You've Lost Your Best Friend, but Will You Do It Again? Will You Put Your Heart on the Line for Another Dog?

 Guinness, our eight year old Labrador

Guinness, our eight year old Labrador

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.

Must Love Dogs: Can a non Dog Lover go from Zero to "Dog Crazy" in Ten Days or Less?

 "General Guster" (black) and "MargaRita" (blond) turn non-dog people into dog loving people in record time

"General Guster" (black) and "MargaRita" (blond) turn non-dog people into dog loving people in record time

Given my company “Molly Dog Films” was named after my late Labrador Retriever, one could assume I’m just a little fond of dogs. My company’s mission statement helps make that point:

We produce documentary and narrative films that focus on the emotional connections we share with our dogs and social issues that bring humans and dogs together.”

Consequently, when I was searching for a partner for this latest effort, I had two, critical requirements:

  1. Must own a dog and be absolutely, positively head over heels, crazy about dogs. 
  2. Must have immense talent, drive and experience.

Having talent and drive is kind of obvious, but is being nuts about dogs really a valid requirement? Absolutely. 

Until you’ve owned, taken care of, loved and been loved by a dog - it’s very difficult to relate to what dedicated, dog loving people have the privilege of knowing every single day - life is simply better with a dog. 

Given Molly Dog Film’s mission statement, I needed someone working alongside me who completely understood this, who lived and breathed it like I did and could translate that passion to film. Oreet Rees, my eventual partner in the company was the perfect choice. She’s immensely talented (very much sought after feature film trailer and documentary editor) and more importantly, within the blink of an eye, she would swan dive into molten lava to save her sixteen year old dog, “Bunny” if required. 

Awesome. She was hired. Yes, she had an impressive track record in Hollywood but the dog connection was critical. The problem for non-dog people is, until you discover for yourself this incredible canine connection, people like us appear a little nutty.

I've always felt bad for those who haven't yet experienced the love of a dog. Once smitten, it's almost impossible to imagine life without a dog being a huge part of it. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much for non-dog people to become dog crazy people.Take my brother and sister-in-law for example. Up until about five years ago, they never owned a dog. They had six kids to feed so maybe adding a dog to the mix was more then they could handle - but in any event - they couldn’t really understand the bond people have with their dogs. In fact when they traveled from Boston to Southern California to visit us, watching my wife and I roughhouse, walk, cuddle, kiss and sleep with our (then) two, 80 pound Labrador Retrievers, you could see in their eyes, “These people are completely friggin’ bonkers.” 

Of course that wasn’t even half of it. They never saw us drive with the dogs thirteen hours to Park City, Utah to hike and ski with them, or up the California coast to Carmel, staying in “dog hotels” the entire trip. Or taking our dogs to outdoor cafes, concerts, parks, the beach, etc. Or just preferring to stay at home on a Friday night and read a great book with two Labs snuggled up right next to us.

But then one day, five of their six kids were gone - out in the world carving out their own lives, but the remaining thirteen year old son wanted a dog. To give you a sense of scale as to what happened next, allow me to layout a timeline:

Day-1: Research online, ask some friends, decide on a breed, find breeder - then a few days later - purchase a black, long hair Dachshund puppy they name “Gus.”

 Daschund#1, "General Guster"

Daschund#1, "General Guster"

Day-5: A few minor mishaps, some pee in the wrong places, but generally smooth sailing. Gus is already becoming family.

Day-10: Gus starts appearing in endless Facebook posts with cute descriptions like, “Here’s our little General Guster! Isn’t he cute? Oh and that’s Bob watching TV with Gus sleeping on his lap all evening! Isn’t he adorable? Oh and you gotta love how Gus sleeps and wiggles his legs when he's dreaming, isn’t that cute?”

BOOM! It's over. More dog people indoctrinated into the club. But wait, there's more. Eight months later . .

 Dachsund#2, "MargaRita"

Dachsund#2, "MargaRita"

Gus has a new puppy friend! “Rita” a blond long hair Dachshund puppy joins Gus to fill out the family. Facebook posts now double overnight, “Here’s General Guster with his new sister, MargaRita!And guess what? She's already learned to ring a bell when she wants to go outside for a pee! How smart are these dogs?? Aren’t they cute?”

Zero to “dog crazy” in ten days. Zero to two dogs in eight months. Need I say more?

How Far Would You Go? How Much Would You Risk For Your Dog?

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 11.18.15 AM.jpg

Like many of you, my wife and I were constantly monitoring the news this weekend as hurricane Irma marched menacingly towards Florida. It wasn’t long ago we were doing exactly the same thing as hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. Despite being safe and sound in Southern California (for the time being anyway - you never know when brush fires and earthquakes become unwanted house guests), having a brother in Houston and best friends near Tampa Bay brought these two weather events much closer to home.

dogFlood.jpg

Nothing upset me more than seeing images of dogs left behind to die in Texas, sometimes still leashed or chained up with no chance of escape. Luckily, some amazing dog rescue groups were in full force, finding and rescuing every dog they possibly could. But what would you do if you had to make that decision? How much would you risk for your dog?

During a dinner out with two other dog loving couples (we all own Labradors) the night before the storm hit Florida, this very topic came up. The question was, if you had to be airlifted off your roof during a flood and the rescue crew ordered you to leave your dog behind, what would you do? It didn’t take me longer then a tiny fraction of a millisecond to blurt out, “There’s no way in hell I’d ever leave my dog behind, not in a million years. If they refuse to take my dog, then if necessary I die with my dog - period.” 

