Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

Back in the old days — that's my old days of the 1960s and ’70s, not your old days of 1980s and ’90s — there was a song that I didn't really understand.

It originally came from a one-hit wonder band called Cinderella, but Joni Mitchell was the one who made it famous. It was "Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's Gone."

Is it coming back now?

Of course, the song was about lost love — most songs back then were about lost love or bad war. But I've expanded the term lately in my musings.

For example, we take the instant access to the internet and the immediacy of email for granted. But do you have any clue what you'd do if you suddenly had no way to check your email (or who wrote a song)? It would be a disaster in my business, that's for sure.

Take it a step further. What if some Stephen King villain discovered a way to make cell phones deadly (yes, he wrote a book about that)? Can you even imagine life without a cell phone?

That was a reality just a couple of decades ago.

You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

We can go more basic. When you turn a tap, you expect water to come out. When you flip a switch, you expect a light to go on. We're talking the Third World here.

Now imagine what it would be like without easily accessible water, let alone indoor plumbing. Or electricity, including wiring, everywhere you go.

That's what a good chunk of the world calls life.

You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Now let's cut a little closer to the original meaning of the song.

We've all experienced what it's like when friends have moved away. One of the biggest traumas for youngsters is to have their best friend move away, or worse yet, be moved away themselves. There's nothing quite like trying to start over in a new school.

You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Then there's the elephant in the room — the death of a loved one. Sadly, most of us have had to experience that trauma as well. When you get to be my age, it's a virtual certainty. I've gotten to the point in my life where there are more funerals than weddings in my circle of friends, and (gasp) I'm only one uncle away from being the family patriarch.

You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

So what got me going on this rather maudlin chain of thought?

Sassy died last night. Or, to use the more socially acceptable term, we had her put to sleep.

You might recall that I wrote about this dog about six months ago. We thought then that the end was near. But help from a caring vet, and plenty of expensive drugs, kept her going. And kept her going with a decent quality of life.

But in the last few weeks, Sassy sort of lost control of her bladder. She couldn't figure out what had happened when she had an accident in the house, but she was embarrassed by it.

You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Then Monday night, her back legs and hips just stopped working. The vet pinched her toe, hard, and Sassy didn't even flinch. Clearly, it was time.

That didn't make it any easier, of course. Nor did the fact that we had gone through this before with previous dogs.

But we did it. Sassy's not suffering anymore, and a good 14 of her 15 years we happy ones.

Still, we learned it again.

You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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