By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – I’ve never been to a funeral for a dog before, but yesterday I attended a memorial service for five-year old Braveheart. It was heartbreaking.
I know some of you are thinking: a dog? Seriously?
Stay with me for a minute.
Quick backstory: August, 2013, Louisiana sweltering, humid, heat. Three-month old Braveheart was found abandoned in a metal storage building, chained to an engine block, moments from death. The property owner had come to repossess the property after the tenant failed to pay rent. She found the dog, thought he was dead, and she and her husband got shovels to bury him. Then he blinked his eyes.
Brave was rescued, much drama ensued as to whether or not he was “property” and should stay at Animal Control, or at a vet. Long story short, the man who abandoned Braveheart was tried and found guilty of Simple Animal Cruelty.
The entire community rallied around this dog; fought for this dog. This little dog brought so many people across the country together in one voice against animal abuse.
Braveheart has his own Facebook page with over 24,000 followers. The page has been a positive place for change in our perception of animals. No negativity allowed. The page is followed by people all over the world.
In 2015, Brave was fitted with his own tuxedo and served as Grand Marshall for the Barkus and Meoux Mardi Gras parade. He looked pretty sharp, too, and he loved every minute!
He recovered from his early abuse and went on to become a therapy dog; he passed his Therapy Dogs International test (a very difficult test). He went to schools and helped educate young children about the care of animals. He attended rescue and adoption events. He helped look for lost dogs. But most of all, Brave was a companion pet for the Spataro family: Bo, Ronda, and their three boys.
Last week when I got the news that Brave was gone, I cried. I cried more for this dog than for some people I have known. Brave had not been feeling well and so during an exploratory surgery it was discovered that he had advanced cancer. The family made the difficult decision to let him go.
“It’s just a dog,” someone said during the trial.
No. Braveheart was so much more than that. This little dog because a symbol of hope and recovery. A symbol for how we need to be better, do better. Braveheart loved unconditionally; he had a smile that would light up the world. He knew he had, as Bo said, “gone to the edge, looked over, and decided to come back to us.” He was beloved by people who sent him blankets, toys, leashes, and specially designed art work.
His life has impacted so many people; he has literally changed lives for the better. I know this to be fact. We have all learned something from this sweet little dog. Don’t judge a book by its cover; love unconditionally. Trust people – well, some people. Believe in second chances.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter paustin110.