Check out our new merch today!

February 10, 2015

Loving a Dog after Losing a Dog

This past November my brother James lost Dutch, his German Shorthaired Pointer, to cancer. Dutch was not a dog for James, Dutch was the dog for James. They first embraced as a wide-eyed puppy and a boy eager to love. They last embraced as a faithful dog and a
This past November my brother James lost Dutch, his German Shorthaired Pointer, to cancer. Dutch was not a dog for James, Dutch was the dog for James. They first embraced as a wide-eyed puppy and a boy eager to love. They last embraced as a faithful dog and a man with a broken heart. We are taught to guard our hearts from the perils of false love but we are seldom warned of the dangers of pure love. When Dutch died, James lost a reservoir of selfless love which nourished him for over a decade. How do you measure the scope of that loss? When surveying loss we look to pain to guide us. The places in our hearts which hurt most are where we say we feel the greatest loss. By this measure, James’s loss is most succinctly captured in the deafening quiet each time he opens his front door and Dutch is not there. There is another way to measure loss. And that is to consider the newly barren space in our hearts and ask how to best fill it. The wrecking ball of Dutch’s death swung through my brother’s heart and  left him in ruins. The temptation he felt, and we all feel, was to simply wall off that emotional desolation and move on. But in the past month I have watched James consider what to do with the void in his heart. I know he looked into that emptiness when he pet my dogs with a distant look in his eyes and a crack in his voice. There will always be a Dutch-shaped hole in James’s heart. It cannot be filled, but it can be a well of love to draw from. Amidst the rubble, James decided to draw from that well and rebuild himself. In January, James submitted a preliminary adoption application to Illinois Shorthair Rescue. After the application and a home visit, James quickly received approval to adopt any of ISR’s available dogs. There was no timeline, James could adopt whenever he was ready. My family traded photos and offered suggestions on what dogs might be a good fit but James remained noncommittal. Until he came along. Around eight years old and given up by a family no longer able to care for him. Like my brother, he was an old guy looking for another shot. His name was Dot (after the circle on his back) but he’d been rechristened Ted and he was living with a loving ISR foster family not far outside Chicago. I can’t say for certain why James made the decision, but I can say he made the decision certain. When James drove to “visit” Ted for the first time it was clear he didn’t plan on making the drive back alone. And so they returned together, two guys adrift in space and time, lashed to one another by fate. Neither Dot nor Ted seemed a fitting name for James’s new companion. He may not have shown up in a DeLorean, but world, meet Doc Brown!

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

I’ve only just met Doc, but he’s sweet, playful and affectionate. Most importantly, he’s with James. Each one making the most of a second chance.

James finds a smile he lost with Dutch

All Dutch ever asked of James was love. Dutch is gone, but James keeps his promise to Dutch through Doc. I can think of no better legacy.

Comments for Loving a Dog after Losing a Dog

  1. I’m so with you… and my tears are running like a waterfall….. but I’m so happy for your bro and Doc. I’m sute they are the perfect match… all my best wishes for Doc& James

  2. I need to stop crying. This was just beautiful. I am so happy for James and Doc, it was meant to be. When I adopted Cody two weeks after my 18 year old cat (who I had for his entire life), passed, I was guilt-ridden. The vet had told me “You aren’t replacing Bobo, no cat could replace him, but you ARE making NEW memories with a NEW cat.”….he went on to say “Bobo would want you to adopt another cat and give him the life and love that he had for 18 yrs.” That brought me so much comfort. I am sure that Dutch would feel the same. May Doc and James have MANY happy years together!

  3. Sue Putt says:

    The smile on both of their faces says it all. And I’m sure there is a big celebration wherever Dutch is at…knowing Dutch did such a good job that his person is willing to risk loving once again. Congratulations! Now I need to go find some kleenix!

  4. Emmadog says:

    Leaky eyes over here! How sweet and touching! They will have some wonderful times ahead! He will still cry over Dutch, maybe talk about Dutch to the new fellow, but this guy will find his own spot in your brother’s heart. Congratulations to both of them.

  5. paws2smile says:

    Such a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing this with us. 🙂

  6. KarenS says:

    I think Dutch would approve. 🙂

  7. meANXIETYme says:

    I think James and Doc are going to have amazing adventures ahead. I am so happy for them both. A person (or people) who rescues an older dog is a very special person indeed!

    Hopefully James will be able to remember that bonding with a dog is as individual as the dog (and person). It might not go the same as it did with Dutch, but in the end it will be a beautiful relationship all their own!

    And thanks for the amazing blog post, as usual. (also, more pictures when James and Doc are ready!)

