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November 23, 2017

The Dog Who Means Nothing to Me

Last Thanksgiving my family gathered in Chicago and we lifted our glasses to the memory of Eko – the dog who meant everything to me. That same evening, at the top of a winding dirt driveway in Michigan, a dog who meant nothing to me was born. For five transformative years I spent nearly every moment with Eko. He shepherded me through one of the most uncertain and tumultuous times of my life. I hammered and tempered and reforged my soul under the guidance of my puppy. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Eko. More importantly, I wouldn’t be who I am. So without Eko, I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. I lost my compass when I lost Eko, but this aching emptiness will be my guide, I wrote. After years of speaking with a full heart I had to learn to listen with an empty one. I spent each day trying to replace what I lost, but when I lay my head down to sleep and tapped my heart it still rang hollow. Those empty reverberations led me up a dirt driveway in Michigan one wintry January afternoon. I didn’t want to be there but I had nowhere else left to go. I needed help to find my way again.
Last Thanksgiving my family gathered in Chicago and we lifted our glasses to the memory of Eko – the dog who meant everything to me. That same evening, at the top of a winding dirt driveway in Michigan, a dog who meant nothing to me was born. For five transformative years I spent nearly every moment with Eko. He shepherded me through one of the most uncertain and tumultuous times of my life. I hammered and tempered and reforged my soul under the guidance of my puppy. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Eko. More importantly, I wouldn’t be who I am. So without Eko, I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. I lost my compass when I lost Eko, but this aching emptiness will be my guide, I wrote. After years of speaking with a full heart I had to learn to listen with an empty one. I spent each day trying to replace what I lost, but when I lay my head down to sleep and tapped my heart it still rang hollow. Those empty reverberations led me up a dirt driveway in Michigan one wintry January afternoon. I didn’t want to be there but I had nowhere else left to go. I needed help to find my way again. Sorrow can withstand many things, but eleven Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies is not one of them. A wave of Lilliputian pups pinned me down like Gulliver and I couldn’t help but revel in their exuberance. Here were eleven new beginnings. Eleven stories ready to be told. Eleven lifetimes of adventure and love in need of only someone brave enough to start the journey with them. Next to me, a round-headed puppy with an orange collar nestled himself in Emily’s lap, cozying up against our unborn son. A puppy and a baby? That’s a journey requiring a brand of bravery many would call madness. But as we drove through the snow back to Chicago I couldn’t have been more certain I needed to start a new story. For myself, and for my son. A story cannot begin before naming the characters. We name our dogs after things we love. We name them after heroes, myths and the ideas closest to our heart. Mr. Eko got his name from a character on the TV show LOST. Eko was a loyal and powerful presence in the show, and so too was Eko the dog in my life. When I carried the orange-collared boy to my car for the first time I knew this story must start a different way. I would not name him after something I loved the most, but instead I would name him after something I feared the most – losing everything. “Losing Everything,” doesn’t quite have a good ring to it, so I shortened the name to Zero. It is easy to live each day with the people and things we love. But after losing Eko I was reminded of how impossibly difficult it can be to live with the things we fear. I lost Eko in an instant. I knew I could lose Penny or Emily or our future child in the same fashion. How do you cope with that stark reality without letting it cripple you? On his first day home Zero was a ridiculously cute puppy, but he still didn’t mean anything to me. Selfishly, I knew in my heart I would trade Zero for Eko in an instant if I could. How could a dog who meant nothing to me ever compare to a dog who meant everything to me? It seemed like an impossible challenge, but to refuse to meet it would be to refuse the lessons Eko taught me about love. I began at zero. With Zero. You cannot explain grief to a puppy. You cannot tell them you are broken and lost. Well, you can, and I did, but a puppy doesn’t care. Because no matter the question, a dog’s answer is always the same: “Okay.” There is no sin, no crime, no confession from which a dog cannot absolve you. Tell a dog your darkest secrets or your deepest fears – even name them that fear – and they will happily lick your face in return. Are any of us worthy of such unconditional love? It doesn’t matter because our dogs offer it regardless. So it was with Zero. Because where I met Eko with an open heart, I came to Zero with a broken one. Each time I looked at Zero I was reminded of all that I lost in Eko and all that I might lose each time I give a piece of my heart away. With so much on the line, and still in such pain, how could this puppy expect me to also give myself to him? He didn’t. He simply licked my tears, comforted Emily when she was sick, revived Penny’s sagging spirits, and infused every moment of our lives with a relentless vitality. Without the weight of expectation I slowly began to share my heart with Zero. But where I gave Eko my love with unencumbered naiveté, I gave Zero my scarred love with the full knowledge of what it will cost me. Someday this love will make me hurt and suffer in ways in which language has not yet crafted words for, but if Eko taught me only one thing it is that indescribable suffering is a small price to pay for love. By the time we brought Lincoln home from the hospital Zero had helped me renew my courage to love unconditionally no matter the cost. But once again I wavered. This was not how it was supposed to be. Because I do not know how to teach a boy how to be a man. That was Eko’s job. When I crossed the threshold to our apartment with Lincoln for the first time, I steeled my heart for disappointment. Eko wasn’t there and I was on my own. Zero disagreed. My massive puppy whose primary mode of locomotion is crashing, daintily licked my son and nestled against him once again. From that day to this one Zero has been Lincoln’s doting nanny, bathing him in kisses and carefully curling up next to him for naps. Zero is Lincoln’s shadow, his protector, his guide. His Eko. This morning I’m headed to the beach with Penny, Zero and Lincoln. There, in my heart, we’ll meet Eko and that selfish part of myself who would do anything to have him back. That greedy denizen will again ask, “Would you give up Zero for Eko? Would you give up nothing for everything?” I will hug my son, watch my dogs play and finally be able to say “No. I wouldn’t trade Zero for the world.” And with that thought honor Eko’s love more fully than ever before. Serendipitously born on a day of gratitude, Zero truly is my thanksgiving. My constant reminder gratitude is not acceptance, it’s action. It’s loving and losing and suffering and wallowing and finding the courage to do it all again, even if you may need a puppy’s help to do so. It’s struggling and failing and striving in audacious defiance of death. Death. That’s where it ends. For a puppy and for all of us. But what a sad thing it would be to let a little detail like that stop us from loving unequivocally along the way. Tonight, my family will raise our glasses again in thanksgiving. As always, I’ll remain thankful for the dog who meant everything to me. But this year, on his first birthday, I’m especially thankful for the dog who means Nothing to me: Nothing taken for granted. Nothing gained, if not risked. Nothing worth loving that isn’t worth suffering for. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy birthday Zero!    

