Editor’s Note: Beth Miller and Tom Everhart are the founders of Wagtown, a nonprofit devoted to dogs and based in Centerville. Visit www.wagtown.org for more information.
By Beth Miller
Think of all your friends. All of them. Now focus on your best friends. The ones you can go to, to celebrate your biggest wins, be in the company of someone special, and be there to help you through the most difficult times in your life.
Now, imagine living in a world where your best friends each pass away within 15 years of your first meeting. You will love them. They will love you. You will teach them and they will teach you.
Every time your best friends become ill, you’ll be the first one to find out and the last one to say goodbye.
That’s what it is like to love dogs your whole life. It’s sad and it’s cruel and it’s always too soon. But, in the end, they leave you with just one more lesson: life is about rolling in the grass while you can, indulging in treats whenever possible, loving with all your heart, and shaking it off even when you are crushed with grief.
Yesterday I interviewed a woman who is an entrepreneur in the pet space. She built a business to help people communicate with dogs, find out if there are triggers in their life that caused them distress, and even interpret the dog’s thoughts for your family when the end is near. And yes, even if they have passed away.
I was naturally skeptical, but the idea of knowing what we all want to know, “How does my dog feel about this?” was irresistible. She offered to tell me what Rocky is saying even though we lost him just days ago.
Desperate to hear that we did the right thing and that he was ready to go, I gladly accepted her offer. I messaged her a photo of Rocky where she could see his eyes.
The number one thing that he wanted me to know was that he was my dog, too.
I have often told people that Rocky is really Tom’s dog. They are inseparable. Both of those things are true. We loved him so much. So, when we lost him, I was crushed.
I was also disappointed in myself and perplexed about why I didn’t feel his passing as viscerally as I had in the past when losing a member of the family.
This morning, when I remembered her words … Rocky’s words, I burst into tears realizing that Tom wasn’t the only one who lost his best friend.
I think I used those words about him being Tom’s dog as a protective shell so it would be like: someone else’s dog doesn’t heel very well, or someone else’s dog barks too much – and – someone else’s dog died instead of my own.
Now that shell has shattered and it’s like I’ve lost him all over again. It happened again this morning and my heart has been torn to shreds.
Five times during Rocky’s discussion (not sure if that’s the right word) with Liz, the concept of legacy came up. Rocky was laughing and wanted to let me know that he was more than just the gorgeous dog that strangers wanted to hug. He was more than that and — he was indeed my dog. I know it now so here I will honor what Rock told me.
The first step is to tell you that dogs love you more than you think. Can you imagine that? The idea that dogs love us more than we thought. The idea of that has evaded me until now.
But now I know better, and so I’m telling you. If you share your life with a dog, you are theirs and they are yours. Love them like it and lose them like it.
I wasted so much love because of something I had convinced myself: that he was really someone else’s dog. The truth is that together, Tom and I lost one of our very best friends. I didn’t know how to share the news, perhaps because I wasn’t prepared to realize how much I’ve missed out on.
So, love the dogs around you: they love you more than you know. They have so much more to offer than you think if we would just let them.
I will always be grateful for one last lesson, no matter where it came from. I still don’t know if I believe any of it, or if I just needed to hear it, but I will never forget it. And I will never love dogs the same way.
Rocky, RIP 1/11/21
Tom and Beth’s best friend