  8. OhMelvin says:

    Your writing often makes me take pause and I have to go back and read it all again, soaking in every word! I’m glad Doc the rescue, rescued his forever human! This is going to be a love affair for the books!

  9. fredrieka says:

    BonBon is part pointer and white lab I know he loved his dog like we love BonBon

  10. This is a great story of love, loss, and re-finding. Really tugged on the heart strings here as my own old boy is hitting 13 in just shy of a month. I firmly believe re-opening your heart to love is the best thing you can do after losing such a beloved friend & companion.

  11. Mona Sigal says:

    OMG easily the most beautiful blog you have ever written

  12. Such a great story! I’m so glad your brother found a dog for himself.

  13. T&S says:

    I read the whole story five times… so amazing… you made me cry…
    Great decision to give a loving home to older dog…
    It seems like the two were meant to be together.
    Please write us more about them!

  14. dashlilly says:

    Bravo. Beautiful post. Beautiful thoughts. Beautiful Doc!

  15. Elyse says:

    Just the right answer for both James and Doc. You never quite fill those holes, but I think your heart grows into a new form with each new furry friend.

  16. raisingdaisy says:

    We’re so happy for James and Doc! May they have many happy years together – the perfect match! 🙂

  17. coastingnz says:

    Beautiful as always when it comes to loss and Dutch. Love all those photos – he was a treasure and still is in James heart and he always will be. I have my Jeddyboy as my screen saver – 7 years later he still gets his good morning and good night but I also have Ziggy to fill that void. It took a while even after he arrived but I love him unconditionally just as he loves me. The void may be filled but the heart has not forgotten. Beautifully written Will – thanks for the morning tears and well done James and welcome Doc Brown.

  18. Hurrah! I’m so glad your brother opened his heart again…and to a needy senior – love it. Doc is a handsome guy and I’m certain he and James will be a good match. We love adopting seniors – most of the training is done and they are typically wise old souls. Best of luck to James & Doc.

  19. This was so beautifully written as I have tears of happiness streaming down right now. So glad James opened his heart up to a older rescue, that doc will thank him with smiles each day of his life. Congrats on the new journey.

  20. How much smaller our hearts would be without their love and companionship – always worth the loss if they have a long and happy life.

  21. I couldn’t help but cry as well when I read this…..your words about what James went through when he lost Dutch (which we remember so well) were touching but the way James and Doc Brown just seemed to be RIGHT for each other at the RIGHT time was magic. Some say that our pets find us……I think James and Doc Brown found each other at the same instant! Thanks for telling us…..this absolutely MAKES MY DAY!

    Hugs, Pam

  22. Bet you can’t wait to see the first time Penny goes barreling into Doc! I can already see the look on Eko’s face; “I warned you, dude”
    That was a fantastic post once again. You never cease to amaze me Will. Our congrats to James and to Doc for being lucky enough to find one another.

  23. This is wonderful, welcome to the extended Territory family, Doc Brown. I often think that when we are ready, the best thing we can do for our hearts is make room for more love. Truly touching.

  24. Ogee says:

    Love this. And love people who find their way back to loving another.

  25. T&S says:

    Just wanted you to tell James one more thing, that he has to be patient now, rehomed dogs need a little more time to bond with new owner and gain trust.
    Our both RR are rehomed kids from people who liked RRs but were not familiar with breed. Our male was 5,5 months old when we got him from previous owner who left him month earlier in a dog hotel, he bonded very quick with us, but had serious separation anxiety, he still has some but not that bad. And one year later we adopted our female, she was 7 months old when we got her from breeder, returned from previous owner in a bad condition, it took our female about ten months to realize that this is her home now and always, she is still a little bit shy and insecure in some situations.
    Wish James best luck from us, I am sure that he will give a loving home to Doc and in time get all the love in return.

  26. Sarah says:

    What a wonderful outcome–thanks for sharing it with us, and congratulations to the happy couple! :-))

  27. Mindy Cromwell says:

    That is beautiful…thank you so much for sharing!!

  28. Wendy says:

    Thank you for telling your brother’s story. I found your blog when your post about James losing Dutch was shared on facebook. It’s lovely to see James’ new dog and to know that at eight years old Doc Brown has been given a name worthy of those wise dog eyes.

