This tribute goes out to Richard from Martha's Vineyard, MA. He sent in his Tribute story about Buster, his dear and loyal Jack Russell companion and Heart Dog. Thank you Richard for sharing your heart felt tribute. May Buster be forever with you in spirit.
A Dog and a Heart
Life has been interesting and an adventure for the last fourteen years, as it is now. The constant in all of that journey has been my Jack Russell Terrier, Buster. Now, I must find the joy and intensity of every day without him. I have never known one of God’s creatures that had more heart, courage, and devotion. His character was so pure and intense, there was no choice but to allow his world to join mine. He will always be with me because his unconditional love became so much a part of my life. This small tribute in grieving is an outpouring of the respect and gratitude he earned.
Buster's heart was broken when I picked him up abandoned at the rescue, and he came to know the truth of my heart. My heart was broken too, and I came to know the truth of his heart. Our bond was that we learned to believe our hearts again in the trusting and loving of each other. Since then we have traveled far and faced much together, but always with heart and courage.
Buster never cared where we were going, only that we were going. He never cared what we were doing, only that we were doing it together. He accepted nothing less than being my companion and went everywhere with me. My heart is too heavy to recount the stories and memories of my co-conspirator right now. I can only bear witness that there was not a day that he did not make me laugh, not a day that he did not made me feel love, and not a day that he did not renew my belief in a world worth exploring. There was not a day that I ever took these gifts for granted.
If you see an old man sitting alone on a park bench, don’t jump to judgement or unfair stereotypes. He may just be like me, a good man with heart and many stories to tell, and he still misses his constant canine companion no longer by his side.
It may seem that these feelings for a dog may be excessive in this world of distractions. Yet my awareness and gratitude for this valuable bond is something I wish to express, just as I do my belief in the truth of all the important bonds of friends and family that I hold dear. The connections with the animals God entrusts to us is a noble endeavor. Buster was a noble dog.
The house is not right tonight; a heartbeat is missing and a heart breaks. Some things can never pass. Our life well lived together will always be in who I am, and who I become… I am a lucky man. I would not trade one moment of our time together to ease this incredible grief. Thank you, Buster, Sun Dog, Funny Little Dog, Funny Big Dog. Funny Old Dog, and my friend. Thank you from my heart that you came to unconditionally trust and believe.
Thank you again Richard for your genuine and heartfelt expression of your love for Buster. Your Heart Dog Tribute is the epitome of the shared connection not only between each of us and our Heart Dog, but between all of us who grieve them. Today marks the 9-month anniversary of losing Maverick and your genuine and authentic words resonate deep in my heart.
Do you have a story to share about your Heart Dog? We are accepting Tribute stories and would be privileged to feature your beloved Heart Dog.
Yesterday marks the six-month anniversary since I lost Maverick. It was also one of my busiest work days, which was both a blessing and a curse. In one way, I’d have loved nothing more than spending the day at home reminiscing his memories. In another, keeping busy saved the bucket of tears that no doubt would have led me to go shopping to replenish my tissue supply.
It got me thinking about how random grief is. Just when you think it’s getting better, it comes out of nowhere like a gust of heavy wind making you struggle to stay upright. One minute you can be thinking about items on your grocery list, the next you experience an intense wave of longing for your Heart Dog because the cheese on your list was his favourite treat.
Life without your Heart Dog becomes an army of reminders about his existence. The corner he often sat in, his place on the bed that is now empty, the furry magnet paws I no longer step on by accident, the food bin that goes down much slower feeding one mouth instead of two, or the pictures of him on the walls that catch my gaze daily and will never be updated. The whammy of all reminders occurs when chatting with new people about my canine counterparts. My response is no longer plural. It's simply “I have a dog”. “Her name is Marti". "She’s a sheltie”. It feels very unnatural to eliminate Maverick from the conversation yet getting into the full story with people I have just met seems a bit awkward. Sometimes, if it's a mutual dog lover who I feel comfortable with, the full story comes out but as a whole, my dog mom identity is now singular ... this is taking some getting used to.
But like anything in life, grief is not a straight arrowed path. It comes with many curveballs, unexpected twists, makes you fall on your behind like nothing else can, and yet it also offers a source of pride for the strength you didn’t realize you had. Grief also provides the opportunity to bond with others having gone through the same thing and awakens the truest sense of gratitude for the unconditional love and loyalty your Heart Dog provided.
