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October 19, 2016

A Song For Penny

It's often difficult for me to remember, but there was a time in my life before Eko. A time when I knew how to live without him if only because I had yet to discover the bliss of living with him. Penny is not so fortunate. From her first day home when she ambitiously attempted to breastfeed from Eko, right up through his last day on Earth, Penny never lived a moment without her big brother. For the first time in her life, Penny is alone.  Eko and Penny made the most beautiful music together. Ode to Joy brought to life. They bounded down the beach, crashing into each other like cymbals. A whirling symphony of teeth and claws and unbridled delight. People would stop and watch their furious improvisation, awed by the power and grace of my living instruments.
It’s often difficult for me to remember, but there was a time in my life before Eko. A time when I knew how to live without him if only because I had yet to discover the bliss of living with him. Penny is not so fortunate. From her first day home when she ambitiously attempted to breastfeed from Eko, right up through his last day on Earth, Penny never lived a moment without her big brother. For the first time in her life, Penny is alone. Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago Eko and Penny made the most beautiful music together. Ode to Joy brought to life. They bounded down the beach, crashing into each other like cymbals. A whirling symphony of teeth and claws and unbridled delight. People would stop and watch their furious improvisation, awed by the power and grace of my living instruments. I have poured my love and attention into Penny these last few weeks but there are some things which I cannot give her. My slow feet and dull teeth cannot join in harmony with the song Penny needs to play. She’s tried to find a new partner to join her, but it is no easy task.
Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago

This friendly pup excitedly jumped on Penny, so my maestro of mayhem began to conduct her symphony of madness

Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago

But this dog had no interest in joining the band, and Penny cannot make her music alone

The difficulty with finding Penny a playmate is that she needs someone who challenges her. Someone who tests her strength and speed and revels in the cacophony she creates. Eko was the perfect match. He would romp with Penny, and when he decided the show was over, he’d put her in a bear hug. I can’t provide Penny with that bear hug, but I figured I could at least provide her with a bear.
Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago

A Be(a)rnese Mountain Dog, to be precise

We met Andrew and our old pal Leo at the beach this past Sunday. Now roughly the size of a small planet, Leo is exactly the type of  powerful and playful friend Penny needs.
Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago

“Let’s dance, big boy!”

Together Leo and Penny created a wonderful sound. It wasn’t the familiar ballad Penny played with Eko, but it was a beautiful reminder of that blissful tune.
Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago

Sometimes even small planets know it’s best to get out of Penny’s way

And if only for a moment, the matching smiles of these two dogs made my soul sing. Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago I cry for the music I’ve lost, but I’m grateful for the reminder to open my heart to new melodies.

Comments for A Song For Penny

  1. iamparool says:

    This one made brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully written Will.

  2. Connie Taylor says:

    Penny knows how to realign the universe to fit her needs . Its great to see her enjoying another pup with her enthusiasm and joy. It sounds like you are all adjusting to this new way of living little by little and Eko will always be by her side guiding her along.

  3. fran welch says:

    Penny is alone without her brother n i know all the love u give will not fill that void that only Eko could do. She has lost that joy n grieving in her own way which breaks my heart over again. Playing with others at the beach will help except on rainy days but i love that Penny Mayhem n glad she is getting love n tenderness from her dad as i know only u can give. Thank u for posting n sharing as i feel ur pain as i loved Eko too. My best to u, emily, penny with love

  4. Pat says:

    So good to see the Wild Child cut loose!

  5. meANXIETYme says:

    Penny and Leo looked like they had a joyous time. I’m glad to see Penny smile and glad to see that you were able to hear a little new music. What a great idea to get those two together. Combining the new and the familiar will help you all continue to progress in your journey to healing. You’re doing all the right things, Will. I know it might not feel like it, but you are. Keep on.

  6. KarenS says:

    It’s wonderful that Penny has a “mayhem certified” playmate in Leo. RR play can be very scary if the other pup is not up to the task.

    With our first Ridgie, when he lost his big friend he never tried to play again. It broke our hearts even more to see that. Six months later we lost him, taking our sadness even deeper. But the memories of their playtime still returns even 12 years later. And we smile. We now watch our two geriatric Ridgies play, and even though the intensity has decreased, the joy they give us is immense.

