Thankful For Loss

Rhodesian Ridgeback, Eko, Marking Our Territory

“Be thankful for what you have.” It’s a reminder we share this holiday, and it’s a mantra of gratitude we hope to carry with us each day. I am thankful I have all the riches money can’t buy. I’m sound of body (if not quite of mind), I’m in love, I have a wildly fun dog, and my life is filled with wonderful people and experiences.

Implicit in the call to be thankful for what we have is the idea we should not dwell on what we lack. The advice is generally sound. It’s easy to imperil today’s happiness by dreaming of some nebulous tomorrow where money or possessions or other people fill the holes in your life.

But this Thanksgiving I find myself staring at those empty expanses within myself. The temptation is to only grieve for what I lost when I lost Eko. To look at the many hollowed parts of my heart and lament I can never be whole without my puppy. Instead, I’m trying to look at these scarred spaces with the deep appreciation they deserve.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, Eko, Marking Our Territory

It is difficult to know if you are doing the right thing in life. Are you in the right place, surrounded by the right people, working the right job, pursuing the right course, making the right decisions? Will you wake up one morning paralyzed by regret? After losing Eko I felt quite rudderless myself. Why go anywhere if I couldn’t go there with him?

I tried to find direction through gratitude for my many good fortunes. But that only provided appreciation for where I am. It offered no hint as to where I should go.

Eko was my answer to all those confounding questions of purpose. Where I once plotted a tepid course close to shore, Eko pushed me out to sea on an exhilarating adventure through uncharted waters. Each day was a chance to wrestle against a new challenge. We won more often than not, but we shook off the days we lost and carried our bruises as badges of honor. A life unscarred is a life not worth living.

Now I look these scars of mine, the ones on my knees where I fell on a hike with Eko, and the ones in my heart where the loss of my puppy claws at me. I still grieve, but I also cherish and trust these scars. They are reminders of the moments and experiences worth pursuing.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, Eko, Marking Our Territory

When I wake tomorrow, I will do so without any regret for the time I spent with Eko. The same will be true for as many days as I’m lucky enough to wake in the future. I lost my compass when I lost Eko, but this aching emptiness will be my guide. I know to steer towards the unknown, where both peril and fulfillment await. I know to pursue the opportunities which make me feel like I did when I first carried Eko home. If I find myself on a path where I do not feel the bliss I did when I journeyed with Eko, I know to change my path.

It’s not as easy as being thankful for what you have, but it’s just as important to appreciate what you have lost. I am grateful to have the pain of my loss as a constant reminder to seek new moments of love and laughter and fulfillment. There is no way to replace Eko, no way to fill in the parts of my heart where only he fit, but he will always be there guide me. Pushing me to discover the yet uncharted parts of my heart and my world. And I do so knowing that wherever I go, I go with Eko. For that, I am eternally thankful.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, Eko, Marking Our Territory

Happy Thanksgiving!

58 thoughts on “Thankful For Loss”

  1. Hi Will,

    I grew up with ridgebacks and couldn’t believe my ears when my boyfriend considered adopting a different breed – the fool! I took to Instagram in an attempt to prove to him how amazing these dogs are, and naturally ekoandpenny popped up. We have loved watching the videos of your hilarious, gorgeous, athletic and clever pups over these last few months.

    I was so sad to see the news about Eko, and can’t imagine the hurt and shock you, Emily and Penny must be in. Although Eko is gone, the gentle giant touched the lives of so many around the world (including mine in the Middle East!) and it was clear that he was so well loved in his life. It is so inspiring to see how well you look after them and I am grateful to you for sharing your experiences (good, bad and ugly) with us.

    My condolences and best wishes for 2017,
    Kate (in the UAE)

    P.S my boyfriend is well and truly convinced

  2. Hey Will,

    I just found out about the awful news! I am so sorry for your loss! I have always loved your video’s with Eko (and off course the rest of the bunch)! You are a great deal of inspiration on having Ridgeback’s. The life you had/have with them made me enthusiastic to do so myself. After watching your video’s (1,5 year ago) I have decided to find myself the perfect puppy to (down to two pups btw)!

    I wish you all the best, keep your head up and be grateful that you can love so much!

    I am sure you guy’s will manage and find another pup to follow in Eko’s footsteps!

    If you guys ever decide to come to the Netherlands, feel free to contact us, we (all 3 of us) will be more than happy to show you around!

    All the best,



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