The scar remains

One year ago today, I wrote what turned out to be a rather iconic post. If you aren’t familiar with why I keep referring to my undying hatred of Kevin, that post explains it. The anniversary of Emmett’s passing is next week, and I am already dreading it.

I have lost dogs before, and will, I am sure, go through it again though I am hoping that day is far from now. Over time, the sharp pains of grief turn into more of a dull ache, which in time recedes into the corners of one’s mind and only occasionally makes itself known. Eventually, even that wears away, to be replaced by the dusty shimmer of fond remembrance.

But when you are talking about that once in a lifetime dog, the one whose heart so effortlessly grew into yours, the scars left behind when they are ripped from it take longer to heal. This week, my dear friend was in town for a visit, and hadn’t seen Brody for a while.

“Oh wow,” she said. “He looks just like Emmett.”

“He does,” I agreed sadly. “He doesn’t act anything like him, though.”

It was not my choice to end up with a dog who so closely resembled the one he succeeded. I would have preferred that not to be the case. It’s not Brody’s fault that he is not Emmett, and I wouldn’t expect him to be. Nonetheless, I still find myself slipping on occasion when I’m not paying attention and calling him the wrong name, then realizing no, that one is not here.


I received this lovely gift from Amy Valentine after Emmett passed away. I wear it regularly. It helps ward off the ache. I will have it on next week, when I find myself lost in the memories of those last few days at Dog Beach, of the stranger who approached me to take our picture, moved by some tangible expression passing between Emmett and myself our last time there, of the feel of his fur in my hands as I rested them on his still form.

Yes, this wound still hurts.

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  • Chile

    It’s sort of funny that last night I was talking to B about this. You know I’m partial to boy dogs, but I fear that if I get a male Rottie I’m going to see Blade every time I look at him. That down deep I’m going to expect him to be Blade. I keep saying I’m never going to have another male Rottie puppy because I can’t take that experience away from Blade, I don’t want new memories becoming jumbled with memories of his puppyhood. And now I realize that September is two months away and I don’t really care to see that month.

    You know I understand how you feel and I mourn the loss of Emmett with you. And I remind myself that Blade has so many wonderful friends with him where he is. And I clutch my paw pendant when I need to draw on his strength.


    • I called him Emmett again today. He just looks so much like him. I feel terrible every time I do that but he could care less.

      • Chile

        You know I don’t think Brody would mind. In fact he would probably think of it as a high compliment. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Lisa W

    (reading through tears) Dr V, I know how hard this is — even the anticipation of it. Someone gave me a little bit f advice a few days before the anniversary of Bailey’s passing, as I was in the process of falling apart in grief. He said that these types of relationships aren’t supposed to be once-in-a-lifetime, that they are supposed to be normal (he’s obviously never had a heart dog, so I just kind of took that with a grain of salt).

    But what he also said, that for some reason really resonated with me, is that what Bailey brought out in me was in me still, and that I should celebrate that. A slight twist on the old “as long as you remember them they still live” idea). For some reason that made me feel better. And on the anniversary of Bailey’s passing, I planted a small flower garden in one of her favorite parts of the yard. It seemed a good way to remember her.

    I still miss her like crazy. But bringing Oscar into our home has brought a degree of healing to my heart that i don’t think would have been possible otherwise. It’s because of Bailey that I can love him so much. I understand about not necessarily choosing to have the successor look like the one you lost. I chose the opposite gender, a completely different color (white and buff instead of chocolate), and a different breed mix. But in some ways he reminds me of her — the simple uncomplicated love and the soulful eyes, mainly. But there will never be a replacement for her.

    I will be thinking of you over the next few days, and sending you lots of love. My wish for you is the one that you wished for me: that the day is gentle on you. {{{{{Hugs}}}}}

    • Lisa W

      BTW, thanks for posting the info for Amy. I just ordered a bracelet.

    • It was definitely healing to have Brody come into the house. I needed that affirmation desperately.

  • Pauses4paws

    My heart actually aches for you at this anniversary…I will wish for lots of extra comfort for you next week…

    • Thank you. I really appreciate that.

