Last week, I had a total meltdown, in my car, in the garage, sobbing uncontrollably. I had just returned from doing a few errands when the realization struck — again — that my faithful companion of the last 16 years was forever gone from the back seat.
Joachim (or more officially, “Joachim the Good Dog”) was no ordinary beagle: he was, simply, a very special dog. Sweet and serene, he never growled, bit, or threatened. He loved people of all ages, other dogs, and even cats.
And he also loved me: his adoptive “mother.”
Books are written about dogs and dog-lovers: Hollywood makes movies about dogs, their owners, and the special bonds between them. Poems and essays also abound about the loss of faithful pets and the humans left to mourn them.
There was a time when I might have pooh-poohed the sadness described by some people upon the death of their dogs. Sure, I would have thought, they’re sad, but they’ll get over it. After all, in the end, it’s a dog.
I had no idea, before Joachim.
Our world is rife with ambition, a lack of concern for neighbors, relationships based more on obligations and “chits” than on true caring, and endless argument about who is right, who did what first, and who owes what to whom.
A faithful dog like Joachim offers another world many of us might otherwise never know. He loves us in despite our failings, is happy to have us “lead,” and has endless love to give, asking only water and occasional food in return. A great walk in the woods, to him, is a treasure. His wagging tail and licks of appreciation on our hands and cheeks are, for us, a healing balm against an uncaring universe. I shall never forget him
That I adored him goes without saying. I rescued him from the SPCA and took him everywhere: nursed him when he was ill, fed him scraps from my dinner, walked him in rain, sleet, and snow — at all hours — and tried to attend to his every need.
In exchange, he gave me unquestioned devotion and a quiet and comforting companionship too precious to lose.
Now it is lost.
A woman perceived as being in control stuns others when they see her mourning her lost dog. My sadness has so totally overpowered my usual pragmatism and perspective that, to some, it may seem out of character. When my rational side kicks in, I focus on the “important things.” I am blessed with much to be thankful for: good health, a loving family, and a decent life.
But I miss my friend.
I miss the sound of his steady breathing as he slept next to my bed, his wagging tail whenever he saw me, and the warmth of his body at my feet as we watched TV or read together in the evening.
I miss his bark from the back seat, signaling me to open his window so he could drive with the breezes blowing back his velvet ears.
I miss his constancy and, yes, the unquestioning love people talk about when they talk about great dogs.
Our vet suggests another dog to fill the void. Despite the good intention, the suggestion seems a bit like telling a parent who loses a child, “It’s a good thing you have other children.” No living being can replace another that was loved and lost.
For the moment, the idea feels like investing again in certain heartache.
I don’t want “another dog:” I want my Joachim back.
And that can never be.