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Four years ago today, a dog died and took a boy’s heart with him.
I come back to this blog on this day each year to meditate on that dog and that loss because I know Eko is not done teaching me. The wisdom of his memory waits ready for the man who was too young or in too much pain to understand the lessons those years ago.
But as this day loomed, I resisted the quiet communion with my puppy. I feared Eko’s memory would no longer recognize me. The boy he left is gone, replaced by a man who finds it harder and harder to remember the boy.
Was that really me who was so cavalier to believe he could put his life on hold to get the puppy he always dreamed about? So carefree to delight in having no plan beyond caring for Eko? So willing to live out of a car without a destination in life beyond the next place we stopped?
Just a few short years later and I struggle to recall who I was before. Before Eko’s death broke me, before Penny demanded I get out of bed, before Zero helped me find my way, before becoming a father restored me, and becoming a father again remade me.
How could I expect Eko’s memory to recognize and guide someone he’d never met, living a life he never knew? I imagined trying to explain it all to him as he faithfully listened, but when I got to the part about Penny now ruling the roost it was too much of a stretch for even an imagined conversation with a dog.
Penny? Penny Mayhem? My insane kid sister is in charge? Things must be even worse than I imagined…
And I’d laugh, because this year, of all years, it certainly feels that way. “Oh yeah, it’s all going to hell,” I’d reply. “So we figured who better to lead us than the Queen of the Damned.”
The daydream made my smile so I avoided shining the light of Eko’s spirit on my faded memories of the boy he loved so dearly. I was too afraid it would reveal that by forgetting myself I was forgetting him. To lose Eko again would be too much to bear, so I decided to set aside reflection and focus on simple remembrance. To go back to the beginning – the photos, the blogs, the videos, and remind myself of our time together.
I found the story no less thrilling for knowing the end. I reveled in our parade through New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and relived scrambles up steep ridges in the Rockies. I discovered the memory of Eko’s smile remains as vivid as ever. I closed my eyes and knew with certainty my hands recalled the exact shape of his head held between them. And in remembering Eko, I remembered myself. My hopes, my dreams, my love and the dog who forged them together.
In a moment of revelation I understood the memory of the boy is not truly fading. He now lives in the memory of the dog. The realization was at first profoundly saddening. Where I once thought I could at least hold onto the boy, I saw that he too was gone. And no more likely than Eko to recognize the man I’d become.
But I now have such profound gratitude for this difficult truth. Because it means the boy and the dog are bound as one, forever. As it should be. And though they are both gone, they have left me a truly priceless inheritance – a life and a family that would have been impossible without either of them.
Today, more than ever, my heart is at peace. I don’t need to worry over the dog or the boy – they have each other. Instead, I will cherish their gift by dancing with my wife, playing with my children and racing across the beach with my dogs.
At the end of the day we’ll flop on the couch. Emily will smile, Zero will lick Lincoln and Quinn in turn, Penny will demand the best seat, and I’ll laugh. Because in that moment on that couch I’ll know for certain life is even better than the boy or the dog could have imagined.
There’s so much to mourn, both in the past and present. Our lives and our world are teetering precariously. But this day I devote to gratitude for a boy and his dog. And all of you who joined us along the way. Thank you!
4 years ago our world broke apart too… but now the memory brings smiles … and I’m the perfect multitaskerette I cry with a smile… hugs to you… the boy and the dog will live forever in our memory that’s for sure…
You always manage to catch the essence of the bonds we have with our K9 brethren. Watching your family grow is delightful Will and those two will come out to say hi when you least expect it. A small smile will form and quietly you’ll say to yourself “Hi guys,” and all will be right with the world and nothing else matters in that moment.
Perfect. I needed that this morning. Thank you.
So many great memories of your adventures that year on the road.
Eko was a great companion & friend.
You honor all the forever-bonds we have with our dogs. The lessons, the joys and the heartaches. Thank you for again expressing in beautiful prose the deepest longings of our heart.
Oh yes the boy and the dog will live in your heart forever as I remember the man who left his family way too soon! It a cherished memory and you can alway s reflect on the good times spent together! HUGS and love to the old you and the new one that took his place as you can still tell the greatest stories that with your memories!
I’ll never forget Eko, he was an awesome dog. All my dogs are special, but some really are in your heart more than others. I mourn the loss of Emma every day and it’s been almost two years. The other three are so awesome and I love them to death, but Emma was special as was Eko to you. He will always be with you.
Thanks for continuing to share Eko and the “boy’s” journey with us Will. Love and Union transcend flesh. I really like the imagery of the boy and the dog forever bound together in time. It helps to remind me that Kali and I too will never be apart even after one or both of us go.
What a beautiful tribute, to both then and now. You put a smile on my face today. Thank you.