  • Megumi

    Many, many hugs and comforting thoughts to you Dr. V, these anniversaries are so hard on the heart ๐Ÿ™

    • Thanks M. It’s been the hardest one to date.

  • pikachu

    My heart reaches out to you and I am sending BIG HUGS your way.

    • Thank you. I really appreciate those hugs.

  • Dave

    I remember reading your post last year and feeling so sad for your loss, and my heart goes out to you during this difficult time. It was so poignant (and heartening) that the person who took your picture was there. It is coincidences like that reinforce the notion of some higher force in life.

    That said, probably no dog, will ever be as great as E was in so many ways, and maybe that is a good thing because it helps you understand how truely special that relationship was. That is forever your bond to him — although I’m’ sure you realize this, as your not daft, but it bears saying.

    So, this week as you have some quiet time with Brody and Koa, look through the tears and smile at how ‘wonderfully’ mischievous he is because every day is an adventure to him. He is lucky to have YOU to put up with his antics, a small child to terrorize (or vice versa) and a starring role in a world class blog! He hit the jackpot; and I am quite sure wouldn’t be so lucky with any other owner! And then remember that if E were still with you, Koa may not have the opportunity to spend her remaining days with a family that cares for her so much and understands and appreciates her like you guys do.

    Oh, and last but not least, make sure to give your husband a hug for surprising you with Brody. Then give him a punch in the arm…
    for surprising you with Brody! Take care.

    • A hug and a punch- that is pretty much the exact reaction I had when I met Brody! So true. And thank you for those kind words, I appreciate them.

  • I am so sorry for your loss. As one who has gone through it too, I can only imagine how hard this week will be for you.

    Thanks for the link to Amy too, what a lovely bracelet and reminder. For dogs both living and gone.

    • There is something comforting in knowing others out there have shared this kind of sadness. Thank you.

  • im really sorry for you loss, i had a goldie named reba mac russ and she passed in nov of 2000 and i still miss her so much she was my once in a lifetime dog./ we got a pound puppy in 2001 and her name is koko and she have so many of rebas traits in her its amazing but shes not reba but i love her as much

    • There is something special about the Goldies, isnt’ there?

  • I have only had one dog in my life and she is that once in a lifetime dog. We were terrified of each other at first, but I decided to take loving care of her and try to learn to love her. Her soft puppiness soon won me over and she decided that I could be trusted. Soon we were enmeshed, two hearts and two bodies seeming to function as one. The bond has grown in the 3 years I have had her and now we are inseparable, as it should be.

    I am so protective of her and sometimes she resents it. As I am older and chronically ill, I talk to her about what happens when we will no longer be together, why I protect her so much, why she can’t go out in the dark alone, even in her fenced yard (she tried to play with a coyote not too long ago), why I call to her in the night if she gone more than a few minutes to check out her house, and she understands in her dog way.

    I fear that ache that is the inevitable. I fear it for her too, should I be the one to leave this relationship first. I never liked dogs very much, and getting this one was a long considered decision, researching breeds and looking at my life and habits. I needed a companion, a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a friend to talk to, as I live alone and a dog was the best idea. I was right. I never understood what people saw in dogs, but now…oh I SO GET IT.

    Thank you SO MUCH for talking frankly about this. We all have to face it at one time or another. It is important to remember that others go there with us.

    • Isn’t it amazing, when you have that type of bond with a pet and all of a sudden it dawns on you- OH. This is what all those crazy dog people are yammering on about. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sharing your tears and sending hugs to help you through the sorrow.

    • Thank you, I really appreciate that.

  • Spyder

    Hugs from someone who understands the feelings. Willow was a black female Great Dane rescue. After we lost her. We were given a male Mantle (Black&White) Great Dane puppy, Xander. Many times we say “So like Willow”. But yet he’s so much not like Willow. He is afraid of nothing. She was afraid of so much, so needy. Even tho we only had her for 5 1/2years I’m thankful that we had her and that we could bring some joy into her life. It still hurts. And I hate Kevin & Cancer!!!

  • Spyder

    Here is the link of the photo of the Willow tattoo that my hubby & I both got the week after losing her. It’s of her profile. The loss pain was so bad that we both felt that this was right.