Comments for The Dog Who Means Nothing to Me

  1. I’s amazing that you wrote about so much things I feel too… but I never had the power to write about it… while reading I only can say TRUE TRUE TRUE. I also tried to start everything different…and I hadn’t to do much, it WAS different… I cried while riding home with Phenny on my lap… there wasn’t this overwhelming joy I felt as I rode home with Easy… but one thing was the same… I felt love for this little puppy… and as long as I can feel love I think I’m not totally lost in grief and non-accepting. Thanks for this post, it helped so much, specially this time when it will be one year without the pup of my life… Happy Thanksgiving to you all…

  2. Fran says:

    Happy birthday Zero. I m so thankful Will n Emily found you cause u r the angel that Lincoln needs as well. Happy Thanksgiving to u all n Angel Eko will be watching n guiding u all. Love n hugs

  3. Love this post. A tribute to Zero and Eko all in one. Happy birthday, buddy! What a perfect day to be born. Like a missing puzzle piece, you clicked into exactly the right place at exactly the right time. You mean nothing to me either – nothing but fun and a lifetime of fantastic stories.

  4. Isabelle says:

    Your words deeply touched me. It’s so true and so beautiful. Happy Thanksgiving to you all from France

  5. Shirley Andonie says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you Will, and to your beautiful family. And thank you for sharing your unique and meaningful thoughts about life. Your words touch my soul.

  6. There are tears of joy in my eyes after reading this. What a beautiful tribute to both Eko and Zero. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and happy birthday, Zero!

  7. Shannon Schmit says:

    At least I wasn’t crying on public transportation when I read this one. Dogs, puppies particularly, heal all wounds. Beautiful post.

  8. Melody says:

    Thank You!!! My Zonka was your Eko and your words made me cry in remeberance in a happy way. We have Luna and Scout to love and push us forward. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Birthday to Zero

  9. KarenS says:

    Oh boy, here I am crying. Again.

    So true that only by opening up our hearts to the enivitbily of sorrow can we love. Today, I’m reliving last week when we said our goodbyes to a dog that shared our lives for almost 13 years. We knew the day would come. And we knew our hearts would break. And we would have changed nothing! He was born on a day of great change for us, and left us the better because of him.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family as well. Peace all.

  10. Geri Zeibert says:

    Once again you have me in tears and I promised myself I would not cry today! The Loss of someone you love is an experience most of the human race, no matter what their background, can all too unfortunately relate. The slow journey of rebuilding a life without that is something not everyone achieves. When it is accomplished, although we never forget what we have lost, it is something to celebrate and for which to be truly thankful. Blessings to you and all your family both canine and human for the holiday season and beyond. Thank you for sharing your wonderful gift for words which evoke such feeling!