    Hope you can make more time for romping with Leo, you all need that.

  7. Emmadog says:

    Mom lost her first dog Trine when Katie was just 16 months old. Trine was her mother figure. They did everything together, and the day they lost Trine, aching Katie was so lost. The next couple years she was lucky to live on the North Sea Coast where dogs came and went on vacation weekly. She constantly searched for playmates, but Mom knew she would do best with her own sibling…and that is when I was brought in from England to fill the void, but it took almost 3 years before Mom could imagine another dog. Penny will survive and find a way to fill the huge hole Eko as left as will you. Together with Emily, you will all find the new life which will never be the same, but will be wonderful in its own way.

  8. Shalini says:

    I was thinking about exactly this yesterday – that Penny has never known a life without her older brother. But pups are more resilient than us humans, and while nothing will ever compare to what she shared with her real older brother, she will find a new playmate in good time. Lots of love to her and oh my gosh Leo (have you seen that video of the bernese mountain puppy with the lemon!?

  9. I had two Ridgebacks….two males, Champ and Angel….My first pup died Feb 1….3 months shy of 13….I was with him 24/7 for all this time….even took him to work.(I was the manager for Dynamo Swim Club)….he loved swimming….he was my primary relationship….still can’t believe he is gone….every time Angel and I go into the woods he keeps thinking Champ will appear…anyway, I feel for you and your family, especially Penny….y’all are in my thoughts.
    Tennent and Angel

  10. TheRidgebackLife says:

    I have yet to see any other breed play like two Ridgebacks. If you introduce another breed into their games, chances are that dog will give up and find fun elsewhere. Or stand aside and watch. Neeka and Khoi’s best friend Biggie, is a pitty. When he sees them coming, he will sink to the ground until they pass. My daughter’s Border Collie /GSP, Zuma, (who’s an honorary RR, simply because she’s surrounded by them), still can’t figure them out. I’m very happy Penny has Leo. She can use her mouth without worrying about getting any skin and running into him is like playing with a giant pillow. He probably can’t cut like Penny, but as long as he chases her, she’s happy.
    I’m glad to hear you smiling again, Will. It brought a smile to my face, along with a little tear for Penny’s loss, to think of the symphonies she has yet to play.

  11. Victoria Coleman says:

    i love their expressions as they revel in their playtime – i think Leo and Penny need lots more playdates – they make Penny really happy and i bet they are helping your heart heal a little bit. I know you miss Eko – tell you the truth I do too – still hurting for you but i know you 3 will be fine!

  12. Deborah Schmidt says:

    I have had many dogs since 2002. Eight of them being RR. From puppies to adult rescues. The only true equal play mate for a RR is another RR. They are vocal, toothy, rough and have a never ending energy. I hope Penny goes easy on the other dogs at the beach. Any time she needs a playmate. I live in Indianapolis. I have a 2 yr old. He came from Barbara Sawyer Brown in IL. He will give her a go for it. Take care.

  13. Kismet says:

    Is there a Ridgeback rescue? It would be a perfect fit if you got a playmate for her that really needed a home.

  14. Well said Will, as always. Although I know you and Emily have broken hearts at the loss of Eko, I’ve worried most for some reason about Penny. You and Emily “know” why Eko is gone and Penny just knows her best buddy and big brother is gone. Leo looks like a great playmate – that photo of the two of them is incredible – love Leo’s eyes and Penny’s teeth! This whole dramatic life change for your family is a work in progress of course…..and as you say, while the music STOPPED at first, it’s quietly returning but with a very different sound. We never think that it will – BUT – life truly does go on.

    Hugs, Pam (and Sam)

  15. Jodi Wood says:

    Amazing Will! Of course you’re not ready yet, but someday, yes. I love how you wrote about how difficult it is to find a playmate for an RR! I often find this myself, only having one! They are like no other, as you well know. Keep on keeping on. I only wish I could bring my Perdie to the beach and play with Penny all day, for dayzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  16. Jodi Wood says:

    Oh, and I forgot to write that my Perdie’s best friend is also a Bernese named Leo! He’s getting a little older now and doesn’t love the toothinf and gnawing as much. But Penny is lucky to have a Leo also!