    • That is beautiful! I had to look again to confirm you said that was your hubby, not you…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • K

    Emmett, my boyfriend, how you are missed our special boy. Our family has had the privilege of so many wonderful pets over the years, past and present, all cherished, but your pawprints have never been filled, before or since. I was so lucky your Mom shared you with me. You made my heart smile. When my heartbroken wretchedness retreated to heal with you and your wonderful humans, I will never, ever forget the month of nights you snuggled your warm, powerful form next to mine, with a paw on my head and and your snout on my shoulder, those aweful nights made bareable by your comforting presence. The last time I saw you, as I left, we both knew it would truly be our last. And as we sat on the floor sharing our last hug, my face buried in your fur, I thought how painful your bound over the rainbow bridge was going to be for your mom and how horribly I was going to miss your sweet face. I feel only a portion of your mom’s loss, and it is huge. This week, visit her in her dreams, buddy. She’d love to see you.

    • *bawl* that did it.

  • Anniversary dates are always hard. Even beautiful memories hurt, don’t they?

    Sniffie and the Florida Furkids

    • They hurt in a different way. Not as acute, but it surprises you more….like oh, wow, that still makes me cry. Ouch.

  • My black lab is my heart dog, I tear up at the thought of a time when he’s no longer here … I can only imagine how hard it is to live through the year after. I am sorry for your loss.

    • Enjoy every moment, they are with us so briefly. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • We are coming up on the anniversary of losing our MIss Girl next week too. I’ll send you some thoughts as we remember her!

    • Double hugs to you too. It is nice to know these moments are not really experienced alone.

  • Big hugs and heart healing cupcakes to you Dr. V. Grief is something we each go through differently, so I’m not going to act like I know what you’re going through on this year mark, but I, along with all of your commenters and even those that read but stay silent, are here for you.

    • Cupcakes. That is good. Cupcakes are good.

  • Kate

    I wrote a message to you last week when we lost Jack, our heeler/Aust. Shepherd mix, wondering if we did the right thing. Having read what you just wrote, and the previous articles on Emmett, It seems it was the pefect time to ask. I have to pick Jack’s ashes up today, and I know I’ll cry. I’m weary of crying, but it just hits out of the blue. We had Jack for over 16 years, and he was a best friend to us, our children and all of their and our friends. I feel like we’ve been mourning him far longer than the past week, as we knew the inevitable was coming. Fortunately, we also have Lizzie, a just-turned 1 year old Shorty Jack Russell. Lizzie is nothing like Jack, which I think is a good thing. No dog could replace the one you lose, but they make their own mark in your heart, which is as it should be. My heart goes out to all of you who have lost furry family members. It just totally sucks.

    • The part about mourning in advance? So, so very true. In some ways it’s worse, I think, because you are still dreading the moment you have coming soon.

      How are you hanging in there? OK?

  • It is a sad time for you I know…
    When I lost my heart dog Barlee, it felt like my world was ending. I could not bear to bring another pup/dog in the house. I felt I would be just trying to replace her and that couldn’t be done. I just did not want to get that attached to another dog, it hurt oo much to loose them. That first year I swear I would hear her footsteps and look up fully expecting to see her.
    It took me 4 and half years before I was able to bring another dog into my home.
    Even after that length of time I still on occassion for the first few years called Caley, Barlee. At first a wave of sadness came over me when it happend and then I started to think that she was thinking of us everytime I did it and it made me smile. I still get a lump I my throat once in a while while thinking of her. I no longer feel like I am replacing her with my other dogs. I think she would be pleased that we have rescued other Labs and give them a home!
    None of them are Barlee, but I do have another heart dog and I thought that could never happen.

    • You do have another heart dog? I am glad to hear that. It gives me hope.

  • I’m so sorry for your time of grief. I still have my first dog Sammy, he’s nine, and don’t want him to ever leave. I’ve lost cats before and my soul cat was Charlie. Charlie passed 6 years ago and I still miss him so. I adopted another kitty and named him Pip. I adopted Pip because he has the love that Charlie had, so much like him but a bit mischevious! I love him to pieces. It gives me warm fuzzies that Pip has the same type of love and cuddleness that Charlie had.
    I remember Charlie fondly and often. I believe our pets come into our lives for a reason and we will be with them again. I envision going over the rainbow bridge myself and having my pets and human family welcoming me back to our forever home where no pain is felt, where love abounds and we will never ever be parted again.

