It’s been less than two months since I put my beloved three-legged, seizure-riddled dog, Sadie, down. I sobbed for days and still look for her every time I come home, often getting teary when I remember she’s not here.
It’s been five and a half years since our black and tan coonhound, Homer, was struck and killed by a car in front of our house. That was more devastating. I’ve seen other men grieving the loss of their dogs since and many times before.
Everyone mourns the loss of their pets. The lessons I learned from Homer even made it into a book, You Can Heal Your Heart, by Louise Hay and David Kessler. But losing a dog is one of the few life experiences where men seem to be allowed, encouraged and supported in expressing their sadness. Men are often stoic at the funerals of their parents and loved ones, but when it comes to their dog, unconsolable wails and tears are the norms.
I’ve seen family, friends, neighbors, and strangers in tears over the loss of their dogs while never having seen them that emotional over anything else. Have you ever seen the videos of men returning to their homes from war? They are happy to see wives, girlfriends, kids… but they entirely lose it over seeing their dogs. A dog never wrote a “Dear John” letter, complained about the finances, or asked anyone about their religion. A dog is pure love on four legs (sometimes less).
Why is that?
Dogs, unlike perhaps anything else in the typical man’s life, give unconditional love and support. Your dog is ALWAYS glad to see you. Your dog ALWAYS loves you, whether you just yelled at him for eating your favorite sneakers or you’ve spent hours tossing a ball to them. No other living creature gives so much emotion, presence, attention and time to a man like a dog. Your dog will never call you names, go behind your back, or leave you for another owner.
Perhaps that love without conditions is what men desire in other relationships, or maybe it is the blind obedience that is the appeal. Either way, a dog is often a best friend and confidant who holds a sacred spot in a man’s heart. A spot that feels massive when the beloved dog is gone, and it can take a long time to heal. I find that even a moment of that unconditional love and adoration is worth the wound.
So give your dog an extra treat, hug, or walk for me today, will you?
And why not do your best in acting like a dog by showing someone in your life some unconditional love. By that I mean, offer a long hug, supportive words, or some other welcome expression just because you find yourself in front of that person; not because of something they’ve done or said, but only because they are. That is unconditional love; loving something regardless of any circumstances. Loving someone merely because they exist.
Here’s Sadie in action and loving every moment.
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Photo credit: Craig Miller