  17. T&S says:

    So sorry for your lost. We have not been her for a while, and now we are heart broken because of Eko. He was a great dog.
    You know, thats my worst fear to lose one of my RRs.
    We send you all our love!

  18. Ryan says:

    My fiance and I have been watching your videos, reading your blogs, and following on Instagram for a long time. We adopted a ridgeback puppy and we see alot of penny in him. We live in the suburbs outside of Chicago. Everytime, and I mean everytime we are in the city. My fiance eagerly looks out the window, just hoping to see you guys walking around. I have to make sure the doors are locked in the car just in case! We see our puppy in Penny and the dog we hope he can become in Eko. We both get very emotional with the loss of Eko. Which may seem strange considering we have never met him. I can’t imagine how hard this has to be for you. I just wanted thank you for letting us join in on the light the Eko brought into all of our lives. The light that you and penny still bring. Again thank you and stay strong. If Penny ever needs an extra running mate we have her doppelganger ready for the challenge. Thanks again!

  19. Judy Petitto says:

    Another beautiful tribute to Eko and your love for him and Penny.So happy you have found a cushion for Penny and a little one for yourself.Keep making that beautiful music with your girl and Leo and Eko will take care of the rest.So funny because I have Golden Retrievers a far cry from a RR but have followed your blog for a very long time and fallen in love with your pair and you, and Emily too.Your all in my heart.

  20. KC Forsythe (Phoebe) says:

    What a great post! My heart goes out to Penny—I can’t even imagine. Know that Phoebe would love to play with her anytime! I’d love to take them to romp it up sometime. Let me know!!

  21. Jan & Rusty says:

    Ode to Joy brought to life. Perfect description, Will, of Eko and Penny together. So glad Leo is willing to help Penny (and you) create new music. Rusty is my Ode to Joy. I so get it. Thanks for sharing this. More smiles today than tears.

  22. T&S says:

    Just wanted to say one more thing, what keeps me going when I think of that day that will come… you gave him all of your love… a great life… and a companion, Penny (a big thing for a RR is to have a companion at home).
    You had his love, you still do… only love is the secret of both of our worlds, this one and next one…
    With you, he was a happy dog, he had a short, but a great life….
    Be proud of your little gentleman, you raised him well and showed him the world…
    Be happy that you had him in your life… untill you meet again.
    Be proud that you were his master. So heads up. Be proud master. Mr Eko wouldnt like to see you sad. You know that they dont like when we are sad.
    And take care of his little sister.

  23. Ellen Quilty says:

    Bittersweet.One minute you are enjoying watching Penny rip up the sand and the next you have the inevitable thought about Eko and Penny doing the same thing.Crash,bang and you feel terrible again.All you can do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other as you are doing.
    On a lighter note it really is true Ridgebacks have their own fierce play style as other people have pointed out.Nikki has learned to tone it down with other dogs or she would have no playmates at all!When she gets together with her sibling though my eyes are closed half the time.I remember your pictures of Emily working diligently on her laptop with Eko and Penny exploding all around her.So cute.

  24. lauramcgrew says:

    Some day I hope you get a book deal (if that’s what you want) so that you can compile all of this savage beauty into one book. I would buy multiple volumes. One for myself, to savor and underline, and, um, “dog-ear” and the others to give away as gifts. Other people need your words in their lives, I really believe that.
    Thank you for sharing the whole story, Will, though I know if we as readers are moved so deeply to laughter and tears with every new post, you must be cleaning blood and guts off your keyboard every single time you write. Keep the faith. Your gift to the world is so precious.