  11. mamastick says:

    I lost Leo, my black lab, 4 years ago. He was my Eko. Your words are my words about the loss and recovery. I still miss him everyday, but I was blessed with re-homing a 3 year old chocolate lab/pit/boxer mix 4 months after I lost him. I didn’t know when I would be ready for another one or if I could love another one like I did Leo. I have a dear friend who reminded me that I love both of my children but differently. It was not too long after that that on a chance meeting in a local store, Bailey came into my life. She has healed my broken heart and I love her dearly. Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. Thank you for your story. Always the tears for your love of Eko and your love of your family both human and canine. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

  13. coastingnz says:

    Not a truer word was spoken – who said that, beside me just now. We lost our Nico in August and my heart still breaks and tears stream down my face even now in disbelief. We too have a new addition – Ansel and he is helping fill that hole in my heart. I sometimes think I would give up Ansel to have Nico back but that’s not fair as you say – Ansel is Ansel, he fills my heart with such joy, he loves me unconditionally – and I do love him too, sometimes I want not too so my heart won’t break when “that time” comes but onwards we must go, new journeys of discovery. Its been nine years since we had a puppy in our lives and while I think and miss Nico every single day I give thanks for having had the privilege of having Nico in our life and for Ziggy and now for Ansel. We never forget – they all teach us something if nothing but the true meaning of unconditional love. Happy thanks giving guys – here’s a toast to Eko and Nico, I like to think they finally got to meet even if we haven’t.

  14. Kismet says:

    We lost Kyla 3 years ago. She was sick and old and in anticipation of her demise, we got Kali who also needed a home when we got her. Times were best for the 11 months we had both of them together. Kyla trained Kali. They have similar personalities, yet they’re different. Losing Kyla would have been a lot worse without her protogé around. Kyla lived a good full life and in the end we couldn’t save her from her fate. Hell, we can’t even save ourselves from it.

  15. Connie Taylor says:

    Your choice of words always amazes me! You’ve helped more people than you’ll ever know. Have a safe, happy an wonderful Thanksgiving!,

  16. TheRidgebackLife says:

    For “a laungage that has not crafted words,” you have found them. And you never disappoint. We lost our Poco seven years ago this week and a thousand miles to our east, a Ridgie litter was born during a snowstorm. Neeka came out to us with four of her litter mates to find homes. We found her and loved her from day one. They can never fill the hole left behind, but she was able to squeeze in next to it and progressively make it smaller. Thank you, once again Will, for putting our love, and loss, into such beautifully written words. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and toss a birthday treat in Zero’s massive jowls for us.

  17. Gayleen Marmarelis says:

    Beautiful! As often happens, your words have reduced me to a puddle of tears. You truly capture the heart of a dog lover. Six weeks ago, I almost lost my precious Frankie to severe pyometra. For at least 72 hours, I didn’t know if I would ever get to take her home. The emptiness was real when I walked into my home, and there was no bounding RR to great me! But unlike your story with Eko, mine had a happy ending and I am sitting here looking at my once again healthy girl. Truly a miracle, but it certainly gave me a glimpse into your pain. Like Eko for you, Frankie is my everything. My heart and soul. Yes, I have family I love and treasure, but Frankie has been there with me, through thick and thin. I truly understand the bond we can have with our pups. Bless you for so beautifully articulating what so many of us feel about our fur children!

  18. Ogee says:

    With tears…and joy…for what you have discovered. Happy Thanksgiving. Eko taught you well.

  19. Victoria says:

    happy Thanksgiving to you and your whole crew from me, Muffin and Rigs – may all your days be blessed.

  20. T&S says:

    I always taught I could never love a dog like I love our male RR… now I know I couldnt, he has a special part of my heart. He is my first dog… he is my animal child.

    But our female RR has that other part of my heart, the one I didnt know it existed, that she made for herself. She is my joy, my superhero girl who taught me to smile more often and enjoy little things.

  21. T&S says:

    And happy Birthday Zero
    He is beautiful!

  22. Judy Petitto says:

    I’ve lost “my Eko” and I hope one day I can find my “Zero” You give me hope.Happy Birthday Zero and Happy Thanksgiving.

  23. Zena says:

    Beautifully said. My heart has scars from the ‘Ekos’ I have lost, but not to go on and risk another scar would be a half life.

  24. cathwhistler says:

    Will, you are a beautiful writer, and your writing resonates on so many levels… in its humanity, its vulnerability, its thoughtful and straightforward communication of really big messages. Thank you for sharing with us, and happy Birthgiving Day! <3

  25. Emmadog says:

    Happy first birthday, Zero. We know how hard it is to lose a pup we love so much, and then the excitement of a new puppy, our Madison, but also a feeling of guilt. Luckily for us, Katie sent us a Kuvasz whenever Mom had her doubts. We had only seen one Kuvasz in the years Mom was back in the US, but after Katie passed and we got Madison, a Kuvasz popped up so many times it was crazy. For us, it was confirmation that we did the right thing. Madison will never be like Katie, but she has the love Katie had for all of us, and she is her own dog and a splendid one at that. Life is tough and cruel, but we have to go through it and learn from all the good as well as the bad. Happy Thanksgiving!

  26. Happy birthday sweet Zero, you who brought the broken boy back to manhood so he could share you with his own boy. Bless you all. Happy Thanksgiving, happy life.

