The Day A Dog Walked Into Our LivesWhen it comes to coping with grief, there is no “right time” to move forward. Recovery happens at our own pace, and when we try to conform to someone else’s time frame, we often do more harm than good.
Two years ago, I shared a very personal story in this column about the loss of my dear and loyal friend Zeus. For nearly 15 years, my black Labrador was at my side, always giving, always there.
On Jan. 10, 2010, I had to make the most painful decision of my life when I had to let him go. Zeus was suffering, and saying goodbye left me depressed and alone. At times the emptiness was unbearable, and I often wondered if I could ever love another dog again.
Many of you who experienced the loss of a pet shared your heartfelt well wishes. Some of you expressed similar worries and fears, others gave me encouragement that one day our family would open our home and hearts to another dog. And a few of you said, “It will happen when you’re not looking.” Your words of hope meant the world to me and my family. It helped in our healing process.
Over the last two years, I’ve heard many other “words of encouragement” to move on that frankly left me frustrated.
You know the clichÃ©s: “Everything happens for a reason,” “you should be over it by now,” and the granddaddy of them all, “time heals all wounds.”
We just weren’t ready, at least I wasn’t … until now.
On Jan. 14, nearly two years to the day that we said goodbye to Zeus, we opened our hearts and home to Nui. Let me start by saying Nui (which means big in Hawaiian) is truly a gift. She’s not a puppy and she’s not a black Labrador, but she’s absolutely perfect. She is a gentle, 6-year-old ridgeback, who adores my family. And as a few of you predicted, Nui unexpectedly walked into our lives.My wife and children have known Nui for several years. She often visited the barn with her owner, who raised her since she was a puppy. Nui went everywhere with him, and my son would often come home and say, “Dad, we saw Nui today, she’s so cute. I wish we had a dog like her.”
On Jan. 14, while watching my son’s baseball game, my wife was busy talking to someone on the phone. Ten minutes and several phone calls later, she turned to me and said, “Honey, we’re going to have a dog. Nui is coming home to us.”
Nui’s owner had shared that she needed a good home, and he was comfortable and confident that we could provide her with a loving environment. I was stunned. I was excited.
I was nervous. I was scared.
A day later, Nui walked through our front door. I could hear her little paws dancing on our floor. But for some reason the excitement I had felt leading up to that moment had turned into apprehension. I felt an uncomfortable feeling of guilt. How could I do this to Zeus? How could I betray him? I knew these were silly thoughts, but I couldn’t help myself.
It took nearly 20 minutes before I walked downstairs, and when I saw her those thoughts slowly faded. She was so beautiful, and it was obvious she was excited to be here.
Her tail wagged as she explored her new home yard, smelling potted plants and trees. She confidently “marked” her areas as I watched from afar in my chair.
Then it happened. Nui spotted me and quietly and slowly walked up to my feet. She looked up with her gentle eyes and leaned into me. I bent over and gave her a huge hug as she licked my nose. She curled up in my arms and my tears started to flow.
It was at that moment that I realized I wasn’t replacing my Zeus. I was opening my heart to another gift.
I said goodbye one more time to my old friend, then rubbed Nui’s belly It was time to move forward.
Welcome home, Nui, we’ve been waiting for you.