One of the best things about life with dogs is also the worst thing about life with dogs. Every dog is irreplaceable in every sense of the word. The connection that each of us form with them is our very own unique connection and the connection we get to form with one another because of them is unifying like none other. It's free of judgement or condemnation, and full of eagerness to share about the way they've changed our lives for the better. It’s amazing. However, when they leave us, the void feels vast, and just as indescribable as the love they bring us every day. Today has been a weird day, but what feels like a meaningful day. This morning I opened my email to find a message from Tania, one of my early doodle moms telling her story of her dog Sullivan's grief following the passing of his companion dog. I was in a rush, and didn't have the time or emotional energy to read it with the thoughtfulness I think a story like that deserves, so I saved it to read later. On the way to the doodle reunion and open house for JLDD, I got the news from Christin, another of my early doodle moms, that her sweet Millie had passed away about an hour prior. She had been sick for the last few days with a rare disease that came on quickly. I'd met Christin early on, and loved her from the get-go. I so enjoyed watching her life with Millie from puppyhood all the way to being in her wedding this last year. I couldn't hold back a few tears after reading Christin's text, but I had arrived at our doodle romp and had to put on a smile for all the excited people coming to show off the puppies they'd gotten from us, and to chat with potential new puppy parents.
I barely had time to finish a cup of coffee before people started to flood into the restaurant patio hosting the event with their happy, bouncy puppies in tow. I don't think I stopped talking for about 4 hours, and I loved seeing all the the puppies coming together and the community we had created there. I used to know every person, but our company has outgrown my ability to keep track of everyone anymore, so it was great to meet some of the people I had missed meeting prior. Nonetheless, it was amazing and so gratifying to see smiles on every person's face, and people all but waiting in line to brag on their dog. Every person is so excited to tell us about the way their dog has changed their life, the way they've made it better, how much they've loved having them - whether they're 5 months or 5 years old. Each of them is just sure they have THE BEST dog we've ever created, and I'm pretty sure each of them is exactly right about that.
Even if I haven't personally worked with each person there and am meeting them for the first time, they know me from being in videos and photos for the past years. And it is my hope that they know my heart, and I love knowing that I had a part in filling a paw-shaped hole in every one of their hearts and homes. By the time I left, I was full of gratitude for my staff who had chosen to come hang out on their day off, had planned this event, and made it all happen. I was so impressed that so many people drove out, some from far away, just to come and see us and our dogs. As I began to make the journey back home, to check on Fendi who is due any day, Millie and Christin floated across my mind again...and my heart started to hurt for them again. Christin had messaged me while I was at the event saying that she and her new husband had already been thinking of getting Millie a companion, but now they were sure. She said that she knew that Millie was irreplaceable, but that she couldn't imagine life without a sweet canine companion anymore. How amazing that even in the depths of the pain that she is feeling mere hours after having to make such a heart-wrenching decision that she knew there was a hole that would be left without Millie.
When I got home, I just sat on the bed and cried for Millie and Christin. It feels silly to feel such a connection to a girl and a dog that you haven't seen in 3 1/2 years, but the connection I had to Millie when she was born transferred to Christin and the transformation Millie would have on her life. And then, I remembered about the email that I had gotten that morning from Tania about Sullivan grieving his companion dog, and opened it. "The shapes of grief" read the subject line, and a forewarning of the necessity of tissues prior to continuing reading. I opened the email, and she was right.
Tania poured out her heart in this message, and told her story. Telling stories is powerful, man. Its therapeutic for so many of us, and the story of the impact dogs have made on Tania's life was amazing to read. I remember the day she came to our house and picked out Sullivan, and I've enjoyed watching him grow up on the farm, getting the cutest photos of him babysitting chicks and hanging out with his canine companion. The story of watching the dogs she and her family had owned over the past years was beautiful, to say the least, and it spoke to the idea of dogs grieving one another - something that likely isn't talked about nearly enough.
While there is so much joy in what we do, forming new relationships with every puppy that we bring into the world, and providing families with their newest family member, there is also pain. Relationships mean pain, sometimes. And we're willing to go there with you. So many phone calls we get start with the excited voice on the other end starting to tell us about their puppy search, and often times quickly turn to tears after mere minutes after starting to tell us the story of the loss of a prior furry family member, and sometimes even a human companion. We have such an opportunity to hear and understand their hearts, and their stories...and if we're lucky, find them their newest furry companion.
And so, I think it's important for those of us who have been loved by a dog to be able to share our stories publicly, if we want to. The stories of the love and hope they give us, and the pain of the loss. I know it's therapeutic for me, and I won't be surprised if it is for you, too. The community that we have built holds each other up, understands the bond we share over our dogs. We want to open the opportunity to share the feelings of unsurmountable joy and sorrow that our dogs bring into our lives with the opportunity for families or individuals feeling the loss of a furry friend. And so, we're opening a forum on love and loss, and Tania's story of Sullivan and his companion dog, Luralee is the first story on it. Her story, like so many others makes it clear to us why being loved by a dog is the best, and the hardest. This is open to anyone, not just our puppy parents - please share with anyone you know whom may be struggling after a loss of their dog. Let's all hold each other up, as we all are connected by knowing the indescribable feeling of being loved by a dog.