  27. Even broken hearts have room for new love … one of your most touching and poignant posts.

  28. René L. Hester says:

    Well said again Will. I’m so happy to read this post knowing you are well into healing from the loss of Eko. Thank you for your gift of writing so eloquently and sharing your most intimate and personal thoughts…there are life lessons everywhere. You’ve a lovely family & Zero is fitting in wonderfully. Happy Thanksgiving!

  29. Happy Thanksgiving and happy birthday Zero. I am so thankful that Zero was there expecting nothing to help you find everything again.
    Luvs to you all.

  30. My heart broke 6 years ago when my beloved Lab died and I stated we would never get another dog. I could not stand the loss and really any other animal could not compare, but really why was I comparing. 2 years ago I decided that it was time to let another one into our home and hearts. It was rough, first of all she was not a puppy, so I felt that her personality was formed by someone else so I could not connect. It just so happened that she connected with me the most, the person who was having trouble letting her in, the person who sought her out. I still miss Tess our beautiful silly Lab, but Park is here, loves us and is her own voice, not to be compared to anyone. We will celebrate her “birthday” on December 3rd because that is when she came home with us and each year she will take her own place in our hearts alongside that of Tess not replacing just snuggling up alongside. Happy Birthday to Zero, you have a wonderful family and heart.

  31. Elyse says:

    If I could frame this piece and keep it forever I would. It is so beautiful, and such a poignant reminder of what we find and what we lose with those furry beasts we give our hearts to. Thank you.

    Happy birthday to Zero, Happy Thanksgiving to all, and thanks to all the dogs who guided me through the ups and downs of life.

  32. Crummy Hooligans says:

    I lost my compass just a few weeks before you lost your Eko, everything you have said and felt has hit me deep in my heart. I miss her everyday and still curse the swift and unexpected abscence that was thrown upon us without warning. I did not want another Hooligan, i only wanted her back. Alas, it was not meant to be. I worked with a guy that had an accidental litter of 4 legged insanity on Thanksgiving. Their momma ate rat poison, avoided them and turned on them at every chance and he needed to get them new homes fast. So, i relented and went to his house to hopefully give one of these innocent fuzzies a chance at life. I walked in, slowly went to the gate and knelt down to see 6 bouncing yippy babies that just wanted to see what was going on. I just sat there watching and waiting while these crazy little things ran around like maniacs. That was until one little girl with one blue eye and one half blue half brown eye quietly walked up and sat in front of me and waited. She let me pet her and then when i picked her up, she curled up in my arms and fell asleep. She made it hard to refuse. So, we went home and started a new chapter of our lives. This girl rocked our house, shook up our lives and brought us much laughter and joy. She is always smiling, bouncing and playful with everyone. She will never be our Sierra, but she has helped heal my broken heart and reminded us that even when it doesn’t feel like it….life always has something in store whether you are ready for it or not and it can be just what you need. Happy Birthday to our Jelly Bean and to you Zero, may you continue to bring you own unique form of joy to all.

  33. Anne says:

    That was wonderful!!! I read it outloud to my family and had to pause a couple of times to keep from getting choked up. Your writing has a way of doing that to me, especially about this subject. Sounds to me like it was a journey not wanted but a lesson learned about life, death, love, and loss. You have come out of this experience a much wiser man. I am so glad that you chose love over fear. Love is the most powerful thing in the universe and fear only exists in our heads. Happy Birthday to Zero; being born on Thanksgiving Day suits him perfectly!

  34. It hurts because it’s not the same but eventually we realize it shouldn’t be the same. It should be a new a wonderful thing all its own.

  35. Just in the nick of time, too.Thank you!

  36. Dana says:

    10 agonizing days ago, I lost my big black beautiful Maddie after 14 years of her love and guidance through my life after a terrible divorce. She kept me centered and was always looking after me as I tried to find my way in life. I read your post and thought about how wonder it is that these creatures come into our lives and give it meaning. I was recently fostering a puppy who got to know Maddie in her last days and I have decided to adopt him. Not to replace her, but I find myself talking to him about her and about how I miss her. He looks at me like Zero must look at you and seems to say, “yeah, she was pretty great.” Thank you for allowing us to share your story.

  37. Eve says:

    WOW – oh WOW – that hits the heart where it hurts the most but also shows us how we are meant to move on and grow to love others too – be they humans or pets. It also brought back memories of loved one gone and hits homes the truth of how to grow and love again. Thanks for sharing this & as I read I realized how much I have missed your posts! I know how things go and will welcome any these emails any time they come my way as I don’t have an instagram acct. Hugs to you all! Happy Birthday Lincoln and Zero!

  38. Lovely very lovely! Happy Birthday Zero and Happy Thanksgiving

  39. R Brown says:

    So beautifully written, Will! Wishing you and your whole family a very Happy Thanksgiving!!! And a Happy, Happy Birthday to Zero!!!!

  40. Lorrie McClain says:

    Thank you for writing this. I lost my beloved Axel 5 weeks ago and I too have a broken heart. This article gives me hope!