  29. Will and Eko,
    I found your blogs after frantically searching for hope, encouragement and wise words after losing my boy, a loyal, loving and amazing blind cocker spaniel who spent most of his life in the dark. My Dad bought him for me after the loss of my dear Mum 12 years ago, My dad died just before my boy and then I lost him( Bailey ) at xmas. I have been a mess ever since, crying every night and much of the days as they pass swiftly into a new season. Grieving for our pets, my pet, my boy, leaves us very vulnerable and makes time stand still, I feel I am not healing, a big part of me has died along with Bailey. But today reading your post I have a little bit of hope that my life can begin again, for your articulate words conveys such joy another boy can bring to your brothers life, its so uplifting. Perhaps I can look forward to one day meeting another boy or girl to give me my smile back.
    Thank you, tell your brother I am so chuffed for him and Doc Brown, I look forward to peeking into their lives, their story.
    Mo Redford,

  30. Kismet says:

    No better way to honor Dutch than to take in one of his kind who needed it.

  31. Liz says:

    What a beautiful remembrance. My eyes are full of tears.

  32. harrispen says:

    So glad to hear your brother has a new companion. Can’t wait to hear more about Doc.

  33. Oh Will, I am so very very happy for James and Doc! I am crying tears of happiness right now! What a handsome boy. I can’t wait to see what adventures they have together!
    Marty’s Mom

  34. missingaspen says:

    I am so glad to see that James has found a new companion to share the adventures of life with. I just recently started boarding 2 foster pups through dogs on deployment. Expierencing the fun and excitement of having dogs back in the house again is such a wonderful feeling. Congrats on the newest addition to the pack!

  35. sisubeads says:

    Beautifully written.

  36. I teared up in the office while reading this. I think Dutch would be very very happy that James and Doc Brown have each other now!

  37. Such a beautiful tribute to Dutch and senior dogs! I recently lost a dog that I was a “second mom” to. I am heartbroken but find comfort in knowing in the Rainbow Bridge. Thank you for sharing.

  38. Katy says:

    I am so happy Doc and James found each other! This is great news! I have a rescue RR and I know that there is no better dog for me and i hope there is no better dog for James than Doc. Wish them (and you) many smiles ahead!

  39. BEST. STORY. EVER. Much happiness is in the future for these guys. And man fun playdates with Eko and Penny.

    Love and licks,

  40. Marcela says:

    Loved your post, this part most of all, “Dutch was not a dog for James, Dutch was the dog for James.” To me, it is touching, beautiful, and amazing how much you love your brother and Dutch, his dog. Doc is so handsome. Tell your brother, on my pack’s behalf, congratulations, good luck and may they have many, many happy years together. I am so happy for them.

  41. Doc Brown…. great name. I can’t wait to hear more about the adventures these two will have together!

  42. Carol Conner says:

    The best cure for a broken heart and the loss of your best friend is to give another dog a home. He will never be “that dog” but he will burrow into a new place in James heart. I am almost 70 and have had a number of “heart” dogs. No one has ever replaced anyone else but I have found that my own heart has infinite room.
    I think it’s wonderful that James found an older rescue. They need love even more then puppies and don’t always get the option of a loving home.
    Will, I LOVE how you write.

  43. Cheryl Mandell says:

    I absolutely love that age didn’t matter. It is wonderful…. I wish many more people would consider older dogs-wiser, sweeter, better……….

  44. Having had well over a dozen ‘rescue’ dogs – not necessarily official ones, just ones who wandered into our lives – over the last 35+ years and having to help them on their final path this article has articulated what I’ve known and felt for a very long time. Thank you for writing it… so happy for James and Doc Brown! Now we have 2 rescue dog babies who love each other and have helped my husband and me deal with the emptiness we felt after the loss of 2 old fur babies who were with us through many miles and many moves. Love and miss my Patsy and my Eli-boy. But Wagner and Coda are new treasures that have, as you said, expanded our hearts and comforted our pain.

  45. Well told story. Thank you

  46. Jessica Gaab says:

    What a great story! I HAD to get another dog after my dog died and my boyfriend and I have never regretted it. I still miss him everyday, but am so happy we have Ellie! Congrats on Doc!

  47. So happy for you and your brother. That Doc is one handsome dude and I can tell from the sparkle in James’ eye, the absolute perfect prescription to fill his heart. May the future hold loads of laughs and hours of joy spent with a new slice of paradise. Happy second chances. Live, love, bark!

