Ernest Dempsey – “Till death do us part”… the vow has become a matrimonial cliché over centuries of marry-to-divorce relationships. Parents may well leave you alone and friendships too may turn out as self-interested handshakes. But what to say of this instantiation of loyalty that speaks straight to your heart, silently, and yet most assuring. Even the tragic death of US soldier Jon Tumilson could not part him with his loyal canine friend, Hawkeye, who lay prostrated by the coffin of its late master.
Jon Tumilson, age 35, a former San Deigo resident, was one of the 38 US commandoes who lost their lives in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011. His funeral service in his hometown Iowa was attended by some 1500 people. But the one special guest who could not perhaps understand the rituals was Jon’s lifelong companion Hawkeye, more of a personal pet friend of Jon’s than a military dog. Throughout the funeral service, Hawkeye lay by his deceased friend’s casket covered with a US flag. His photo captured by Jon’s cousin was called the single most depressing picture ever taken. And it speaks for itself!
It is noteworthy that in times of grief, dogs can symbolize the value of friendship and dedication nowhere less than do family, religion, and nation. Yet, in many cases, dogs are not made part of the final rites of the deceased to whom they have been loyal in life. Happily, this wasn’t the case with Hawkeye who participated in Jon’s final rites all along. In fact, Hawkeye’s participation was the reason why Jon’s cousin chose to shoot the photos of the funeral service. This military-turned-pet dog became a living example of the dog’s loyalty as presented in Maxim Gorky’s Mother—wherein a dog sits late by her Master’s grave while the people leave for their homes.
Hawkeye will now be living with Jon’s close friend Scott Nicholas whom he is familiar with as Nicholas looked after him while Jon was away on duty. Jon’s canine friend will thus stay safe and well cared-for at his new home. The bereaved family’s and nation’s loss through Jon’s death is immeasurable and may never be compensated in any form. Yet, he left behind a gift the world will never forget – a living proof of pure love and loyalty. And indubitably, a inspiring lesson for humanity.