  41. Jo Rhodes says:

    Happy birthday baby dog!! We love you.
    Jo, Sam and Dean

  42. Taryn says:

    Simply beautiful!

  43. Oh Melvin says:

    You. Inspire. Me. ❤️

  44. I found your blog after losing my dog suddenly and found comfort in your post about losing Eko. Within a month of Daisy passing away we adopted another dog as our remaining dog, Biggie, was really struggling with being alone. Our new rescue was a challenge to say the least. I told myself we rushed it, we didn’t wait long enough to find the right dog, etc. I refused to give up on her but I also refused to accept her as she was. Because she wasn’t Daisy. It took almost 6 months before I noticed I had started to love her just for being her rather than for the few similar qualities her and Daisy had. There was no way to replace the love I had for Daisy, I needed to find something new with Chia. Your writing is wonderful, beautiful, and relatable. It’s comforting to see someone else experience the same struggles with something that so many would think should be an easy, positive experience.

  45. Deborah Zorn says:

    Happy Birthday, Zero! May you have many more! Lovingly and tenderly written, your story of Eko and Zero brought tears to my eyes, and reminded me of the many dogs who have shared my own life and who I have loved. Several years ago, I lost a dog, a Portuguese Water Dog named Mattie, to an adverse reaction to a rabies vaccine. On the day Mattie died, I picked up Emily, another Portuguese Water Dog. I thought Emily could never fill the void left by Mattie and she hasn’t, but I love her and she has helped me to heal. Thank you.

    I see you live in Chicago. May I recommend my brilliant & remarkable integrative & holistic veterinarian, Dr. Barbara Royal, of The Royal Treatment Veterinary Center (4130 N. Rockwell, Chicago; 773-267-9966)? Her clinic offers the best of Western medicine plus alternative modalities, such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, massage, and Underwater Treadmill. Dr. Royal is the author of several superb books including “The Royal Treatment: A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets” & “One Hundred and One Reasons To Get Out of Bed.” She is also the co-star of an award-winning documentary, “Pet Fooled,” and the co-founder of RAHU (Royal Animal Health University,) where one can take extremely informative online classes so your pets can thrive and not simply survive. I love Dr. Royal. You will love her as well.

    Namaste! Good luck with Zero! I hope he has a long and healthy life with you, your wife, and your new baby.

  46. Lily says:

    Pain shared is pain divided…thank you so very much.

  47. Kaos says:

    I lost the love of my life a month after he turned 4, after a 2 year battle with epilepsy. Your story really touched my heart. My now 4 year old “replacement” knew my love for about 6 months. My heart still isn’t open yet despite the fact that my beautiful, fun, smart “replacement” of 4 years brings me joy and smiles everyday.

  48. DeeBH says:

    In July I lost my soul dog, Valentino, to a short battle with bladder cancer. He was only seven years old, and had come into our lives less than a year before our daughter was born. Like your Zero, he was her protector and her best friend. Thankfully we had decided to add a second dog before Val became sick, and he isn’t expected to “be” Val or “replace” Val because he was there at the same time. But the thought of adding another makes me sick to my stomach, to be honest. Your beautiful story gives me hope that in time that may change.

  49. pauline weller says:

    Over the years we have lost four wonderful dogs. Loyal friends and companions, they never replace, they fill the void, and in time, and in their own way, they fill your heart again.

  50. Charlotte Idleman says:

    My Raven was also a Thanksgiving puppy ! November 24, 2006. She has changed my life and I realize the price I will have to pay for being blessed by her presence . “Once I was old…..Then there was Raven”. She started a 60 year old on a journey into the agility world that forced me to take a stronger interest in my own physical condition.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  51. Maggi Burtt says:

    Thank you for this. I too lost my dog and was lost. I expected grief, I did not expect the grievous devastation. I decided to first get another kitten (as I’d also lost a beloved cat, Tagger, a few months before Cracker.) first, to give my remaining young cat company.
    So I posted on FB to say I was looking….and the first comment was someone saying a mutual friend had a puppy looking for a home. WHAT PUPPY?? Boom, a week later I had a 4.5 month old shepherd pup. She was fun and work and all of those things, but it took me couple of months to truly love her and not think about Cracker. Now, Shebang is the one who is here and Cracker is the one I miss but not as badly. I love them both. It IS possible. I also have a new cat who fits into the gang perfectly she came when the universe decided it was time.
    For each dog we lose that takes a part of us with them, they also leave a part and the next one comes and adds to that, so our hearts end up even bigger than they were in the beginning. The loss is worth the love.
    Happy Birthday, Zero

  52. Randy Haught says:

    Pearl was a reminder of how things in life go. She was a small black lab mix, cautious and hard to get along with puppy. I had rescued her but was unable at the time to get her mom who she was in the pound with. They were only days from termination and I had to save her if nothing else.

