nanny state, the leash laws were only a matter of time.

    But luckily we still had freedom when we were kids. Dogs were dogs and kids were kids and we roamed the neighborhood practically as interchangeable parts. One day it would be Bob’s back yard that was the communal playground. Next day it might be Eric’s. And then John’s. And the dogs were all a part of this general ethos, and hovered in and around it. And it worked because there were common standards. If one kid acted badly, it didn’t matter whose house he was at. The same rules applied, and unlike today, there was no court of appeals — that is, it was of little or no use to run back to mom or dad and claim an injustice. Parents in those days stuck up for each other.

    I can truly say I was closer to this dog than to many people. But never did I forget that Shep was a dog. That’s probably why he was so much fun. You couldn’t help but see things somewhat through his dog’s-world view. This applied simply because he was intelligent and very emotive. I’m not sure what, if anything, can be learned from those rat-like yippy-yippy-yippy small dogs, Glenn’s dog notwithstanding. But surely there are exceptions to all rules.

    As for whether or not all dogs go to heaven, I don’t know if this is true even of some or all people. We might like any pleasing notion to be true, but let’s remember the downside of this: this is exactly how Obama got elected. We can’t be sure of the cosmic order of things. But if we are to go by Biblical accounts, man is given dominion over animals. That might tell us something. And what about asking the dogs what they want? I doubt their heaven would look much like ours. My heaven, truth be told, might be populated by those theoretical 72 virgins. But Shep’s heaven would likely consist of a bowl of popcorn by the fire and a bath of mud he could dip himself into whenever he felt the urge.

    In that way, real dogs are much like men. They are a little dirty, love to be outdoors, love to chase things, and have relatively simple needs. This is no doubt why he is called man’s best friend.

  11. Glenn Fairman says:

    indeed

  12. Timothy Lane says:

    I will mention here that Jazz Shaw has a piece at HotAir on the death of his dog Max (named for the dog in How the Grinch Stole Christmas). Max had been a rehab project (the adoption agency rescued him from a puppy mill, and if they had not taken him then, he probably would have been killed). I think those who liked this will also be moved by Jazz Shaw’s article.

    And while I’m at it, a similarly moving piece (on Town Hall this time) presents a brief video of one of the makers of the Gosnell movie reading about one of the cases. It’s also a very moving item.

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