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 I realized—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” as we liked to clarify—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” of the past decade and a half.
That I adored him goes without saying. I rescued him from the SPCA and he became my pet. I took him everywhere with me, 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.
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 behind to mourn them.
There was a time when I might have pooh-poohed the sadness people described 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.
When my rational side kicks in, I focus on the “important things” and on my many “blessings.” I am grateful for my good health, and for my loving family. I live a decent life and have much to be thankful for, in fact.
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 his good intentions, the suggestion seems a bit like telling a parent who loses a child that, “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.