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October 2, 2018

A Year After A Year After

As a child, I remember my parents crying. A quiet tear from my mother as we drove past our old home. A short breath and watery eyes from my father while sitting together on the edge of my grandmother’s pool.I could not understand why these seemingly innocuous moments overwhelmed them. When I asked what was wrong the answer was always, “Nothing,” said with a wry smile. If pressed, they might share a hint of a stirred memory, but no more. Then they’d wipe their eyes and quickly return to the present moment.Life is inextricably lived in one direction – forward. But it can be understood through an infinite number of vectors, intersecting at angles and times known and unknown. I now recognize that in those moments with my parents I witnessed a juncture of self-discovery through some revelatory vector. A moment they had once lived, experienced again with new perspective.This past Saturday was a juncture in my own life. One I pass for the second time living forward, but a crossroads well-worn in my heart. September 29th marks two years since Eko died.
As a child, I remember my parents crying. A quiet tear from my mother as we drove past our old home. A short breath and watery eyes from my father while sitting together on the edge of my grandmother’s pool.I could not understand why these seemingly innocuous moments overwhelmed them. When I asked what was wrong the answer was always, “Nothing,” said with a wry smile. If pressed, they might share a hint of a stirred memory, but no more. Then they’d wipe their eyes and quickly return to the present moment.Life is inextricably lived in one direction – forward. But it can be understood through an infinite number of vectors, intersecting at angles and times known and unknown. I now recognize that in those moments with my parents I witnessed a juncture of self-discovery through some revelatory vector. A moment they had once lived, experienced again with new perspective.This past Saturday was a juncture in my own life. One I pass for the second time living forward, but a crossroads well-worn in my heart. September 29th marks two years since Eko died.Newly born grief is a nightmare brought to life, but it has a predictable, if unforgiving, rhythm. The first day of your loss. The first weekend. The first Thanksgiving. The first winter. A relentless succession of moments you are forced for the first time to spend without the one you love.The one-year anniversary of grief brings a strange sense of closure. A knowledge you have somehow found a way to survive every bitter first the calendar put in front of you.  At that mark, for me, time no longer felt like the most meaningful way to remember my puppy. To say it was the second September I lived without Eko elicited no feelings. But when I pulled out a clean blanket for cold nights on the couch, I winced with the realization it would never again hold his comforting scent.This is how grief matures. A transformation from a unit of time into a unit of space. No longer bound by date it instead permeates experience. Visiting unannounced during sunrises at the beach, while curling up in front of a warm fire, or on a gust of fall wind rushing to meet you. So powerful you must lean against it to stay upright, so suddenly past that you stumble to find your balance.In the darkness of Saturday morning I awoke to a forlorn cry. Penny and Zero dutifully escorted me down the hall and I gathered Lincoln into my arms. “Good morning, baby dog,” I crooned. A familiar tradition begun years before his birth that is now a small part of his inheritance.I rocked him, but Lincoln’s tears only stopped when Zero nuzzled against his leg. One piece of my heart comforting the other. A tiny finger stretched out and pointed.“Dog!” Lincoln said.“Very good!” I replied. “Penpen and Zero,” I petted each in turn.“Panpan…Roro…” Link said, uncertainly.“That’s right!” I said. “Panpan and Roro!” The boy shook with delight and the dogs spun excitedly. Who am I to tell Lincoln the ones who dry his tears and share his joy need any other name than what he calls them?Link ate breakfast with the zeal and technique of a Ridgeback then hopped on my back for a walk with the dogs. We met the dawn in a deserted park. The silhouettes of Penny and Zero chased each other in wide circles and Lincoln chased far behind, shouting encouragement or instructions. Either way, he was quite pleased with the wild display.When I woke that morning I knew it marked two years since Eko’s death, but there in the park I really felt it. Two years of could-have-beens and should-have-beens. Second guessing about second chances and doing it all over again.If Lincoln were old enough to ask why I was crying, I would have said “It’s nothing.” Which is true. I cried for something which is not. A dog and a life and a world other than this one.Yet that is only half the answer. “It’s everything,” is the hidden response. A story as long as my life, with layers and connections and meanings I have yet to fully understand, all colliding at that very moment. A realization that no matter how far I travel from Eko in time he remains forever next to me in the spaces of my heart. It was an overwhelming emotional torrent, one which could have easily swept me away from the moment.But like my parents, I had a much more important reason to stay.I wiped my tears and joined the chase. Roaring and laughing and lifting Lincoln high above my head.  Infusing the moment and the boy with gratitude and love drawn from a well deep within my soul. Lincoln will never know the source of that wellspring, but it makes me happy that Eko’s love will continue to nourish the boy he never got to meet.When Lincoln is old enough to ask why the sight of him chasing a pair of Ridgebacks across the park makes me cry, I won’t have time to tell him the whole story. The one about a puppy who saves a boy. About a dog who becomes the heart of a man. About a man who has that heart ripped from him one night and the next morning learns he is going to be a father. About a lost father-to-be, unable to find his way forward without the puppy’s love.The story of his realization that he’ll never be without that love. And that wherever he shares it, there he will be closest to his Eko.“It’s nothing,” I’ll tell Lincoln. “A well must have sprung a leak.” Then, happy beyond words, I will dive into the fray and join my child and my dogs in their revelry. Each joyful step forward the legacy of dog I will carry with me always.