  25. HobbesMom says:

    Every post you have written these past few weeks have made me cry. I continue to be amazed at how attached my husband and I feel to people and a pup whom we never met. It is a strong testament to your ability to connect with your readers and make us feel like we are a part of the activities.
    We are continuing our good thoughts for you, Emily and Penny. Every day will get a little bit easier, especially with Penny to drag you out for a romp! Eko will never be forgotten certainly, but the hurt when you think of him now, will transform to smiles at the memories of the wonderful fun times you had with him.
    I agree with the earlier comment that I hope you consider in the future compiling a book from your blogs, of all the pictures and adventures with Eko and then with Eko and Penny. I have one such book by photographer Sean Ellis, ‘Kubrick the Dog’ that chronicles his life with his Vizsla. It however, is a pictorial compilation without the wonderful commentary you could include. I would definitely purchase a book (or several) if you should ever decide to publish one.
    If we were closer to Chicago, Hobbes the Vizsla would love to romp with Penny. He gets very excited when he sees a Ridgeback on the beach here as they and their owners are some of the few who get that rough and tumble romping and snarling are all part of the fun and not a sign of impending aggression.
    It was great to see Penny romping with Leo and I am so glad it brought a smile to you!
    Hobbes the Vizsla and his mom send you hugs and love!

  26. Some great photos of Leo and penny, one day there will be sweet music again

  27. Donna Joyner says:

    I have been following you for a long time and have written several posts before. I have been so emotional, shocked, tearful, and tongue tied that I haven’t written since that day the light went out. I know you have been having the unbearable pain of a broken heart and no words that formed seemed sufficient. Times like this , we ask why!?! It’s not fair and it makes no sense. But the only comfort I have found has been the fact that Eko was so loved and loved you so in return. The truth is….he lived more of a life in his 5 years than most. All the adventures shared were jam packed with excitement, memories, and a lifetime of love in a single day.
    2 months ago, my daughter was woke up at 2am by Simon, the standard poodle having a seizure. He had never had one before and unfortunately it was a grand mal that went on over 15 mins. She was putting him in her car to go to the emergency vet when he passed in her arms. He was 3 yrs old. She tortured herself looking back for signs she may have missed. There wasn’t any. He was always a picture of perfect health, just like Eko.
    I know you are struggling. And the pain is almost too much. But even now, if you had known the say you picked him out, that you would experience this ,….you would still pick him. Because you know that even 1 year of what you had was worth it. You would do it all again, even if you knew.
    Thankfully, you didn’t know. Because in not knowing, you were able to experience it all with a full heart and 100% unconditional love. And you got that much and more in return.
    Penny is going to be your saving grace. You have no choice but to get out of bed and face the pain and heartbreak. Your heart is shattered and broken into a million pieces, but every day that passes, Penny will put a piece back. Before you you know it, your heart will be whole again. Only it will have deep etches, cracks and scars to show how that there was a dog named Eko that showed you that real unconditional love really exists.

  28. Leni says:

    Hi Will and Emily,

    I’ve followed you for years and watched admiringly as our lives took similar twists and turns — from one dog to two dogs to medical school and to marriage. This post finally pushed me to reach out to:

    1) Share in your sorrow and loss. Your grief does not just hurt because I think about losing my own boy. It’s knowing you loved more than I’ve seen any dog-owner love before. Something that pure and beautiful really shouldn’t be snatched away so cruelly. And that’s devastating.
    2) Share my somewhat similar story of tackling adulthood with a canine best friend, and then eventually finding ourselves a companion that looks an awful lot like Penny’s friend Leo. Your last 5 posts have broken me down, but this one really made me smile.

    So here is the cliffnotes version of my story, and I hope the similarities make you smile too: http://imgur.com/gallery/YfDjO

    You’re in our thoughts,

  29. Boomdeeadda says:

    That was so beautifully told Will. Thanks for sharing.

  30. OMGoodness. Leo’s face is priceless when presented with Penny’s equally priceless action-face. Dogs are so much better at living in the moment than humans are. They’re so lucky to get that occasional break from remembering. New music is a fact of life. Even when the old music was so right.

  31. Melody says:

    So happy to read Penny has found a new playmate to match her. Not an easy task for a rambunctious Ridgeback!

    I have followed you since the beginning since my household had 2 Ridgebacks….older male and younger female. They were older than Eko and Penny but the same situation. Luna had never not known life without Zonka. He passed a year ago at 12.5 years old. Luna was 8 at the time and still very much full of spunk. We noticed how sad she was and how she did not seem to want to play at all.