    I knew she had struggled in her young life. The pound worker was dragging her to me in the parking lot after I had completed her paperwork. After I stopped him in his tracks and had a few choice words. I took her home.

    When I got her home she wanted nothing to do with me. I sat her down in the house and she ran to the nearest corner in the room and sat staring at me. I picked her up but to no avail.

    About a week or so later. I awoke one night to here her whining. I got out of bed and picked her up and put her in the bed with me. She struggled to get away for a while and finally I held her long enough the she finally settled down and went to sleep next to me. When I got up the next morning much to my surprise she was still laying there awake but comfortable in the fact she was warm and being snuggled.

    Over the next couple of weeks we worked on this routine and finally she started getting into bed with me at night. Much to my surprise one night she came to bed and just stood next to my head and looked at me. She finally went over and started pushing the the cover around and made her way under the comforter. With a little effort she got settled in and curled up in a ball next to my stomach. This is where she slept over the next five years.

    During the next several weeks she had worked out a very odd routine. I would wake the next morning to find her on my pillow draped across my head like a hat. A dog hat. I woke the wife up giggling at that silly puppy. This was now the way I woke up every morning, with my dog hat.

    This little puppy had changed from a stand offish little girl to a pup that would not let me out of her sight. When she sat in my lap (Which was at every chance she could get) she protected me without hesitation. If you got close enough you got warning barks and growls. If you persisted you got bitten.

    She was with me until she was five years old and lost her. The doctors still had no idea of what took her away from me, but when she passed. it was if I had died with her. You are correct in stating that there are no words I could have written here to explain how I felt. I still think about her often and pictures or a sudden memory will still bring tears.

    So I raise a glass with you to Zero and Pearl. May they always be in our hearts…

  53. Amy Wukotich says:

    Thank you for writing this. You have no idea (or maybe you do) how true this rings for many of us, even though I’m reading it through my tears. I lost 2 of my beloved dogs in just over a week. I’ve been crushed, so focused on my loss. Something told me to reach out & foster a puppy this week. This explains why. Thank you.

  54. Well, I just bawled my way through this. Amy (above) tagged me when she posted this, because she knows i lost my beloved boy a few weeks ago. Actually, Amy was the one who brought Kone to my house to “foster” some 9 and a half years ago. Haha, that was a long fostering.

    Anyway, thank you for writing this and for capturing so well how so many of us feel. Kone was everything to me and I cry my way through each day and feel like I’ll never find any kind of happiness in my life…..but it’s comforting in a way to see that others feel similarly about our best friends and companions.

  55. The wonderful Golden dog, Sweet Eddie McFly, was mine. When he died I fell, face-first, in the dirt and remained there. I cried every single day for almost a year. God forbid anyone would say the name…’Eddie’. Even worse, a human Eddie was my brother-in-law. Not pretty cries, either- ugly smoosh-faced squalls. My sister, Mrs. Eddie, insisted that i get Charlie. My most beautiful and precious “orange dog”. Charlie fixed the hole that was my heart, my soul. I hope he knows that. Here’s a toast to all the furbies, past, and future. Thanks so much for this beautiful piece.

  56. I lost my “heart dog” in March 2015. Blessedly She was my friend for 16 years after I rescued her at 2yrs old. Although I had a second dog, I missed Crissy desperately. In early November 2015 I happened upon a plea by a New York rescue seeking for a short-term foster…only 3 weeks they said. They were going to southern Virginia to pick up 8 dogs from a small shelter and learned at the last minute that there were in fact 9 dogs and they did not want to leave one behind. Living in MD, it was easy to meet the northern bound transport and take a dog. Kelly has been with me ever since, and I swear my Crissy had a hand in bringing us together. Although Crissy was a soft sweet Kooiker girl, Kelly is a muscular American Bulldog, they have the same sweet, loving, cuddly personality. I will never forget how special Crissy was, but I thank her often for sending Kelly.

  57. Roseann says:

    My JRT Sweetie slept with me “around my head”, on my pillow like Pearl I helped her into this world on May 28, 2001 and helped her to rest after 16 years. She was my side kick everyday We pushed through the obstacles of life-deaths of family members, friends, neighbors, pets and years of loss and hardships. She had doggie breast cancer @ 15 and on the day I took her to her test her lungs had started to fill most and it was hard for her to breath. It may sound selfish that I let her continue a couple of months of life, after detected by our vet but she never showed any pain or discomfort. I thought I was waiting for her to tell me but she never did. I held her, in a recliner, with a vet tech friend about 30 minutes before and maybe 20 minutes after. I still cry. I’m crying now.

  58. Roseann says:

    My JRT Sweetie slept with me “around my head”, on my pillow like Pearl I helped her into this world on May 28, 2001 and helped her to rest after 16 years. She was my side kick everyday We pushed through the obstacles of life-deaths of family members, friends, neighbors, pets and years of loss and hardships. She had doggie breast cancer @ 15 and on the day I took her to her test her lungs had started to fill most and it was hard for her to breath. It may sound selfish that I let her continue a couple of months of life, after detected by our vet but she never showed any pain or discomfort. I thought I was waiting for her to tell me but she never did. I held her, in a recliner, with a vet tech friend about 30 minutes before and maybe 20 minutes after. I still cry. I’m crying now.