Comments for A Year After A Year After

  1. Tennent says:

    Nice post…..particularly coming from a young perspective with a growing family….my first Ridgeback as well as first dog died the same year…2016…..I think grief has a different feel as you get older….my mother died in 2012….pup in 2016…at my age at 67 I feel I’m treading water….still have a 9 year old Ridgeback and a new pup who will be one in October 25th…..and through them I realize I’m in days of heaven…..

  2. Mandy says:

    So beautifully written, sobbing as I think of my Meekie

  3. Laura says:

    You are with words, as Rembrandt or Picasso with a paintbrush. Always enlightening, not a wasted word or sentence. Thank you for this.

  4. lak says:

    Beautiful sentiments, beautifully written. Thank you

  5. Sandra G says:

    Beautifully said. As I look at my own two I sometimes think to myself “you will break my heart” and while some may think this morbid, it fills me with gratitude as I actively cherish them every day. What a gift. I cried and cried when I learned about Eko. For you for me and for everyone who has ever loved a dog. How lucky we all are!!

  6. chris says:

    We always have a place in our heart for all our loved dogs. I have had two heart dogs and even tho it has been over 11 years since the first one passed, I still cry over things that remind me of him. Same with all our dogs that we have lost, there are things that bring a tear to my eyes. My daughter is 10 now and when she sees me, she asks. I always tell her and sometimes she grows sad with me but she understands that it is okay to have emotions and cry. You are a good man.

  7. Emmadog says:

    It’s been over two years since we lost Katie. Even though she was just ten days shy of turning fourteen, it is no easier. Mom planned on her turning fourteen, and when she suddenly took a serious downturn those days before, it was a shock. We all still miss her. Mom tears up. She talks to us about her on our walks, car rides, places we visit. She is not here, but she is always with us through our memories. Loss sucks, but it is a part of life. All we can do is enjoy the time we get to spend with the ones we love because only the current moment is a guarantee.

  8. Frances I Godwin says:

    Well done Will. Another blue ribbon tribute to the pup who started it all. I miss him too n I will never forget the day I opened your blog n it was black. I never thought the message u would deliver next would pierce my heart n make me cry n cry. I was in shock n I could not believe it. How Penny must be feeling. I could not bare the pain n not cry like a baby n I never meet him except loving your blog. I m glad you brought Zero home n Emily was pregnant with Lincoln. God knows what u need before u even ask. Hugs for all but rejoice for the future.

  9. Caroline Edmiston says:

    You have such an amazing talent. Your words do justice to the love and grief we share with and for our soulmate dogs

    I have never seen such a poignant written understanding of the time vs space of grief

    Thank you.

    I am coming up on my souldog’s 2nd anniversary death date. I get blindsided every now and then with a force of grief that buckles my knees. But I would do it all again for the good times, the great times and the crappy times, just to hold him once more, sink my nose in his ruff and smell the outdoor happy scent of him. He taught me what love looked like.

    It was all worth it.

  10. Jörg says:

    Mir geht’s auch so , das ich hin und wieder eine Träne verdrücken muss . Gerade an den Tag wo er gestorben ist , ist es bitter . Manchmal sind es auch freuden Tränen, wenn man an Orte kommt wo ich lustige Sachen mit meinen Ridgeback erlebt habe . Nun hab Ich wieder einen jungen wilden Ridgeback , er heißt Magnus und wenn ich mal nicht gut drauf bin weiß er wie man mich wieder zum lachen bringt.

  11. RidgebackLife says:

    I hugged Neeka and Khoi extra tight when I left for work this morning. I had just glanced at your email, but as soon as I saw the title, I knew I wouldn’t be able to read it right away. It would be impossible to keep the tears out of my eyes. I still feel the stab to my heart that I felt when I opened that email two years ago and saw a black page and your devasting words.

    Eko was the apitamey of a best friend. He was as close to a perfect dog as you could get. He had the best life you could give him and he gave everything back to you ten fold. You wouldn’t be who you are today if he wasn’t there to show you how. Lincoln will hear stories of Eko and when he starts to read, he’ll peruse your files (or maybe your book, by then. Hint hint) and know him as well as any of us do. And come to love him for giving you his daddy.

    Sure, tears blurred my eyes again, but Link made me smile and your words warmed my heart.

  12. Victoria says:

    So wonderfully written – brings a tear or two

  13. Will can you please run for president?

  14. Eve says:

    Loved the post and yes grief is something that will never quite go away from the soul for the one who saved it. HUGS to you and the gang for remember the one that isn’t there!