What a wonderful story about the love for your dogs and how theu are part of your development as a human being. Wise Words!
Dogs can be great teachers and the best part is they never have tests.
I think of Eko often – and my own boys, Jed, Nico and most recently our beautiful Ziggy. They all had something to teach they all took a piece of my heart and they all stay forever in my memory and in my heart.
Many thanks for sharing your journey, both with the boy and his dog as well as the man that grew from those adventures. Blessings to you and your family.
Thank you for your very moving post. We all celebrate our lost dogs in different ways, but remember them we do with smiles, tears, and love.
Today about noon John dropped by with Molly along with Penny and Kali’s half sister and brother Vera and Enzo. Six ridgebacks running and playing in my back yard was a pure joy to see. Amid the caos my thoughts drifted to think of Penny and Echo, Then, after they left, to come in to see your post was a wonderful coincidence.
Hi Will, this is Anne from @the_rhode_ahead. I was scrolling through my emails and saw this and thought I would check it out too. So glad I did; loved this extended version of your IG post from today. Yes, Eko would be shocked that his crazy annoying kid sister is ruling the roost now. That made me laugh so hard. Thinking of you and your family on this poignant anniversary. Eko’s love never died but has continued on and will do so for infinity.
In these uncertain times, I do miss you eloquent posts. I’ve been a huge fan for years, and cried when Eko passed away. This blog keeps me connected with my dad, I live in NH with my RR, ChiChi & my entire fam lives in FL. We moved from Chelmsford, MA out if a condo to a house w/ 186 acres of conservation land as my backyard. Being a teacher, I’d planned on driving West this summer to visit fam & friends in OH, CO, & CA w/ a stop in Chicago to intro Penny & Zero to my whirlwind of a dog, ChiChi. But w/ C19, that won’t be happening. However, I do look forward to reading your blogs & enjoying my life with my Rhodesian Ridgeback, ChiChi, aka, squirrelly girly! Thanks’ for sharing your life stories & amazing writing ability. Take care & all my best to your lovely family.
Odd that I would come back today. I think of you often and am thankful that you shared Eko with all of us. Hope you and your family are well. Marty the Manx’s mom Kelly
I have been reading your posts for a few years now, and I love your writings., stories, your amazing family. You are all so wonderful. You should be so thankful for all you have. I cried reading your story. I cried for your pain but also mine. I have a RR that actually looks like Eko. He just turned 3 years old. Half a year ago he was diagnosed with Lymphoma. We spent a lot just to have a little more time with him. He’s in remission now, but I’m scared of what and when will happen. It’ s a moment that looms over me every day. His condition brought us closer, and although he was meant to be my son’s buddy, he’s my tail day and night. He has so much love to give… I try to relish the moments with no apprehension of the future, but it’s very hard. In a way, the way Eko went, may be a blessing in disguise. Eko will always be in your heart bringing with him happy, amazing moments, but also sadness and the feeling of loss. I don’t think it ever completely goes away. I always try to remember the happy moments with the dogs I lost. And then, I keep wondering, why such amazing, extraordinary animals, dogs, are destined to live such a short life. Wish you happiness and to find peace in your heart.
As we used to say in the Old country . Rhodesians never die . Oh so true . Keep well all of you. Nila The Mad sends sisterly love to Penny ,mistress of The Realm of Mayhem;
So honored to have been able to join and watch and learn and love along with those two. So happy to also have those memories.
Love and licks,
Not only do our surrroundings change but we change and hopefully for the better.
Thank you for posting your feelings in such a heart felt way. I’m of the age where I stopped counting my age in years but instead I count my age shared with my past and present fur babies. Losing them is the hardest part in life most of us have to endure. It seems with each new puppy we get our lives also enter a new phase and our dogs seem to mold into that phase seamlessly. Zula is my first RR and I’m retired and she is 15 months of age. We both get up early each morning and go for a run or long walk, the rest of the day we mostly spend on the couch. Her with her head in my lap and me softly petting my girl’s head. Sharing that kind of love well, seems we entered the best phase of life!
It’s wild that I now decided to look for your old “Just a Dog” video on You Tube. The one with the sweet piano tune in the background. I didn’t realize the anniversary of Eko’s passing was just days ago. Kismet!
And now I’m not finding that video anymore, even if I use “Marking Our Territory Just a Dog” as the key words. With or without the word “Petcentric.” Did they take it down? I needed to listen to it.
Peace to you!
I remember when you lost Eko and reading your sad blog and crying my eyes out in disbelief. I couldn’t believe he was gone, way too soon. I think of you every September, as I know the anniversary of his passing is that month. Thank you so much for your beautiful words, always. I have missed you and am glad you are back. Hope you and your family–furry and not–are all doing well with all of this craziness. God bless you!