Anyone who has owned, nurtured and loved a dog knows that one day they will have to go thru the excruciating pain of saying goodbye to their best friend. It's one of Mother Nature's cruel realities - our canine friends age so much faster than we do.
Very few life events are as traumatic as losing a pet, and for a surprisingly large number of people, it's often more upsetting then losing a family member. Peruse any of the thousands of dog specific groups on Facebook and you'll find numerous people every single day writing heart wrenching eulogies to beloved dogs they've recently lost. They pour their hearts out to strangers, hoping they'll understand their pain. And they do. Within a couple of hours of such posts, it's not unusual to see many hundreds of encouraging comments from people who share their feelings.
But inevitably, every dog lover is faced with a dilemma after losing a cherished dog. A dog that has been committed to them since day one - will you do it again? Will you put your heart on the line for another dog?
For people who've never owned and loved a dog, this will sound strange, but passionate dog owners will relate. When you welcome a dog into your life; provide it food, water, shelter, a good walk everyday and some love - you quickly discover you get back far more than you put in. No matter who you are, what you look like, how much money you do or don't make or whether or not you own a home - for a minuscule amount of love and respect, a dog will forever be faithful and committed to you. If only human beings were so compassionate. No wonder real dog lovers hate being away from their best friends.
Unfortunately as I write this, two very close friends are facing the agonizing prospect of losing a dog they've loved and cherished for many years.
Side note: almost all of my close friends are dog lovers, in fact my wife and I have met most of our friends through their dogs. And as strange as it may sound, we tend not to socialize much with people who don't love dogs. If they can't visit our home and be comfortable with a large Labrador snuggling close to them, we tend to move on.
I met Bob on the beach on a beautiful Saturday morning in Dana Point twelve years ago when his Yellow Lab, Bubba was just a few months old. My Chocolate Lab at that time, Molly - befriended Bubba and taught him a few tricks re: how to best belly flop into the sea when chasing a frisbee. Over time, Bob and I and our wives became extremely close friends and frequently got together with our dogs. Molly and Bubba became very close as well - joining us on ski trips, camping in the mountains, swimming at the beach - they were almost always with us.
George I met about eight years ago after he moved in a few doors down from me. He was walking his Westie, Barney past my home. My two Labradors, Molly and Guinness trotted out to greet him, so we struck up a conversation. It didn't take long before we were going out to dinner with our wives, walking our dogs and going on vacations together. In a very short period of time we became very close - the dogs once again - the catalyst.
Today, Barney, the Westie, is fourteen years old. Bubba, the Yellow Lab is not far behind at thirteen years of age. Our Lab Molly, tragically passed away four years ago when she was only eleven. Her passing was an extremely traumatic event for my wife and I. Soon after her death, I created Molly Dog Films.
Knowing what I went through when Molly passed makes me extremely empathetic to those who have lost a best friend or are nearing that moment. Every time I see George or Bob, the conversation inevitably turns to, how is Bubba (or Barney) doing? And every time, the pain in their voice is palpable. The sadness on their face is real - they know their dog's health is failing, and the thought of losing their best friend is absolutely heart wrenching. They're spending every minute they can with their dogs, knowing the end could be near.
And by the way, these are not the type of guys you would imagine getting all teary eyed about a dog. George was the CEO of a major retailer and in his early days, had to hunt for his own food on the frozen tundra of northern Canada. Bob ran an extremely successful dental practice and in his younger years, was an avid gymnast and serious body builder. That's what's so beautiful about owning and loving a dog - it transcends all demographics, from the homeless person on the street whose dog is their only connection to love, compassion and protection, to the police officer who relies on his working dog to keep him safe - and everything in between. Dogs help bring out the good in us providing we let them into our hearts.
Will they do it again? Will they put their hearts on the line for another dog?
For Bob and George, despite the heartache and despair that will occur when the time comes, there is no question - they will place their hearts on the line again. They know the joy of owning a dog is so great, so incredibly rewarding - that going through the pain of losing their best friend is sadly, a necessary part of that experience.
Not everyone feels that way. I've talked with people who say they can't face the pain - it hurts too much and they won't go through it again. To those people I say, give it time. The pain does eventually fade, but the sweet memories of your best friend will remain. In my opinion, the joy and benefits of having a dog in your life far outweigh the unavoidable pain that eventually follows.
But this is a very personal decision - one that I too will face again one day with my Chocolate Labrador buddy, Guinness. I already know what I will do when that time comes, but for now - I choose to spend as much time as I can with Guinness while he's here, faithfully by my side.