  15. Indeed, the love lives on. The faces and paws may be a bit different, but the original never leaves our hearts. Sending oodles of poodles of comforting thoughts as you recall times from a couple of years ago.

  16. Anne says:

    What a wonderful sharing of your emotions. Love greets with so much joy and departs with so much sorrow.

  17. Kismet says:

    The peep says that times were best when Kali slept by his side and Kyla slept using his butt as a pillow. Kali still sleeps by his side but his burr is lonely.

  18. So sorry about loosing Eko. I have been mostly absent from blogging since loosing Rockin Roy in 2015 so have not kept up with things.
    Jo and the Sundogs

  19. I know the feeling well…..at my age I have those moments of thinking back on special things more and more frequently too. All these things leave a mark on our souls along with the specific memories but we revisit them and experience the sadness or joy all over again like it was NOW. Life pulls us along the path we are meant to be on – but we certainly never leave our past behind – it’s always and forever there in our hearts.

    Pam

  20. OlRedHair says:

    Thank you for your insight and guidance. I am in the beginning of grief. That year of firsts.

  21. Eve says:

    They say time heals, but I think it only every takes the ‘edge’ off those feelings.. and the memories are never ever forgotten xx

  22. Ana says:

    forever in our hearts❤️, Eko.

    Here we all miss our Ridgeback Nilo.

    Good and beloved friends are forever❤️!!

  23. Geri Zeibert says:

    Will on Sept 14 my husband disappeared from our boat on the lake he loved. His body was located the following morning. He had drowned. I have been numb unable to sleep, eat, be; wandering from room to room wanting to feel his presence. Karma, our Rottweiler, knows something is very wrong. She is subdued follows me as I circle the house, looks up at every sound. I don’t know how to convince myself that John is gone, never mind find a way to make her understand he is never coming home. I read your blog about Eko’s loss over & over. I was finally able to break down and do my heart out. Thank you for expressing what can not be expressed. You have a gift. You should use it more extensively. Write a book about loss & grief and the possibility of recovery. I think it would help many people to heal. So much suffering in our short lives and our canine companions, who offer us so much solace, leave us far too soon no matter how long they are able to stay.

  24. Ellen Quilty says:

    How well I remember the day you told us of Eko’s death.Your shock and agony were so raw my eyes are stinging with tears just thinking about it two years later.Lincoln will know Eko through your stories and in the meantime he is benefiting from all the things that wonderful dog taught you.
    And yes I didn’t want to be the one to tell you but I have definitely noticed something resembling a ridge in Lincoln’s hair as it grows in.Hummm?

  25. Robyn B says:

    I remember when you lost your Eko, Will. So sad. We had to say “good-bye” to our Jasmine July 30th of this year. It never gets easy–EVER!!! Out of the blue something will remind me of her and how much we truly miss her and the tears will come. She took a little piece of my heart with her the day she left us. But yet she taught me so much over the years we had her. I am so forever grateful to have raised her and had her for as long as I did. She is so missed by all of us. She was a blessing to our family. Thank you, as always, for the wonderful words.

  26. UrbanCollieChiq says:

    My Tucker and I are watching many of our dog friends leave us, and my boy, quirky as he is, is at a point in his life where he does not really welcome more. He is much different from your devil-may-care RRs. “Friends” to him are dogs whose presence he can ignore or tolerate. The most exhuberence he shows at the sight and smell of them, stems from knowing their wonderful humans are not far behind. He’s a traitor to his kind. A snob! He loves people and people alone.

    But this only makes every “A lister” in his book all the more valuable, and we have been losing many of them, because time is marching on. We lost three in the last several months. Tucker himself is eleven. Not to mention there’s my own mom is sick with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer which she has managed to live with for over a year now. Moms. You can’t conceive or adopt another. Not really. You can call someone your mom. You might get one as an in-law. But the real deal…you only get one of those.

    And mine, for all her ups and downs, has been a gem.

    There is no love without pain. I wish there were. I’ve lost family. I’ve lost friends. Strangely, the most gut wrenching pain one can experience, is all in front of me. And I can see it on the horizon. I already know I can’t get through that as the same person I’ve been.

    But I count on those that have been there, to be my guides. Thank you for your eloquent words. I take them to heart and hold them on those days when I feel myself walking through the darkness.

  27. Elyse says:

    I was touched recently that a Facebook friend of mine, an actual friend of my son Jacob, knew the story of my heart-dog, Goliath. Jacob had told her the stories.

    I am sure that there, deep in Lincoln’s psychic, Eko will linger. Will watch over him. Will love him.

    Some things just don’t die.

    ❤️❤️

  28. lisakunk says:

    That’s for sharing your experience. One that is share by so many. We’ve lost so many pets through the years as we never could turn away eyes I’m need. I’ve learned that the more you love the more likely you’ll grieve too often. This week is very fresh having just lost our silly coon hound who was everybody’s friend. So very loved. So very missed. Oh dang her I go starting to cry again. I’m sorry for all our losses. I’ve heard that the only flaw in dogs is their short life span. I agree.

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