Shep's Take: Losing A Friend

I feel, as a parent, part if my job is to help my children deal with adversity and disappointment.

The latter is subjective I know.

It could be a relationship breakup or not getting something they desired for their birthday.

It could also mean dealing with death.

My wife and are I trying to help our kids cope with the sudden loss of a family member.

Our seven year old Golden Retriever, named Gunner, was savagely struck by cancer and within hours was gone.

The emotion is raw, real and, at times, unbearable for all to handle.

Non-pet owners cannot relate. And I can’t expect them to. They may not feel a dog is “part of a family.”

They could not be more wrong.

Gunner was (I still have a hard time using past tense) our best friend.

He and I would watch my kids practices from a baseball dugout; or from the stands at the football field. And when I mean watch, I mean watch. He paid attention.  Every player on those teams, for each of my four children, knew Gunner.

Like most dogs, he was excited when we came home, but that’s where the comparison’s to other dog’s ends.

He felt what we felt; he watched television with us (literally) and he knew what we wanted before we could even tell him.

He was more than a dog who could get the paper and help us work in the yard, picking up sticks and putting them in the recycling bag.

Gunner was the most giving and adoring animal I have ever seen.

He was genuine and honest and incredibly intelligent. He was patient and loving with a spirit that was unmatched.

He’s been a pass code; a reference; and a comparison, but he’s always been that companion who was there to share the joy and in the sorrow.

I’ve never been so influenced by an animal in all my life.

He made you want to be a better person.  That’s corny I know and I’d be rolling my eyes myself if I didn’t know him, but those who spent time with him would agree.

He was special. We’ll never be able to replace him, nor will we ever try. 

It’s hard man. I can help my kids with their homework, their social issues and their athletics, but how do I explain why a loving member of the family dies so suddenly?

How do you encourage your kids to stay focused on school, sports and work when you know they are hurting because their best buddy won’t be at the door to greet them with a toy or shoe in his mouth?

How do you ensure them its ok to love again without the fear of having their heart broken?

I’m not sure. After all, I can’t seem to convince myself to do it either.

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