Heart Pet Day

I don’t think it’s the most politic of things to say, but sometimes we play favorites in life. I’d like to think I’m above that, but I’m so totally not.

Emmett was my favorite dog. I love all of my pets, past and present, with all of my heart, but the bond we had was something special. It is the kind of understanding that is impossible to explain unless you’ve experienced it, and I say it as someone who’s had pets all her life. I get all of my pets inside and out.

But this one got me, and that was singular.

post attack dog

On the day we said goodbye for the last time, I had to work in the morning. That was brutal. I had asked the babysitter to take the kids somewhere for the afternoon so they wouldn’t be home when we actually bid goodbye. I came in the house, already upset, and called for him. He didn’t answer. I looked some more. No Emmett.

Panicking, I called the babysitter, who told me with some chagrin that she had let him outside and forgot to let him back in. And it was hot out.

At that point, the tears really started. I couldn’t find him anywhere. This is a dog who had never run away, and now I had visions of him, sick, tired, somehow getting past the fence and wandering the streets, alone, while I waited at home to- well, give him to death. It was one of the worst moments of my life.

As the pleas became more wracked with distress, he finally wandered up to me from some corner of the yard. He must have found a nice shady spot to lay down in and fallen asleep, his last time in the sunlight. As tired as he was, when he heard me calling with the fear palpable in my voice, he roused himself and came to me with what little energy he had at that point.

He came inside, too tired to go further than the living room, and went back to rest on the floor. He didn’t even flinch when we placed the catheter. And then he left.

Two days prior, we were at Dog Beach and he was enjoying the last burst of energy before the lymphoma mounted its final assault. He knew it was a special day of fun but he also knew something was wrong with me, as he would wander to the water, wander back to me to give me a lick, then take off again. That was the day the photographer approached us to take his picture, sensing the moment we were having.

Even now, two years later, thinking about that last week brings on such an unexpected tsunami of emotion that never fails to make me tear up, not even now as I am typing it. While all of my losses leave an indelible scar on my heart, his took something more, leaving in its place a dull throb that nags like a chronic bad knee- always there, and when I stop to think about it, an ache I become more aware of.

And I know that here, the people who read this, totally get what I am talking about.

If you weren’t here last year, I made a video to honor not only Emmett but all the Emmetts/Baileys/Mindys of your own lives, the heart pets who took a part of you with them when they left.

And so, because it’s good every once in a while to pick at those scabs and just kind of let it all hang out a little, I invite everyone to share a story, a picture, or a post about your heart pet. Or pets. It’s that kind of day.

Filed: Daily Life Tagged: , ,
  • Susan

    I know that my heart dog, Patrick… also known as “the bestest boy in the whole wide world,” is frolicking right along with Emmett over the Rainbow Bridge. Hold on Boy, I’m just a step behind.

  • Dinah

    My heart dog, Puddles, is with him too. I lost her 9 months ago during my final year of vet school to TCC. She was only three years old and my heart is still broken. Thank you for this post… RIP Puddles. My heart, my soul, my dog forever.

  • Pat in east TN

    Many beloved dogs have come/gone over the years, but my heart dog was Tori. We bonded instantly and for 11 years my beautiful Doberman was my constant companion. I lost her 3 1/2 years ago and my heart still aches.

  • Lisa W

    Oh how I miss my girl… I wrote her another letter on July 4, the 2nd anniversary of her passing. I have heard so many stories of people who sense the presence of their departed fur babies, and I always wanted to feel that, to have one last moment of feeling that Bailey is okay and free of pain, but still with me. I never have had that moment. But somewhere not too long ago, I also read that sometimes it doesn’t happen because everything is done and understood and there is nothing more to say. I hope that’s the case. And I know that she is still in my heart. Her legacy lives on, as I am finally taking small steps toward starting Bailey’s Grace, my senior dog sanctuary.

    BTW, I highly recommend two books: “A Big Little Life” by Dean Koontz and “A Dog’s Purpose” by W. Bruce Cameron.

  • I know exactly what you mean! I lost my kitty boy Bo in January and love the critters I have now, but there’s always going to be that bond with him that I’ll never have with another.

    Emmett was beautiful, and the video was great! I cried and cried as I watched it.