  48. John says:

    What beautiful and loving stories of Dutch and James, and now Doc. I could relate so well. I also lost the best friend I’ve ever known, my GSP named Tess. It has been almost four years now. Tess was a rescue from the local dog pound at about two years old. She shared her life with me for over 12 years. The time spent with just Tess and I doing all the things we did together are without question the best times of my life, and hers too. Her passing was devastating for me. And just as you said in your description of Dutch and James a part of me died with Tess as well. I thought that eventually I would be found by Tess’s successor but the heartbreak has been too powerful and long lasting. I may be ready now. I want to thank you for telling the world about Dutch and James. It spoke to me in a way I needed. I believe that soon I’ll be found by my next adoptee (I hope it’s a GSP again) but I know that there could never be a replacement for Tess. A successor, yes, and if I’m lucky a companion as good, loving, accepting, loyal and life fulfilling as her predecessor Tess The Wonder Dog. What a wonderful legacy to leave! Thank you.

  49. Jr Martinez says:

    I still think our dog “Chula” a stripped 10 year boxer will show back home, went out like a shadow and I guess she has had a good lifetime so far hope someone has her well?

  50. Perry says:

    Love this man
    I miss my jack

  51. Geri Zeibert says:

    Can’t stop crying, beautifully written. I hope to read much more from you and I saved your article because I have 2 large breed rescues. Karma, the Rottweiler & Orflaith, the Leonberger are 8 & 9 years old respectively and I know my time with them is limited. I hope your post will bring me some comfort but more importantly remind me why it is imperative that we keep opening our hearts up to such devastating pain. Blessings to you, the pups, all your family and especiall, James and Doc Brown.

  52. Peggy King says:

    This is so sweet. I still tear up about babies I have lost in the past, and I know I am going to lose one not too far into the future, he is 15 1/2, medium size boy. It is a full circle, they give you their heart, they break yours when they leave, and the next child comes offering to give it back. I do not say it correctly, but it is a bottomless well. My brother is one who has sealed himself off, and he is definitely not the same as he was when he had his girl.
    I miss the person he was.
    I would not give up my babies for any reason.
    Good Bless James, Dutch and the new kid on the block Doc.

  53. Rachel says:

    I just lost my best friend last week. Her name was Heidi and I adopted her 9 years ago, when she was around 8 years old.

    There are many things I could say about her and my relationship with her, which will never be matched by another, but what I commented to say is this – adopting a senior dog is the best thing I’ve ever done. It does set you up for the pain of loss sooner than adopting a younger dog, but I’d make the same choice over and over again. I’m very happy for your brother, and hope to run into him and doc at the dog beach.

  54. Donna says:

    I lost my Brandy this year on Valentine’s Day after having her for 12 years. After a long night of seizures that left her not able to walk, I had to make that horrible decision that no one likes to do and have her put down. It feels as though my heart has been ripped out still. I have been to the Humane Society several times in hope to find one just like my baby. But after reading your story, I’ve learned that I cannot replace her even though I want to so badly. I just need to rescue another loving soul whom I know I will have enough love for.

  55. Christine Stamets says:

    Your articles are beautifully written. We too adopted after losing our beloved Mugsy. I didn’t feel that I was ready, but a local rescue really needed a foster for a beautiful, shaggy, snaggle-toothed short dude with great big albatross eyes who was about to be put down. What better way to honor Mugsy then to rescue another? We actually came back from the shelter with two, knowing that we would go through this heartbreak yet again— but the pain is so worth it. I never knew I was capable of loving so much until we got a dog.

  56. Peggy Layman says:

    Tears spilling down my face. What a beautiful story. We got our chocolate cocker spaniel when she was 8 wks old. That was 16 yrs. ago. She has been deaf for 2 yrs.(common in the breed) Doesn’t bother her and we still talk to her. Hard habit to break. LOL We can’t even imagine this little old lady gone from our lives. She eats less and her walks are much shorter. Oh, but she lives for her healthy treats. Just like my 96 yr. old Mom who eats less, uses a walker, and can’t hear well at all. Oh, but she loves her good chocolates. Two little old ladies that we dearly love. Can’t imagine life without these 2 girls. Bell is only my 2nd dog (Anna an Old English Sheep dog I had for 11 1/2 yrs as a young adult sobbed for a long time). This is my husband’s 1st ! Wasn’t at all sure about a dog but at 3 weeks he was in love for the first time in his life! House broken by then and he was amazed by that. We are in our 60s now and we will be a mess when she’s gone. We don’t even go there. Greatful for everyday we have with her. She’s still quite bright eyed and spunky when she’s not sleeping. Like the rest of you dog lovers we just love them. They are family. All the stories you all have shared are so warm and loving. Bless you all.

  57. […] When James picked up Doc last winter, none of us was sure what to expect […]

  58. […] past posts on loss I’ve written about grief, recovery, love and perspective. But today I’m drawn to think not about who dogs are when […]

  59. Christine says:

    Made me cry, made me smile. You captured it perfectly, what it is to love a dog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Us on Instagram