What I really wanted to say was how this animal had touched our souls and taught us some of the most important lessons of our lives. ‘A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours,’ I wrote. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things – a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.

~ John Grogan, Marley & Me

Sights and sounds from a really rough morning . . .

My daughter standing at the foot of my bed with tears streaming down her cheeks. My wife crying the cry that shakes the body, the soul, and the silence. My boys holding her on the couch, Ty tenderly rubbing her back as she screamed into a pillow.

Our pug Shadow had curled up in the bathroom on her forest green floor mat and slipped away during the night.

When we moved into the home we’d built, back in the Spring of 2002, one of the first things we decided we needed was a pet. Garsy’s parents breed pugs and Shadow, who’d endured a rough pregnancy that resulted in a hysterectomy, was the perfect fit. I was apprehensive at first, not sure if I wanted such a God-awful ugly dog. But she won my heart that first day . . .

. . . with that mile-long tongue and hearty yelp that lifted her front end off the ground. She’d beg for treats by standing on her hind legs and dancing in a circle. Resistance was futile.

And the kids loved her. Especially Zoe . . .

. . . who on one occasion was the benefactor of Shadow’s protective nature. Our old neighbors owned a pit bull, a dog made mean by years of teasing and abuse. He was chained in the yard one day, dancing and barking and watching Zoe play with a ball on our driveway. When the ball got away from her and went into their yard, he snapped his chain and came running. Being a kid, and the dog being a big bruiser of a dog with a reputation for playing rough, she freaked out and started running.

Between the two stepped Shadow. She lost . . .

. . . and took a bite to the chest. Her yelps, and the screaming, alerted the neighbor, who came running to break up the confrontation.

Shadow had become the family hero by doing what comes natural. Isn’t that the way it is with most heroes?

Eleven years. That’s old for a pug with a go-getter attitude. We’ll miss her dancing around the breakfast table begging for pancakes. The way she’d nudge my leg and then flop down and roll over in anticipation of a belly-scratchin’. Her favorite spot, under my wife’s desk near the vent, is now vacant.

But our hearts and minds are filled with her presence. That’s my girl . . .


25 thoughts on “Hero

  1. I am so sorry. We also have a pug, I think I’ll go hug him right now…

  2. I’m not a pet person; on the farm, we didn’t have animals that didn’t help the bottom line. And yet, I’m sitting here, trying to keep my tears from hitting my phone’s moisture sensor. I am so sorry.

    I watched my husband’s family lose their dog a few years ago. For a week straight, they burst into tears at random moments. Even his dad, whom I’d never seen cry. As much as I felt bad for them, I envied them, too. They were going through an incredible bonding experience that they never would have had, otherwise.

    Big hugs to the whole family.

  3. I do not cry for many things, but I cry for dogs. And I’m crying right now. I’ll send you good vibes with my brain. It’s hard to lose a friend.

  4. Sorry, man. Sorry for your kids.

  5. Oh, I’m so sorry for you and your family, Brian. Pets are so much a part of our lives, our homes, our families. It’s very hard to lose them.

    Thoughts and prayers.

  6. I’m sorry for your loss.

  7. We’re very sorry to hear that!

    We have a dog and two cats, all very old now and I’m sure we’ll be experiencing the same in the near future.

  8. Sending you and yours a heart-felt hug, Brian. Shadow looks like such a happy dog in your photos. Think of her cavorting over the Rainbow Bridge, remembering great times with your family. G

  9. Aw how sad!! So sorry for your loss. I have had many, many pets and it’s so hard when their time comes.

  10. The bond developed with an animal is truly amazing. Our family has said goodbye to many over the years, yet we keep getting more. I type this as my Golden mix is asleep at my feet.

    We’ll be thinking about you all.

  11. Aw, I am sorry. Loosing a dog is really hard.

  12. a difficult and important lesson that such amazing pets can teach our kids… you can love someone (or some critter) with all your heart, but you can’t disrupt the cycle. crying my eyes out right now, remembering every dog i’ve ever loved, and lost. hugs to the entire clan…

  13. Oh, hon. I am so truly sorry to read of your family’s loss.

    What a loving tribute to such a brave little warrior, and the pictures are perfect – I love the sidesaddle/tongue lolling – it captures the true essence of a pug.

    I hope that the days to come find you all feeling Shadow’s presence, rather than noticing her absence. Big Hugs.

  14. I’m so sorry man. Pets have a way of getting incredibly deep into your heart. And they have too little time on the planet. My best wishes to you and yours.

  15. Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
    There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
    There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
    The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

    Author unknown…

  16. Sorry for your loss.

  17. Man I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. It’s never easy to lose a part of your tribe, but sometimes I think it’s even harder when it’s a pet. Our thoughts go out to you and your family.

  18. My heart goes out to you and your family as you travel this unplanned and unexpected path of grieving for Shadow. Know that time may heal a bit of what reason cannot explain.

    Great love was shown by that little wisp of a pet; carry that forward with you into the future.

  19. That is so sad. It’s so hard to lose a beloved friend and protector. Lucky for you and your pug that you had each other!

  20. Oh! What an incredibly, terribly hard thing, to lose a pet. But…what a wonderful thing, to have a pet – a friend, a member of the family – like Shadow. Your family is incredibly lucky.

    I had to put down my nineteen-year-old Siamese last year, and I still miss her. It’s as if nearly two decades of her company wasn’t enough for me! I tell myself not to be so selfish, but I can’t help it. She was my best friend.

  21. I am so sorry. A good dog is such a member of the family.

    I’ve been thinking about this as our older beagle, 14, is losing his hearing and it’s getting harder for him to get up and down the stairs.

  22. michael.offworld August 24, 2009 — 9:14 pm

    so long, shadow…

  23. Thanks for all the kind comments everyone.

  24. I am so sorry for your family’s loss.

  25. I know how pets can become members of our family. We lost a cat two years ago. We had him for 17 years. It was heartbreaking to be holding his lifeless body as we all gathered to talk about Noisemaker and to help each other grieve. It has been two years but when I think of him, it gets to me all over again. Like now.

    I know you will all remember your pug in a special way and in that, she will always be with you.

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