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?
Heart Dog Tribute is a place to offer support and celebration of our beloved Heart Dogs (aka canine soulmates). What better way to do it that submitting your very own Tribute story? Your Heart Dog(s) will be "paws"itively thrilled!
Here are the 5 Reasons to Share your Heart Dog Tribute:
1. To Honour Your Heart Dog
Your Heart Dog loves you as much as you love him (or her). The funny part is they may not realize they are the star of the show when published on Heart Dog Tribute but you'll know and will forever cherish your story being eternalized in their memory online.
2. Opportunity to Recall, Reflect, & Rejoice
The super cool thing about writing a Tribute is that it allows you to "paws" for a moment and truly reflect on all the things you already know are so special about your Heart Dog. Whether you are seeking solace or closure of their passing, or celebration of the life you have the fortune of continuing to share with them, writing a Tribute will offer the opportunity to contemplate and express all things you love about your Heart Dog.
3. So Simple to do!
Now that the Tribute questions are available on our online form, there is no more need to download the template and deal with any troubling tech issues. It's as easy as shake a paw :)
4. The Opportunity to Share with your Friends and Family
Writing a Tribute will help you express the special connection you and your canine soulmate share, which will make you feel every bit the proud parent you are. And what proud parent doesn't like to brag about their baby? Here's your chance! Once published, you can share your Heart Dog Tribute on Facebook, email, or any other social media platform you'd like!
5. Be part of our Growing Community!
Every day, Heart Dog Tribute is connecting with new canine-loving friends with one thing in common: we have experienced what it feels like to have a canine soulmate; all the love, joy, sadness, and despair that comes with it and we wouldn't give up a minute with our Heart Dog for any treat in the world. We also understand the value of celebrating this connection as much as the benefit of having a community to offer support in times of need.
How do I submit my Heart Dog Tribute?
First of all, know that all Heart Dogs qualify! No matter how old or young or if they are still with you or have passed. If your Heart Dog is a duo or trio, or another type of fur friend altogether, the unique bond you share is the only qualifying aspect of contributing your Tribute story.
So what are you waiting for? Click here to go straight to the Tribute form and submit your Tribute today!
Any question? Email me at email@example.com
1. Go for a Long Car Ride
I'm not sure about you, but joining me for car rides, whether to a quick trip to the store, or even better - to the park - are a common activity my dogs love to do. Maverick especially would get SO excited about car rides. He could go from being fast asleep to a full onslaught of energy in 5 seconds if he heard the rustling of car keys and the cue from me "Car ride!" Of course, this is weather permitting (never leave your dogs in a hot car!). Depending on where you live, Labour Day weekend is often a time when the temperature starts to cool allowing for more car rides with pit stops so this could be the perfect opportunity to run errands and spend quality time with your Heart Dog - a complete win-win!
So why not pack a bag of goodies (human and dog edible) and choose a scenic route to go for an extended trip. You can stop at various places (parks, hiking trails, dog parks, monuments) and take pictures, have snacks, and relish in the laziness and relaxation of the long weekend. Don't forget to take lots of selfies with your Heart Dog and share them with your friends on social media.
2. Make a Big Batch of Homemade Food for your Heart Dog
When my Heart Dog Maverick got sick, I was firmly told by a holistic veterinarian to make him homemade food. As a dietitian, this piqued my interest and I started to learn more about proper nutrition for dogs. Maverick (and Marti, my other loveable sheltie), gobbled it up like a kid in a candy store and their digestive activities (aka poop!) seemed to improve so I was immediately sold of the benefits. To this day, even with Maverick's passing in July, I continue to make homemade food for Marti. Each time I make a batch it's an adventure as I experiment with different concoctions but essentially you're looking to make 1/3 protein (ground chicken, turkey, beef, fish), 1/3 carbohydrate (rice, potato, or other grain), and 1/3 vegetables (aim for two colours like spinach and carrots). Homemade food is especially effective if you need to give your Heart Dog medicine. Marti needs to take a pill twice each day for her thyroid and 100% of the time it will be consumed along with her homemade foods compared to about 50% of the time when it's given with dry kibble.
3. Visit a new Dog Park
Making new friends is a favourite pastime for most dogs. For Maverick, this was definitely a top five all-time favourite activity, which is uncharacteristically sheltie-like (Marti on the other hand is a true introvert and prefers to make friends with her favourite pillows :)). Most fellow dog owners I know, have one (maybe two) dog parks in their community that they frequently visit, which is great because you run into people and dogs you know. For a new adventure, why not Google a new dog park to visit and make it a special outing with your Heart Dog?! It's a great chance for you both to meet new friends and explore new sites and smells. As a bonus, make a pit stop on the way home to your local pet store and let your Heart Dog sniff out their favourite treat while soaking up attention from the pet store staff.
What are your favourite Labour Day long weekend adventures with your Heart Dog? Please share and inspire us with your ideas.
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.