  59. Becky Lannon says:

    Wonderful story that touched me deeply. I lost my best friend thirty years ago and your story brought me to tears thinking about Blue. He was my mentor regarding love in many ways. He was so loyal. He loved my children and protected them time and again from different dangers that were in the world. He would have given his life for me. He was the epitome of trust and devotion. I still miss him. Unlike you, I have never allowed myself to get that close to an animal again. I’ve loved a lot of them, but never to the extent that I loved my Great Dane, Blue. It just hurt too much. I can’t go there again or I might not survive it.

    The pictures in your story were superb.

  60. kat says:

    Many of us have gone through a similar story but don’t have your talent to beautifully pair words with the feelings. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  61. Edie Dahlen says:

    You are an amazing writer. Thank you for sharing your deepest emotions with us all.

  62. Tina says:

    Dog Spelled Backwards Is GOD! The only living creature that loved you unconditionally forever and loved you more than they love themselves❤️️

  63. Thankyou for bringing tears to my eyes, memories to my mind and love to my heart!

  64. Having just lost one of my best companions, and having lost other “best” companions before, I understand the loss each one leaves and the joy which the puppy gives us. The tears continue to come, and the memories are so vivid and everywhere I ‘look’ I recall the loyalty and devotion and the laughs and even the physical contacts with my ‘best’ dog. At my age, I have had a number of special and wonderful companions…all unique in their way, and none more loved or missed than another. I just pray that one day I will be reunited with every one of them, because if I am fortunate enough that God will pass me on the Heaven, it will only be a Heaven if the companions I carry in my heart are there waiting for me.

  65. Laurie Rubley says:

    Thank you

  66. […] The Dog Who Means Nothing to Me, because “indescribable suffering is a small price to pay for […]

  67. Jessica says:

    I recently discovered your blog and am hooked. No, not because I’m a dog-lover (although I am), but because your writing and ideas are incredible. I look forward to reading more! Best, Jessica

  68. Colleen says:

    This is one of the most powerful , beautiful and poignant things I’ve ever read. I’ve been down that heart wrenching road many times, and have chosen over and over to take the same path, knowing full well what would come again one day. Few things would be worth the pain, but the love shared with a beloved canine companion definitely is.

  69. Judith Fevrier says:

    Love this story… our 150 pound Ridgeback, Chief, because he is ❤️ all things love ❤️❤️❤️

  70. Chris Farrand says:

    Glad to see you are back.

  71. Thank you. What a beautiful, heartfelt story. You hit so close to home for me.
    Just four months ago I lost my boy – my soul mate in feline form – to a predator. He was only with me six months. I got him from a shelter that rescued him from a hoarding situation. Eddie was scruffy, only nine pounds (4lbs when they found him), and still missing hair on his belly when I adopted him. In just six months he morphed into the biggest, most beautiful cat I had ever seen. He looked like a silver bobcat. Not only that, he had some magical affect on me – everyone saw it. Helped me to laugh again, help me to “live inside out.” His brief life with me and events around and after his death, have renewed my faith – in myself, the world, and God. There was just too much purpose and perfect timing for it all to be coincidence. But I thought I would die. Even with all the goodness that I felt and faith-turning, the emptiness was devouring.

    Then a few weeks back, I was compelled to browse Petfinder. I wasn’t ready for another cat that wasn’t him, yet I looked. And looked. Looking for him to return. Even met a few. Then I went to see “Anchor.” A shy, fluffy 8-week-old kitten, feral the first four weeks of his life.

    For some reason I brought him home. I think it was the way this scared, tiny baby looked right into my eyes and held them with his still-blue kitten eyes. That kind of eye contact from such a young, relatively unsocialized kitten was rare, if not amazing to me. I still wasn’t ready for another cat. I knew he wasn’t Eddie.

    I freaked out the first week I had him. Awake in the middle of the night, obsessing thoughts during the day: I made a mistake. I’m not ready. WHY did I bring him home? I’ll never love another cat the way I loved Eddie. No cat could even come close. T his cat will be too much work….on and on.

    But it seemed every time I had these nagging thoughts, there was Ben (formerly Anchor), jumping in my lap on rubbing my leg to pull me out. What timing. In a few weeks, I’ve had much the revelation that you did. This kitten has his own special place in my heart and I believe with me for a reason.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It was beautifully written.

  72. they are not “just animals” for us…they are our ‘soul mates’, our best, faithful companions and when we must say “goodbye to them and ‘suffer’ the loss of their presence, I understand that feeling. I have just lost four, in a couple of years, with three of my best companions (dogs) in the last two months of time. I do find that recording the memoires helps with the grief, but filling that empty space does take time…so glad you have another companion, not a replacement, to help you through the grief. Each one is unique and none replaces another, but simply adds another set of fond, loving memories for you.