The husband of one couple, Rich - quickly piped in, “No way. The dog has to stay behind. It would be tough but you have to do what you have to do.” His wife in the meantime signaled quietly that there was no way she’d leave the dog behind to die a horrible, lonely death. 

Then Bob, husband of the other couple immediately piped in, “Are you kidding me? My dog has been loyal to me for 8 years. I could never in good conscience let him drown while I’m airlifted to safety. Can you imagine watching your dog’s face fade into the ether as you disappear safely into the sky? It would haunt me the rest of my life. I just couldn’t abandon my best friend. If I had to, I’d be right by his side.”

Like me, both of these couples are huge dog lovers, but it’s interesting to note the difference in opinion. Bob and I (and our wives) are in the latter chapters of our lives, ranging in age from 60 to 70 and our dogs are literally our kids. Our real kids are long gone and thriving on their own. Rich and his wife are in their 30’s, with a six week old newborn and a two-and-a-half year old. There’s no doubt Rich was thinking of his wife and kids and their safety as priority one, his own survival right behind that, and his dog a distant third. So at least in this case, it’s pretty obvious that when kids are involved - the beloved dog is of secondary importance when it comes to survival - though Rich’s wife felt otherwise. Perhaps this is because she has been home full-time for the last three months taking care of the kids and the dog while her husband has been traveling extensively for business over this same span of time.

So the questions, “How far would you go? How much would you risk for your dog?” are deeply personal ones, the answer of which depends on many different personal factors. But the long and short of it is - for more than a few people, a dog is no different than any other family member. The thought of leaving them behind to fend for themselves is unthinkable. For others, it’s a horrible choice they hope never to be faced with - but when it comes to life and death decisions - the dog is just “a dog.”

Molly Dog Films produces documentary and narrative films that focus on the emotional connections we share with our dogs and social issues that bring humans and dogs together.

Sweet Dreams Molly

1-Gardening 008B.jpg

This Saturday was the one of the most sad moments in recent memory for my family. Molly, our twelve year old Chocolate Labrador and loyal friend - broke her back a couple of weeks ago running like a puppy around the yard. She slipped, hyper extended her aging back and, well you get it. She seemed fine for several days and we never knew anything was wrong. Then she slowly started to lose her balance, had trouble walking and then eventually - no amount of money nor the greatest of veterinarians could prevent her from becoming paralyzed.

Molly was the dog I never wanted - we already had a dog and I certainly didn't want another one. I liked dogs, but they were just dogs, nothing more. Besides, they shed and they smell and they don't have the courtesy of cleaning up after themselves. The nerve . . 

But my 14 year old son wanted his own dog, so months of wife and family pressure gave way to a trip to the breeder to find a new friend for my son. He wanted a Labrador. He chose her, he named her, he was supposed to take care of her. Of course, it's the story you often hear - grumpy dad doesn't want stupid dog, but once dog arrives and takes over the house and all the cars - the fabric of the home begins to change. And that's what happened, this "dog" became an integral part of our lives - transitioning us from a two-kid household, to one where the kids have left home, graduated college and started careers. They never returned, but the dog was still there - now "our dog". And that's what happens. The dog replaces the kids with the added bonus of no back talk nor allowance. 

Molly went everywhere we went. Endless ski vacations, camping, trips to the beach, swimming, hiking, gardening (helping to uproot newly planted flowers), washing the car (stealing towels and other valuable tools). She accompanied both boys to their respective colleges, helping them settle into their dorms.

And in the blink of an eye, 12 years have passed, and this dog is so entrenched into your lives you cannot imagine waking up without those soulful eyes staring down at you. But the years do pass by, and in one of life's cruel tricks, your dog has aged so much faster than you.

And so on Saturday morning two weeks after her injury and after agonizing for hours, we called a mobile Vet to come to our home to end her life in the place she most enjoyed, her own home in her own backyard. There was no way Molly was going to die in a clinic on cold stainless steel table. We led her out to the backyard and gave her one of her favorite treats, peanut butter stuffed inside a cow bone. She licked away blissfully on a beautiful sunny morning while lying down next to us as we held her. Fifteen minutes later, she was gone.

There is no greater loyalty in the world, no stronger bond then that between man and dog. Unless you've known the love and peace a dog can bring into your life, it's hard to comprehend the anguish surrounding a decision that will end your dog's life. "Dog people" will know what I'm talking about, others will roll their eyes. Regardless, no matter how humane the decision to peacefully release your friend from the confines of pain and suffering, you never escape the guilt of "but maybe I could have done more."

I found this poem on the web any years ago. It moved me then, but now of course it has a very special meaning. 

Sweet dreams Molly. Thank you for all the happiness you brought to so many lives.

------------------------------------------------------------------

If it should be that I grow weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle cannot be won.

You will be sad, I understand.
Don’t let your grief then stay your hand.
For this day, more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the test.

We’ve had so many happy years.
What is to come can hold no fears.
You’d not want me to suffer so;
The time has come -- please let me go.

Take me where my need they’ll tend,
And please stay with me til the end.
Hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time that you will see
The kindness that you did for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I’ve been saved.

Please do not grieve--it must be you
Who had this painful thing to do.
We’ve been so close, we two, these years;
Don’t let your heart hold back its tears.