  • Chile

    It always warms my heart to know that Blade has so many friends with him while he waits for me. September will mark four years (can you believe it?) and yet the hole is as wide as ever. As I celebrated Cookie’s 6th birthday, 7th birthday, 8th birthday, 9th birthday and 10th birthday I was reminded that he never got to his 6th birthday. He never got to have his annual birthday party. Every time the grief takes me to my knees I have to hold on to the good memories that we had to pull me through.

    And nothing like starting the morning seeing my boy smile at me in the video. 🙂 Thank you J. For doing this, for being there.

  • I had the same kind of connection with my kitty guy Bo that passed away in January. I’m starting a magazine dedicated to cats and their people that will be named after him.

    Emmett was beautiful, and I cried and cried as I watched the video this morning.

  • Tabitha W

    Mindy was my girl. She wasn’t a dog or a cat or a big animal she was just a small rescued rat who for the first three days was so frightened of people she just sat in my shirt and shivered. 72 hours later she poked her head out of my shirt and licked my chin. From that day on she was my baby.

    Mindy was my company. At the time I had Mindy, I was finishing up my degree and working with some very hard to serve teen girls. Mindy was so wonderful, she listened to my woes and stayed up all night we me and I chipped away at my thesis, papers and readings. She would chatter in my ear when my brain ran out of ideas or words and would snuggle into my neck as I read the many textbooks and journal articles. She would do on car rides with me just around the area. She loved nothing more then being perched on the top of her cage with the wind blowing around her. I called her my adventure rat.

    While she was alive, we adopted an adult cat named Magoo. They were best friends, but Mindy was the boss. Although I have a bond with Magoo he was never calm enough for me to do my school work around and it was always Mindy I turned to for comfort and guidance.

    I was working on weekend, and it had been a tough weekend with the girls. When I got home I knew something was wrong. Mindy’s head was cocked to one side. We went to the vet who said it was neurological, that’s when I knew the end was near.

    Mindy hung on just a few more months until I graduated. I finished my thesis, handed in all of my assignments. I was officially a graduate. Mindy knew that my time at school was over and she just started to get sicker and sicker.

    On the day of graduation, I took her with me, snuck her under my graduation robes and walked across the sage with her. She had earned that piece of paper just as much as I had.

    Only a few days after we walked across stage I said goodbye to my study buddy.

    Magoo cried at her empty cage for day, my heart broke and still has not been put back together.

    We had Mindy cremated. Only a few weeks ago I knocked over her urn and it crack, with some of her ashes spilling out. I started to get upset, how could I let this happen? I decided to get a piece of paper to scoop her ashes up but when I came back, I found Magoo rolling in them with a huge grin on his face. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud… they really are best friends forever.

  • Tonya

    A flood of tears. At my desk. At work. Both happy for having them and sad for losing them. Through your words, I can actually FEEL your bond with Emmett. And that story about the photographer rips my heart right out. It’s been 4 years and 4 months since I lost my heart dog, Shaq. I don’t think a day goes by when his name doesn’t come up in conversation either. I let him go at the vet’s office, and every single team member of that office came in either just before or just after he left to bid him farewell. He was so, so special. But you all know that without ever having met him. 🙂

  • Carrie V

    Thank you for sharing. The 4th of July was the 3rd annv. of the loss of Merlin, my heart dog.

  • Cathey

    Oh my!! Read & watched at work – BIG mistake!! But it was so wonderful at the same time. While the pain is awful and never really goes away for your heart dog, the peace/companionship/love we have each received FROM them – that’s a million times more and better! The trick, I have found, is to acknowledge the good while they are still here with us and be sure they have the best life possible, for they have certainly given us their best part!

  • Anne

    wow- i really shouldn’t’ve read this (and watched the video) at work.
    thanks for sharing

  • Christine

    What a lovely post.

    I’ve tried to explain this to my husband – that we love and adore all of our pets, but that some are elevated. I’ve called them the once-in-a-lifetime pups, but Heart Pet is apt. My mom has been blessed with two Heart Pets, separated by 30 years. The first was Rebel, my first playmate, and the best introduction to dogs a girl could hope for. He was a prince among dogs. Our entire family adored him; we measured all dogs against him, and none measured up. It was heartbreaking when we lost him. What followed was almost two years without dogs, the longest period in my mom’s adult life. Strike came along decades later, and while Rebel was her Heart Pet from the start, Strike grew into that position. He was a gentle giant with a fighting spirit. He’s been gone three years now.

