The ground, cold and frozen the first few inches, is hard to cleave.  I have to alternate strokes, first a time or two with the mattock, then picking at the loosened soil with the shovel.  

Under the frost line it eases, the soil softer.  Or not.  My tears, hot in the December chill, fall wet into the growing hole.  When Ginny comes out after awhile I shake her away with a strangled “no.”  I’ll do it.


Life is funny.  We never really know how things will turn.  How the things we once imagined to be so damned important… turn out not to be.  Even while there are all these little things that smile at us, unbidden, as they float through our lives.  And when we eventually look back we realize that those were the only things that ever really mattered.

If there’s a blessing here, it’s that I knew.  This one time, I knew.

His life with us began in trauma, a long, cold, noisy airplane ride, alone.  When I saw him trembling inside the small cage as it descended the cargo ramp at Reagan National I was immediately struck by overwhelming guilt.  I knew instantly I would never again do that to a dog.

But 8-week-old puppies are nothing if not emotionally resilient.  As we walked back to the car, Ginny carried him in her arms.  He fell asleep in her lap on the long drive westward.  And when we arrived, now in full darkness, Ginny gently nudged the as-yet-unnamed little fellow awake.  Sleepily sniffing the ground in front of the house, his new domain, he pee’d on the grass.  The first of a million times he would do that.  Then the three of us walked inside.

Our home would never again be the same.


So how do you capture what it all meant?  And the answer, of course, is that you don’t.  You can’t.  There’s simply too much there.  To unpack it all would require another whole lifetime.

All I can say is that he was my best friend, ever.  That there aren’t words that even remotely begin to describe how much I loved him.  He had the gentlest soul of any creature – two or four-legged – that I ever knew.

Three weeks in, I’m still walking around in a stupor.  You seek normalcy.  But, save for the occasional motorcycle trip I’d go on, he was part of everything.  His presence intertwined with life itself.  So you turn your head and you expect him to be there.  And when he’s not, when you’re reminded, your chest tightens and you can’t breathe and the tears come once again.

And so I whisper what I used to always whisper when I’d head off to bed early and he’d come trundling upstairs and quietly pad over to the bed to nose my cheek, making sure everything was okay.

I’d roll towards him and stroke his head and touch his nose with my nose, murmuring “Daddy loves you.  Don’t ever forget that.”

And as he turned to leave, reassured, I’d smile at him and add “my sweet boy.”

A gallery of some of my favorite pictures…


And the last half-dozen pictures I took of him, during his last few days…


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