Sense and Nonsense: Keep the stories with sad endings far away from me

By Lynda Hollenbeck

It took a long time, but I finally forgave Freddy and Brenda Burton for introducing me to the movie "My Dog Skip."
I hadn't read the promotional material about the film at that time and had thought it would be a nice little movie about a family and its special pet.
I understood it was based in a Southern setting during an earlier, simpler time and it all sounded so appealing. The pictures I had seen in ads portrayed a dog that resembled Bobbie, the rat terrier that had been my constant companion until she died when I was in fourth grade.
"You're just gonna love this," Freddy said when he handed me the video.
Brenda added, "It will remind you of the years when you were growing up in Cotton Plant."
I believed every word they said. I was all set for a pleasant movie experience with my husband.
Neither one of my "friends" prepared me for something that was going to rip my heart out. Truthfully, I didn't just tear up a little: I sobbed. I hurt in the chest. I nearly got sick.
That sounds like exaggeration, but I'm telling the truth. What the film had done for me was stir up recollections of Bobbie, who had been like a sibling to me. I hadn't thought about her in years, but seeing "Skip" took me back to my time with her.
Everywhere I went, the dog went also. My mother often told people that "if Lynda Lou slips off, all I have to do is look for Bobbie and I can find her right away."
That sounds as if I were some kind of runaway, which wasn't the case. I just occasionally would neglect to say "I'm going to Freddie's house or I'm going to Rosemary and George's house ... "
If "My Dog Skip" had been "just a story," as someone used to say to me when I'd get teary-eyed about a movie or book, that might have lessened my emotion. But after seeing the movie (and later reading about the author), I knew it was based on the true-life experience of Willie Morris of Yazoo City, Miss.
It became a shining example of what NOT to bring to Lynda.
Ed fully understood that I didn't want to read or see anything in which the animal is not purring or wagging its tail at the end of the flick.
I had trouble with Lassie movies, because there were always emotion-charged scenes in which Lassie suffered or appeared lost forever. But in the end, Lassie always came home. (Yes, I know that's a play on one of the titles, but it fits.)
The same situation applied to books.
One story about a Russian dog named "Beam" had almost the same effect on me as "My Dog Skip." It was told from the perspective of the dog itself and involved his struggles to reach his beloved owner, who finally located him — just minutes after he died.
Ed had given me the book because he thought I would appreciate the well-written story. He was mistaken. I finished reading it about midnight and never fell asleep that night.
"Bambi" is another film that I don't watch anymore. It hurts too much when Bambi's mother dies. I have learned to avoid pain I don't have to experience. Life brings enough that is unavoidable.
Observing my reactions to the sadness brought about by such things, Ed finally "got it" and took great pains to avoid suggesting any films or books whose storyline concluded in any way other than everyone being safe at home.
A perfect example occurred the day he came into the house and handed me a book based on the life of a real cat.
"It will be OK for you to read this," he said, practically beaming. "I read the ending and the cat is still alive on the last page. You'll like it."
He was truly proud.
I thanked him and was all set to enjoy the account. But before reading a word of the actual story, I saw the copyright date.
And therein was the revelation.
It was 1950. (At the time we were in the year 2003.)
I confronted my spouse.
"Ed, do you realize that this cat, if it were living, would be 53 years old today?"
His face fell.
"How many 50-year-old cats have you met?" I replied.
"Well, it was alive at the end of the book," he argued pathetically.
I'll just stick to "101 Dalmatians." It ends "right."

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.