    • Nurse Shell

      “Rebel”…my mom’s first dog was named Rebel too! We called her Rebbies…she was a Brittney Spaniel…I was 7 when they let her go. She was 17yrs old (I believe). Everyone loved Rebel! Neighborhood kids rang the bell and asked if she could come out to play!! My grandparents didn’t get another dog for 30+ years. My grandfather said he couldn’t bare that kind of loss again. She is their Heart Pet!

  • Oh… can’t stop crying now. My Scotti has been gone for many years now… I got her when I was 10. We had lots of dogs, but she was truly mine. She was my best friend. We did everything together. I hated when I couldn’t bring her to college with me, and I used to call home and ask to talk to the dog. Then she’d listen and lick the phone. After I graduated, she was too old to move from my parents’ house to my new apartment… although it was for the best, it did break my heart. But whenever I’d visit (sometimes with Bella, who I adopted after I realized that Scotti couldn’t come live with us… now that was something to see…) it was like old times. She was always my girl, and I was lucky to have known her. I do feel like I’ve been very blessed to have Bella as well… I think I’ve been lucky enough to have two heart dogs. Thanks for a place for us all to come together and share… and big hugs to you, Dr. V.

  • Hi Y’all,

    What a moving story of Emmett. I couldn’t help but cry.

    I think each dog I have is a special one and couldn’t pick a favorite if I tried. Perhaps it is my current dog who has bonded so closely with me. But the one who used to commiserate with me during my highschool and college years was a standard poodle. I remember when I’d be upset and he’d sit beside me and put a paw around my neck like a human would comfort you.

    Hugs and thanks for posting. I’m going to post something on Hawk’s blog too.

    Y’all come by now,
    BrownDog’s Human

  • Kim

    July is always a tough month and I remember 7/8/09 like it was yesterday. RIP Bailey Boy. Odd thing – I found an old pen drive I used for work. I looked through it today and there were pictures of Bailey. Then I remembered was heart pet day. We miss him every single day and think of how he’d spend his days if he were still with us.

    When we adopted him, his name was “Oscar” which we understood because he was pretty much a Mr. Grouchypants but we know that we were all happier as a result of being in each other’s lives. So Mr. Grumpydude, as you hang out with your friends, just know that I miss you, love you and miss you some more. Terribly.

  • Heart Pet Day is a beautiful tribute to Emmett!

    I do indeed totally get it and thanks for being brave enough to pick at your scab and inviting your readers to do so as well – mine’s been itching awfully bad lately.

    It’s been a year and almost eight months since my best friend, Daley, ran on ahead and took most of my heart with him. But he takes very good care of it (while he’s playing free and easy with all his friends and cruising for chicks nonstop!)

    -Chandra at Daley’s Dog Years

  • Christine

    Big mistake to read this at work! My heart dog Otto (GSP) is still alive, but at 10 years old is getting to the end of his life. I am already dreading what is going to happen when he goes – I know I will be brokenhearted. He has seen me through so much the last few years, I think I would have gone crazy if he hadn’t been there.

  • That was a beautiful tribute, Dr. V.

    Even though my Bailey is gone, I think of her every day and her gentle spirit haunts our home. She changed my life and I’ll never forget her.

  • Suzy Charto

    I look at pictures of Bogey and realize he looked old when he died but I swear to me at the time he was always young and gorgeous. He will always be young and gorgeous and I am glad he is not suffering anymore but I miss him so much.

  • Nurse Shell

    Each Heart Pet holds a piece of my heart! Brandy was given to my brother and I for Christmas 1979 – I was 9 years-old…we lost her to an aggressive cancer in 1992. Our poor “Fuzzy” was unable to walk without assistance when we let her go. She looked a lot like your Emmett – a lot. Looking at his pictures tugs at my heart quite a bit. Brandy “hugged” us by putting the top of her head on our chest…and she was always close by when I needed a shoulder to cry on. Smart! Oh, was she ever smart! She’d bring us her empty bowl when she felt we were tardy filling it. We spelled words that evoked a frenzy of furry excitement – until she learned what those letters spelled! She did tons of “tricks” and endured costumes (somewhere i have a picture of her with a t-shirt, sunglasses, and hat on), and slumber parties – she made a great pillow. During a going-away party for my cousin, Brandy was “pestering” guests to pet her – we had a slide projector and screen set up (it was a tribute to his travels – today we’d probably make a PowerPoint)…my mom called Brandy to “follow her” out of the room and proceeded to crawl under the screen…Brandy belly crawled right behind her and quite literally stole the show!! Sweet Brandy girl. My mom has her collar in a shadow box with photos of her…seeing it on the wall makes me so sad sometimes. Almost 10 years have passed…but I still miss her fuzzy face against my chest as if to say “I love you…no matter what…I will always love you.”