    Fate stepped in…..we were sent a post of a 1/2 RR and 1/2 Black Lab female in Tennessee who was going to lose her foster home. The foster family assured us she was a wonderful dog but they could not longer spare the time she needed. Although it was only 2 months since Zonka passed, we dove in and started the adoption process. Scout arrived at our home via transport a month later in November. Neither dog had the opportunity to meet until the wee hours of that morning. If they detested each other at first site, Scout would go to a foster agency. No need….They got along!!! Within a week they were cuddling and snuggling each other. Fast forward just under a year, they are best of friends. Scout is aware when Luna needs space but she has brought Luna “the puppy back”. Being 1/2 RR (she is black with a ridge :-)), she plays like one. Luna is now 9 and Scout is a mere 2. Seeing the light back in Luna’s eyes makes me tear up and miss Zonka so very much but I cherish his memories and thank him for helping to raise Luna to be such a great girl.

    My wish to you all is that fate will tell you when it is time to add to the family. Time will help the healing in the meantime. Wishing you all the best!!!

  32. Jo Rhodes says:

    Oh my Dog. I’m not even sure where to start. No one can replace Eko, or any other person in our lives. This is makes losing so painful. It occurs to me as I watch Penny throw down the gauntlet on the beach, and her challenges go mostly unanswered that when you get her (and yourselves) a new puppy she will be the one in charge. I hope you have good insurance.
    Penny Mayhem indeed.
    Love, Jo, Sam and Dean

  33. cafall says:

    She looks happy. I’m glad you are finding your way through this.


    Monty, Harlow, and Ramble

  34. Here’s to new tunes soon.
    P.S. Planet Leo has certainly grown into quite the specimen. Hopefully he and Penny will have many opportunities to conduct beautiful music together. Hugs to you all.

  35. Crystal says:

    I had to hold in my tears when I read about Eko”s passing and have held our RR boys a little bit closer since then.

    I had tears reading the first sentence of this post.

    You will never truly be over Eko. He will always hold fond memories in yours and Penny’s hearts. He is with you always.

    I still think of my Shellie’s passing 20 years ago on earth fatal Christmas Eve, and can barely breath thinking of our boys leaving earth.

    YOu are not alone with your pain, stories, laughter, or heartache.

    I am so sorry for your family’s sudden loss. Right now, I can’t breathe for what you are going through.

    You are not alone

  36. Tricia Thompson says:

    Every single post makes me cry. But don’t stop sharing, Will. You put into very eloquent words the feelings we all share as people who dearly love our companions. I cry because your depth of feeling connects with all of us who have been there. We’d all like to leave our grief behind, but we just have to push on as best we can. There is a beauty in your words that I could never express, but, thank God, you can. Your words validate our losses. I’m glad you and Emily and Penny are finding your way. Penny is beautiful, and she will certainly help you process what has happened. As the days pass, I pray you’ll find more joy and less sorrow.

  37. Rose Frame says:

    Happy Penny & you had some fun! Leo’s a good pal.

  38. Ellen Quilty says:

    I loved your video.Take 1 Penny 2x daily or as needed for grief.Dr Mayhem knows that laughter is the best medicine.

  39. Ode to Joy brought to life! Such a perfect description.

    I’m glad all of you are beginning to find some joy on the beach again. One day, one step, one wag at a time.

  40. Georgia says:

    I have just sobbed reading your past few posts. I’m so sorry to read about Eko.. while you can never truly be prepared, having your world taken from you so suddenly just rips right through you. Your words have taken me back. We are six months on from losing our six year old boy, and every word took me back to those dark weeks that followed. He too left us unexpectedly, a walk through the park in the morning and a sad and sudden goodbye in the afternoon. Those weeks that followed our tiny house echoed with silence and with each morning we awoke to it, the tears would roll and It felt like our hearts couldn’t break any more. But we had each other and we pulled through it together. Penny is lucky to have you, and you her. As you grieve together and pull each other through this dark time, you will learn more about one another. I hope your hearts can start to heal a little soon xxxx

  41. […] live without it. Who knew that being yourself is sometimes the hardest thing to do? We’ve had plenty of help, but I haven’t truly seen Penny be herself since Eko died. Until last Friday, that […]

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