I've spent the last four and a half years paying attention to dogs and dog owners. And I can easily spot now when the connection between that dog and that owner has developed beyond the standard "This is my pet dog and I love him". I think most dog owners would agree with me, that there are times when you see an owner and their dog and you can tell that they are completely intertwined in each other's lives...that they speak a secret language with one another. You can tell that the right owner found the right dog at the right time and that something truly magical happened. And those are the "lifetime" dogs.
After my last blog post, I received a fair bit of email regarding this notion of lifetime dogs. Just to clarify, Jon Katz, my favourite author, is the one who coined the phrase and idea...but it is a notion that has stuck with me as I believe he has articulated a very real truth within the world of pet ownership. It has also stuck with me, because I know that Sophie is my "lifetime" dog and when you know that fact and you know that you are already in the middle of your all-too-short-time together, it can start to weigh on your mind how much time you only have left together and how you will cope when she is gone.
Anytime a cherished pet is lost, owners experience loss and grief and a heavy sadness. But when an owner loses a lifetime dog, I imagine that they must feel something on a completely different level...that a piece of them has gone missing and is never coming back. Because I feel that already, when I think about a world without Sophie in it. And it's in my nature to prepare myself for the inevitable by thinking about it in advance....and it knocks the very breath out of me everytime. But I can't change the inevitable. So, even in this instance, I take a lesson from Sophie, a lesson from our dogs....focus on today. Live in the moment together and know that whatever happens in the future, she and I will face it together. Because even once she is physically gone...and my heart is broken...her lessons, her love and the changes she brought in my life will comfort me and will endure....and that is the legacy of a lifetime dog.