  73. Muffy Wilson says:

    That was rich, painful, heartwarming, sad and happy. I cried, laughed, sighed and reflected on my losses and gains. What is one without the other? Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Birthday to us all, Zero <3 xo

  74. Cynthia Marquez says:

    So eloquently spoken. I have been owned by ridgebacks for most of my adult life now and your story reaches deep down into my heart with its truth. And your photos are exquisite.

  75. maddie says:

    After scolding my rescue dog Ace with frustration earlier this morning for pulling some tissues out of the garbage, this was the exact appreciation check I needed. I read this at work. It made me cry, grab my car keys, and drive home to go say ‘I’m so sorry for yelling at you and I love you SO MUCH Ace,” to my best buddy. I’m almost positive no one on this planet loves me as much as Ace does—and anyone who feels lonely or unloved just needs a DOG!
    Best read for me in a while.
    Thank you, Will, Zero, and Eko!

  76. Globug says:

    This was one of the most touching stories of love and loss of a beloved dog…and finding new hope in the new. I’ve been where you have…and lucky me, also found new hope in a new addition to my heart.

  77. MamaMinion says:

    Beautiful! There are few things in life more precious than unconditional love! Especially that of a dog. I don’t know what I would do without my houseful of them.

  78. Sara Ramos says:

    my wonderful katy will be 12 this year..im so scared to lose her i often forget to enjoy her in her old age.
    we grew up together. before marriage. before children. she was there…my little shadow. my bug. my vacuum. my yapper. thank you for this.

  79. Thank you for the cuteness! I love your story, and your beautiful photos. I especially enjoy the lion photo.

  80. Linda says:

    Thank you for this article. In your story of Eko and Zero I see my story of Bonnie and Bella, both Yorksire Terriers. My husband bought Bonnie for me shortly after my son passed away from complications of CF. I couldn’t love a dog more, by holding onto her tight, I was holding onto my son’s memory. After 14 fun-filled years with my precious Bonnie I knew the day would come when She would leave me, not because she wanted to leave, but because she was old, and also suffered from heart failure. I had planned to take her to the Vet to put her out of her misery the very day she died, February 20, 2017 at 8:30 a.m. I wrapped her in her favorite blanket, and sat with her lifeless body until my husband had her burial site all ready for her. Handing her body to my husband Crushed me. I cried, sobbed at times, for days. My heart was crushed.

    A month later a friend found another Yorkie puppy. This puppy was not “perfect”, she wasn’t show quality, the breeder was intending to cull her out of the litter. I decided against better judgement to bring a new little girl into the house….her name is Isabella Rose. Other than the fact that she’s a Yorkie there is nothing in Bella that reminds me of Bonnie. Bonnie was loving, she trained easily, wasn’t loaded with ADHD…but, Bonnie was a talker, Bella rarely barks except to let us know when someone is at the door. I could not warm up to Bella, no matter how hard I tried. I found I got angry at her because she had accidents, or she was chewing on something. I put in her playpen and only took her out to potty, the rest of the time that was her home. I had, at one point, decided I needed to find a new home for her. BUT, one day I found myself laughing at her puppy antics, and then I found I had renewed vigor in training her. She isn’t the cuddler that my Bonnie was, but she does love lying in my lap chewing her favorite toy. The more i relaxed into her training, the easier she is becoming to train. She’s now my new love! She isn’t perfect, and neither am I, I finally I feel like I found, not a replacement, but my new fur baby.

  81. Wow..and I thought my Labrador was cute..Zero is seriously gorgeous. A friend of mine has a Rhodesian too. Great dogs. You must be glad you made that journey…..

  82. imhereiguess says:

    this was beautiful!❤️

  83. Lis says:

    What a beautiful post, and such beautiful photos…thank you for your openness…wish you all the best

  84. Jörg says:

    Es ist ein wunderbarer Bericht , es spiegelt die Zeit wieder die ich mit meinem ersten Rhodesian Ridgeback gemacht habe . Nach einiger Zeit des trauerns , trat auch bei mir ein neuer Begleiter ins Leben und es ist wieder ein Rhodesian Ridgeback der mittlerweile knapp 6 Monate alt ist . Wir erleben gemeinsam viele kleine Abenteuer und helfe ihn dabei jeden Tag was neues zu entdecken .

  85. […] I have been receiving an amazing amount of feedback to this article, including the sharing with me of this story that got the waterworks going all over again: The Dog Who Means Nothing to Me […]

  86. Today I published an article that took me 2 months to write about the rainbow crossing of our 11-year-old chocolate lab, Famous Seamus. My cousin sent me your piece, and well…the waterworks started all over again! Thank you for sharing such a beautiful, heartfelt and heartbreaking story of the most pure, unconditional love there exists. #dogloversunite!

  87. […] 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 […]

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