    • I agree, they come into our lives for such a brief time yet teach us so much.

  • Dear Dr V,

    It made me really sad to read about Emmett. I lost my special dog Jordan more than a year ago. I still think about all the things we did together, and all the things we could have done but didn’t. It’s terrible to think of lost opportunities.

    Last week, our vet told us that our other dog, Rufus, will not live to the end of the year. Today, he told us it won’t be long. He’s a giant that just turned 10 and has multiple medical problems. Each day is hard because we don’t know what to expect. It can be a good day in the morning that turns bad by afternoon.

    Jordan died very unexpectedly, of illness. Rufus’s decline has been gradual.

    I used to think I would prefer to be prepared. But to see a once cheeky, mountain of a dog wither away is difficult and painful. I feel exhausted emotionally and some days, I wish he would just let go. How awful is that?

    At the end of every one of my dogs’ lives, I wonder why I go out and get another one. It’s hard to live with them knowing how it will always end, and equally hard to live without them.

    A big hug to you at this difficult time.

    • k

      Ai-shi: My heart goes out to you. Please know IMHO it is not awful to feel the way you do. I have struggled with this issue with human loved ones, and it is natural to want the suffering and indignity to end, both for you and the one you love who is suffering. there is a special place in heaven for those who stand vigilant with the dying to ease their passage, and you are blessed for being there, despite when it is impossibly hard, especially when you think you can’t do it another minute-and yet you get up every day and do it anyway. We should all be so very lucky when it is our time.

  • I just want to say I’m really sorry for your hurt. That’s all.

  • Kate

    Ai-shih, wishing he would just go isn’t awful at all. You hate seeing him the way he is – I felt the same way with my Jack. It’s very natural, both with our pets and with the humans we love. A sudden loss and a gradual loss are both almost impossible to take, but we somehow get through it. I’m still torn between being relieved I don’t have to watch Jack stumble, fall and need help getting up and missing the essence of who he was and how much we loved him. Our lives are measured in dogs, events we remember are associated with them. One dog cannot replace another, but they add to the structure of who we are. They build their own compartment in our hearts, making our hearts grow. I’m thinking of you.
    Dr. V, thanks for your compassion. We’re doing a little better every day, although I’m sure we’ll both break down again when it comes time to scatter Jack’s ashes.

  • Liz

    Me and my ‘once in a lifetime’ cat (who, thankfully, is still with me) are thinking of you. I cant imagine what you’re going through as you remember Emmett. Hang in there.

  • lawgeekgurl

    I hope each year that goes by helps a little more. It has been 7 years since I lost my heart dog. I miss him, and sometimes I still catch myself when I see dogs that look a little like him, and it’s painful. I cannot read my journal entries of that time without becoming incoherent with grief. However, I know he felt loved and I know he loved me. My current baby, who was his companion, is aging and probably will pass within a couple of years. I am sure that when she passes, I will feel grief not only for her but also for the loss of that last connection to him. She’s a beautiful dog in her own right, and sometimes I feel a little guilty that I have never felt the soul deep connection I did with him, but she also knows she is loved and cared for. I had to go on for her, and I will have to go on after her, because there are so many beautiful animals that need companions and love and a caring home. I may never find another heart dog, but I will find many, many friends. Hang in there and I hope you feel better.

  • @shadowcatsd

    “Eventually, even that wears away, to be replaced by the dusty shimmer of fond remembrance.” That is one of the most beautiful sentences I have ever read. I’m sorry that such loss and pain inspired it, but I suppose that’s the way things work. I really should stop reading your blog – I seem to end up crying like a little girl every time I stop by. I won’t, though. ๐Ÿ™‚ My thoughts are with you this week, and The Boys’, too – including Oliver.

  • I’m sending good thoughts your way. I know how hard it is to lose a best friend. Last summer, after only a week of having Hamlet, I already started to think, “I can’t ever lose him; I don’t know what I’ll do.” It’s really like losing a piece of your heart, a piece that understands and loves so fully and never judges or holds grudges.