Proof of the randomness of grief comes when it overshadows even the busiest of days. Currently I have a full time job, a part time job, and a business (as well as this blog). My days are filled to the brim from the moment I wake up to the moment my head hits the pillow (and then some!). But that doesn’t stop the memories of Maverick flowing into my mind at all random times – whether in the car driving to or from work, in the shower, or at night just before bed as I’m winding down and my head isn’t quite as filled as the rest of the day. Night time was always our cuddle time (and his “More treats please!?” time..lol!). The best was falling asleep and feeling him snuggled up against my leg and then waking up to him relentlessly bouncing all over me under I fed him breakfast.
Maverick was my Heart Dog, my canine soulmate. My fluffy companion that glued himself to me 24/7. Whether six months, a year, or many more thereafter, nothing will change what he means to me and I will continue to embrace every random moment of grief as an opportunity to remember all the wonderful things he filled my life with.
How does grief from the loss of your Heart Dog creep up on you? What lessons does this offer you? Share in the comments section below.
To share your Heart Dog Tribute today, fill out this simple form. It’s an opportunity to reminisce, reflect, and rejoice all there is to love about your Heart Dog.
Read past Heart Dog Tributes here: Westie, Pebbles, Oliver, Shadow, Wynston, and Maverick
Is it just me or does it seem like each year Christmas comes faster than ever? This year is no exception. It’s incredible that despite how fast the year went, so much has happened during 2016. Just a year ago, Maverick would be at my foot as I typed away on my laptop, and getting excited for his next walk or treat if he saw me getting up. Everything felt ‘normal’ except the churning in the pit of my stomach that questioned “would this be Maverick’s last Christmas with me?”. He was in full remission from his lymphoma yet I knew good things could only last so long. Fast forward 12 months and he’s now in doggie heaven. 5 months and 11 days to be exact.
As I write this, it truly hits me the magnitude of what this means. I was still in university the last time I celebrated a holiday season without Maverick, which truly feels a lifetime ago. Virtually, he was by my side for my entire adult life as I know it. Every Christmas morning, he was at my bedside with me opening my sock from Santa and would spend the rest of the day gazing longingly for treats and turkey only to swiftly pounce on the variety of crumbs that would fall his way.
Christmas has always meant tradition and Maverick was as central to that as Santa Claus coming to town and watching Die Hard on Christmas Eve with my mom.
So how do you manage your favourite holiday without your Heart Dog?
While I haven’t discovered the answer to this question yet, I have come to realize that, like everything else in life, you have a choice. In this case, do I choose to wallow in the emptiness replacing his warm furry cuddles? Or do I choose to remember the happy memories and give Marti, my other sheltie, an extra hug, when tears creep up?
I choose the happy memories but with that, accept and appreciate that waves of sadness are bound to happen. I like to think these are simply moments helping me to stay connected to him. Similar to how the cold may not feel pleasant yet we relish in how it reminds us it’s Christmas. During these moments, it’s like Maverick’s little paws are reaching out from somewhere telling me he misses me too and reminding me that one of my greatest fortunes in life has been a twenty-pound spunky bundle of fur.
So if you are dealing with the holidays without your Heart Dog, whether for the first time or after many, I encourage you to choose gratitude for the wonderful memories you have. Think of your top 3 holiday memories with your Heart Dog right now.
Here are my top 3 Heart Dog Holiday memories:
Most of all, the best memory is him just simply being there. It’s something about the holidays that makes having your Heart Dog around all that more comforting. I miss him more today than ever because the holidays are meant to be the time you spend with your loved ones and he’s at the top of my list. I’m sure you feel the same way if your Heart Dog has passed and my heart goes out to you. If your Heart Dog is still with you – go give them the biggest hug possible, spoil them rotten with treats, and capture all the happy times you can this Christmas for memories years to come.
What is your favourite Heart Dog Holiday memory? Share in the comments section below!
This is the Heart Dog story of Westie..the Westie! He is loved by Karine & Gay Hazan of Montreal. Westie was an adorable little critter filled with love and cuddles for his favourite people. He sadly passed away last year but not a day goes by he is not missed by those who love him. Thank you Karine & Gay for sharing your Heart Dog Tribute story!