  • cj

    My condolences to you. I had an Emmett not so long ago. She was a “Sophie’s Choice” rescue, whom I called the Heart O’ My Heart, my one-in-a-million dog. In fact, among the chocolate-hued patches on her white coat was a heart-shaped one that rarely failed to attract wonder from passersby. Her passing has been excruciating. As poet Donald Hall wrote:
    “You think that their
    dying is the worst
    thing that could happen.

    Then they stay dead.”

    Her death has pressed me into imagining a better eternity for her, though–free of pain, free of anxiety, and stretches of open space to set free her part-greyhound DNA.

  • Almost three years now. I don’t really know if I can write more than the link to his last day with me, http://texaslawchick.livejournal.com/885609.html, because I still miss him so much. I got him at ten weeks when I was 19, he died when I was 35. He was my soulmate. We did everything together for 16 years, and I miss him terribly. I even dreamed about him last night. I got a tattoo for him a few days before he died. He licked it.

    This is what a friend said about us when he died. I think it best demonstrates how close Relampago and I were to one another:

    Pictures never did do him justice.

    I’ve known this moment was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I had to step away from the computer for a bit until I managed to stop crying to write this. I can’t really imagine you without him. That’s probably not going to be terribly comforting right now, but the two of you were something I’ve never seen anywhere else.

    I’ve known plenty of people who love their pets, and maybe I’m wrong and it’s just because I was there and got to see you guys day in and day out for a few months, but you really were best friends. He wasn’t just a pet, even a very well treated and beloved one. He was your buddy. You two were partners, no matter what happened. Adventures, trips to the beach, chicken dinners, moving, jail time, even the detested baths, you two were a team.

    The first night I came to the house he was jumping up all over the bed like he was going “Here! Here! See? This is your bed! Isn’t it cool?”

    I remember one night after I started working, I came home and you got home after me and you were sitting in my room while we were talking and Relampago was going bonkers for some reason, jumping on my lap, your lap, the bed, racing out the door to run around the house in circles and then running back inside. And we just watched. I always thought you were such an amazing pet owner, because you just took things in stride.

    Except of course for that one time. I’ll never stop feeling guilty about it. Rationally I know it wasn’t on purpose and I would’ve done anything to get that 5 seconds back, close the door and keep him from getting into the yard. And I wanted to kill the police officer who told me we couldn’t keep him in the house. But it was seeing the reaction from both of you at being separated that still makes me cringe with anger at myself for not being more careful.

    I never really “got” the whole thing about pets, why people really called them members of the family. I tried to be respectful of it, of course, but I didn’t really understand it emotionally. I just mouthed the platitudes. It wasn’t until I lived with the two of you, when you guys both adopted me into your little family for a while, that I really understood what it meant for a person to say their dog was their best friend, or why it would be so truly, painfully hard when one of them had to go.

    I’m glad I immortalized him on film, at least for a few seconds. R.Go will never, ever be forgotten.

  • Beautiful video. Emmett looks like a special dog indeed. What a spirit.

  • Salamandee

    My heart dog, Tima, is currently 8 years old and sitting next to me as I type this. I have always had dogs in my life, but she is unique. I look into her eyes and there is just something more. Like you said about Emmett, SHE gets ME. My heart swells every time I think of her. I know she can’t be around forever, which is totally not fair, but she still lives by the limitations of her canine body and I can see the signs of old age approaching. I remind myself to cherish her every single day and give her a good life full of love, she deserves nothing less for sharing her precious life with me.

  • marah

    MY CHAMP RAN TO THE RAINBOW BRIDGE TEN YEARS AGO and i still weep like it was yesterday because we connected just like you did with emmett……….he was abused so badly before me (he was a stray) that i had to teach him to bark, play with toys, and be a dog. he was forever grateful for my love but to me, it was the othr way around. i miss him so much but i know champ is waiting for me, along with all of you people animals…………. how we all wish they lived as long as humans…………. i cant wait to be with champ someday. i will be whereever he will be. if the human heaven will only take humans then i choose the dog heaven. i suppose our hearts will always ache for them until we are with them again. and thank yu for posting this , i saw it last year and i loved it as much then, and cried as much. thank you so much. now champ, go play with emmet

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