There’s an age-old adage in this world that says “Dogs are man’s best friend”. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, truer words have never been spoken.
And a short while back, I lost my best friend. Rest easy Havre, not that best friend, not the one who lives in Tacoma, Wash., and has become a famous writer who covers the Seattle Mariners and Washington Huskies for a living.
For nearly 13 years I was the proud owner of a black Labrador retriever named “Rock”. And while all of us who own pets understand that our own pets are unique, for me, he truly was.
I don’t know another dog who knew what swear words were or knew the difference between when the Montana Grizzlies were playing a college football game on TV or when it was a random college game that held no meaning to me. That’s right, my wife can attest to the fact that when my favorite sports teams or sporting events were on TV, Rock would immediately get up and leave the room.
Whether it was the Grizzlies, the North Carolina basketball Tar Heels or Tiger Woods playing golf, Rock would feel my stress level rise and would go into our bedroom and would not come out again until the channel had been changed. If I was watching say, Duke play a basketball game against Texas, he would never leave the room, instead would just go on about doing what dogs do. He knew the difference, he felt my pain and that’s what made him mine.
It’s little quirks like those that make our pets ours. It’s things like that that make us feel so deeply for animals and make us hurt so much when they’re no longer with us.
But for me, and my wife too, Rock was much more than just a household pet. He was a sporting dog who couldn’t get enough of chasing tennis balls, pheasant decoys and whatever else he saw a person throw. He was also a swimmer of epic proportions. Out of all my travels, and as luck would have it, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some pretty cool places, my favorite vacation over the last 13 years was a Fourth of July trip to Flathead Lake, where Rock, and my yellow lab Chipper swam for three straight days. In my life I’ve never seen dogs that obsessed with a body of water. Seeing Flathead Lake must have been like arriving at the gates of heaven to them.
But more than that, Rock was a true companion.
Our pets, especially dogs seem to get into our hearts in ways humans don’t. There’s something just soulful about a dog.
For me, Rock was the one life force who’s never disappointed me. He is the only living and breathing thing on this earth that accepted me, every day, and never judged me for my flaws and my shortcomings. Even the people we love and care about the most, wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends, we as humans just don’t extend that kind of unconditional love to each other. We all have agendas - dogs do not.
Some people say dogs love us unconditionally only because we feed them, but I will never see it like that. There’s something deeper about dogs, and Rock in particular, that I’ve never found anywhere else and I will miss that in him forever.
I will miss the fact that when life seemed to slam me down, his presence lifted me up. When the Grizzlies lost to the Bobcats, he would make it ok again. When I take heat or am judged for writing something unpopular or for not covering sports in the way others think I should, at the end of the day, he could have cared less. Rock’s loyalty to myself and my wife was absolute and it’s hard to find people, including myself that have a streak of unconditional loyalty in them that goes to that level.
I’ve never before, nor I will again probably own an animal that brought me and my wife to sheer laughter as many times as Rock did. And he taught me things about myself too. I learned, through owning dogs like Rock and Chipper, how to be more patient. If any of you have ever owned lab puppies, and especially two at once, patience is a must and I was not a patient person before becoming a dog owner. I’ve also learned, as the years of gone, not to take the little moments for granted. I learned to not take the little moments with them together for granted and they taught me to not take the little moments with my wife, family and friends together for granted either.
We, as pet owners, will always outlive our dogs – well most of the time. And if you really pay attention, they will teach you, just as children do, to slow down, to stop and smell the roses as they say. Rock taught me that and so much more and for that, I will always be grateful.
No matter what I learn in life from here on out and I hope I still have plenty to learn, even at my age, I will always believe that dogs bring out and represent the best in us as humans. The way they treat us and they way they teach us to treat others. It’s truly a special relationship.
I know I’ll own more dogs as my life goes on. But a piece of my soul and my heart will always be reserved for Rock. The 13 years my wife and I had with him will be some of the best years in our lives and he will live in our hearts, just as all our dogs should, forever.
Merry Christmas to all of you and your beloved pets.