When we got married I promised my husband that the day we had a backyard we could get a dog. Fast forward 3 years - we had just purchased and moved into our first home, a duplex, with a backyard. My husband, Gay, was quick to remind me of the promise I made. I retiterated the promise with one condition - the dog had to be a West Highland Terrier. Knowing that my husband wanted to adopt from the SPCA I was convinced we would not find a Westie anytime in the near future. Behold my surprise when one-month later my husband calls to let me know the SPCA does indeed have a Westie. That night, we went to see him and took him for walk. We were instantly smitten but decided to leave him at the SPCA to discuss it and think about it over the weekend. Deliberation didn't quite go as planned - my husband called me the very next day and told me he was on his way home with our new dog Westie :)
From that moment on our lives were changed forever. Westie became part of the family. Our parents were expecting Westie every Shabbat dinner. He enriched our lives in so many ways and during certain busy periods, he was the glue that kept us close. He made sure we were ready to be parents and once that moment came, it seemed as if he was ready to say goodbye. A month after my son was born we found out that Westie had an inoperable tumor at the base of his neck. He left 4 months after my son was born. The hardest part of saying goodbye to Westie was not being able to make him understand that we had to let him go for his own good. We buried him in a farm in Saint-Lazarre and we make a point of going to see him every year on the day we said goodbye, August 8th.
We loved and will always love Westie the Westie, our Heart Dog.
Westie loved food. It didn’t really matter what it was, he would jump up and try to snatch it out of our hands. We soon discovered that although he loved everything, he had a special place in his heart for cheese and sweet potatoes. Westie would sit at our feet, ears down, licking his chops waiting for us to share with him. He would let out a little yelp every so often to remind us that he was there waiting for his treat.
Westie also had a love for balls, but one ball in particular was his favourite - the “devil ball”. The ball was green and had two little vampire like ears sticking out and it squeaked. I work from home so when he would start playing with the ball all I would hear is squeaking for hours, hence the name “devil ball”.
Our favourite activity with Westie was going for walks. If my husband and I were home he wouldn’t leave the house with only one of us, it had to be the three of us. As it turns out, that stubbornness to be walked by both my husband and I was what made us connect as a family and talk about day, problems, future plans, etc. Westie was the one who made sure we had that special family moment, every day.
There are a few special moments that stick out. For starters, when coming back from our nightly walks, we would let Westie off his leash when we got to our street. As soon as we did this, he would start walking towards the house but always looked back to make sure we were right behind him.
Another special moment happened every day at around 5:30 pm when I would hear Westie jump off the couch, run to the front door, and wait for my husband to return from work. He would sit up and stare at the door for 15 minutes and then curl up against the front door until my husband made it home.
Simply cuddling on the weekend in the basement while watching a movie together was always special as well. We loved listening to his light breathing knowing it meant he felt comfortable and safe.
Lastly, Westie always loved to lie down on my stomach when we watched movies or took naps, but as soon as I was pregnant (even before I was showing), he started putting his head only on my stomach and not all of his body as he had done for 6 years. This perhaps was the most special of all moments because it showed just how intuitive and protective he was of me and my son.
Skills & Tricks
1) Westie knew how to moon walk. Whenever he wanted something he would back up a few feet sliding with his hind legs while moving his behind, that meant give it to me or else..lol.
2) Shabbat dinner, Friday night dinner, starts off with a prayer on the wine and a prayer for the bread. As soon as Westie would hear the start of the prayer he would run up to the person reciting the prayer, sit and wait patiently for the prayer to finish. As soon as it did, he would jump up for his piece of bread.
3) Westie was also very talented at doing a few tricks in a row, especially when it meant an extra special treat was the prize. Once we captured it on a video and created a home movie out of it (click 'play' below to check out Westie's amazing talents!)
Westie loved meeting other friendly dogs but one dog in particular he was really excited about, his girlfriend Zoey. Every time he would spot Zoey (a Golden Retriever), he would pull us towards her and start panting until he got close to her.
Unique quirks or other interesting tidbits
Westie would bump up and down his littl' butt and make these funny noises which always made us smile and laugh.
Would you like to share your Heart Dog Tribute story? It's a simple as filling out this form. It's an opportunity to reminisce and celebrate your Heart Dog. Whether they have passed or still with you, taking the opportunity to showcase all that you love of them will strengthen your bond and help create published memories to last a lifetime.
It’s been 4 months since that warm evening of July 14th when I carried Maverick, my Heart Dog, outside in my arms, laid him down under a giant old tree, and said goodbye. Since that fateful night, I think of those final few moments every time I go outside with Marti and walk by the tree. To everyone else it's just a 'tree'; to me, it's both a sanctuary and place of sadness that brings a flood of memories.
The sad memories are starting to fade but it hasn’t been an easy few months without him, to say the least. I can say that with time comes acceptance and peace. I have come to realize that experiencing grief first-hand makes your heart break but it also allows it to grow when you truly realize the gift you had of experiencing “true love”. It also extends an added layer of understanding and empathy for others who have dealt with the same loss because now “I get it”. I feel those of us who have lost our Heart Dog are part of a special pack and we share a bond that can only be truly understood once you’ve been through it too.
What has also been on my mind lately is wondering how the loss impacts our surviving furry loves. How do they feel about losing their fur friend? Do they experience it the same way we do?
Recently, I have chatted with a few friends about this and have heard stories from other Heart Dog owners (i.e. various Facebook groups, other social media posts) and everyone’s experience with their surviving dog(s) (and/or other pets) truly seems unique.
However, I do notice two distinct trends. On the one hand are dogs who experience grief in a very obvious way. Once their fur friend has passed, they may be found looking frantically for them, whimpering, and generally acting depressed and not at all like themselves. This type of grief is very overt and can add to the stress experienced by the owner trying to now manage both their surviving dog’s pain, as well as their own.
On the other end of the spectrum, are dogs that do not appear affected by the loss. This has certainly been the case for Marti. I had mentioned in my blog post Heart Dog Bonds that Marti has not seemed affected by Maverick’s absence. They have always been aloof with each other yet admittedly, I can’t deny I was secretly hoping for some type of outward sign his absence was noticed by more than just me. It would have reassured me that they were buddies all these years (a prime reason I got Marti was to offer Maverick company) and not simply a tolerance of each other. It would also be comforting to know I could be there for her, just like she has been for me.
It took a while but I got this sign about a week ago. I came across my old Blackberry and was looking through it when I found several videos of Maverick & Marti playing chase (the one activity they did that genuinely seemed to show they shared a connection). As I was watching them, feeling choked up but also relishing in the sound of Maverick’s clear “Chase me!” bark, Marti immediately perked up and started looking around.
She recognized Maverick’s bark and was looking for him. I watched her for a few moments and she started to look confused so I turned the volume off to avoid causing her any distress. I was glad for the reassurance this offered but it also brought on a new surge of sadness for not only the longing I felt for him, but the realization Marti did as well, in her own indifferent way.
An example from my friend tells a very opposite story. When her mom’s surviving dog saw a picture of her recently passed fur friend, she got very worked up and was clearly upset, forcing my friend’s mom to put the picture out of view from longing canine eyes. She did not expect her pup to have recognition from a merely a picture. This really goes to show that we are definitely not the only ones affected by the loss.
It seems clear that the bond certain dogs share is much stronger than others, and for no particular rhyme or reason. Just like our bonds with people and our fur babies differ. So perhaps the term ‘Heart Dog’ describes not only the bond we share with our canine soulmate but the bond they share with their BFF too.
Have you ever really thought about what makes your Heart Dog, your Heart Dog? Why them and not another? It’s so hard to say really and there are no scientific studies I’m aware of that has looked at this. I think with Maverick, he was my very first dog and I got him soon after I was done school and living in the ‘real world’. He offered much welcomed company and companionship. But it’s more than that. With Maverick, his personality is so opposite of mine (as the saying goes “opposites attract!”). He was so outgoing and social and was never afraid to be himself. In comparison, Marti is essentially the canine version of me..lol. She is naturally quiet and shy, and a homebody. Let’s just say, we definitely get each other (and I wouldn't have her be any other way). However, it was Maverick’s extroverted nature that really captured my heart and in turn, helped me become more social and confident being myself around new people.
For instance, while Marti will rarely jump up on my lap (even with coaxing and then if I do get her up, she is soon looking to get back down), Maverick would jump through a fire hoop, without hesitation (let alone an invitation!) to cuddle on my lap. And not just mine...anyone’s. I will never forget the time he leaped from the back seat of my little Honda Civic into the lap of my sister-in-law, totally out of the blue. We had just pulled into a mall parking lot and were about to get out of the car. Apparently, someone didn’t want to be left alone...lol.
Regardless, we love all our dogs and they love us back just as they love each other. Sometimes, certain bonds just stand out more than others making the sting of heartbreak that much harder. But as they say “Life goes on” so we need to keep our chins up and focus on the great memories and awesome things in front of us each day. And while we may question what is best to help our surviving pup(s) from missing their friend (just like we wonder how we will get through it), we can do no wrong by continuing to offer them unconditional love and TLC, and be there for them however they need, just as they are for us.
How did your surviving canine (or other pet) deal with the loss of your Heart Dog?
How can this blog help you?
This website and blog originated from the experience of learning to let go of my beloved Heart Dog, Maverick. By sharing my story and offering the opportunity for you to share yours, I hope we can all truly celebrate their lives. pay tribute, and heal from the loss of our one true canine companion. I hope this website will also raise awareness of the meaning of a Heart Dog because it is a concept that is not largely understood.