I Said Goodbye to My Best Friend Last Night

“He’d stretch his whole body out as long as he could, and press it really hard against one of ours, so that the most of him could be touching the most of us.”

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Originally written by TV personality Dave Holmes | Esquire

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Life with a dog starts in tears.

I remember the first day Ben and I got ours. Junior. We had pulled him away from his mother and siblings, the only life he’d ever known, to live with us and do… what exactly? Could we manage this? Are we the right guys for this job? What if we break him?

We named our dog Junior because we imagined him as our practice kid. “We’ll get a dog,” we said, “and if we can keep him alive for three years, we’ll start the process of adopting a baby.” We kept him alive for 10 years and two days and what we learned was that all we wanted, all we ever wanted, was Junior.

I had decided, with some nudging from Ben, to get a Wheaten Terrier. After an interview with the Wheaten Club of Southern California, we got news of a new litter* up in Santa Ynez.  “When’s a good time for you to go up there?” they asked. We were already in the car. There were nine puppies, and when we walked in the door, eight of them jumped all over us, wanting to wrestle. One hung out on the other side of the room playing with a ball, doing his own thing. I thought: you have piqued my interest, young fellow. We sat on the floor with the breeder, telling our story, hearing hers, and after 20 minutes or so, the quiet one walked over, hopped up into my lap, put his paws on my shoulders and hoisted himself up to get a good look at me, nose to nose. She said: “I know you won’t believe me, but he’s never done that before.” I said, “May we have this one please?”

 

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(The plan was to get one purebred, and then one rescue, for balance, but we could never bring ourselves to do it. What if Junior thinks he’s being replaced? What if he starts thinking he’s less special? Junior did a real number on us.)

One of the dog training books I bought—The Monks of New Skete, maybe—recommended spending those first few weeks in close quarters with your new kid. My show was on hiatus at the time, so I could. I did. I don’t remember what the point was, but I imagine it’s more an exercise for the people than the dog. You and the dog hang out and look in each other’s eyes and smell each other and take naps together and, before you know it, there’s a piece of your soul in a new body. Ben works from home, so he did it too, and his experience was the same. You bond. From that point on, when you are sad, the dog knows it. When the dog is sad, you know it. When everyone is happy, it’s a party. You have a friend like you’ve never had in your life, and he never even learns your name.

Our friend Irene said, “I keep expecting him to unzip his dog suit and a little boy to step out.” Everybody said things like this about Junior, and they were right. He had people eyes. Once, a few months after we got him, I took him on some errands with me (I always took him on errands with me; Junior was very enthusiastic about errands) and one of my stops was our local 7-11. I walked in and the guy behind the counter said, “Your dog looks like a person.” I said “I know,” and he rung me up and on the way out, a stranger walking in said: “There’s a dog out there that looks like a person.” It came up a lot.

 

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He had human traits, too. His favorite treat was a bully stick, those things that are made out of bull tendons or whatever, so we’d give him one every month or so and it would last a few days. He would make it last a few days, because this is what he would do: he’d only chew on it if we were both in the room to watch. If one of us left, he would stop and go do something else. If he had been working on one for a couple of days, and Ben and I came back to the house after being gone for a bit, he would run to the door to greet us, and then go right back to the stick. “Good. You’re here. You can watch me enjoy this now.” It was important to him to see us getting our money’s worth. The son of showbiz people in every way.

When I walked him, people stopped to ask questions, mostly variations on, “What is he?” It happened so often that when people didn’t make a fuss over him, I thought: What the hell is wrong with you?

A dog cracks your heart open.

A dog introduces you to a simple, honest, new kind of love. Or maybe an old one: the one you felt when you were a kid and the world was full of wonder and affection and possibility and you only knew a couple of people and they were your everything. A year or so into having him, I was doing some writing in my office, and I looked down and he was there at my side, looking up at me. What does he want? I thought. I’ve fed him, we’ve walked, we’ve wrestled. What is it, Junior? And then it hit me: he just wants to be near me, because we’re friends.

 

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We stayed really good friends, me and Ben and Junes. Just last week, we took him up to Napa with us. He went on a few long runs with me. He roamed in some vineyards and charmed some new people. When I hit my head on a light fixture in our room, it was the concern on his face that made us go to the ER. When Ben lost his grandma last month, Junior knew to hang even closer to him for a few days. He slept in the bed with us, and his thing was that he’d stretch his whole body out as long as he could, and press it really hard against one of ours, so that the most of him could be touching the most of us.

Junior is gone now.

He ruptured his spleen over the weekend and had to have it removed. The vet called Monday morning to say that he was on the mend, [and] that if we got him to eat, we could take him home in a few hours. We filled our pockets with treats and baggies of ham and went to visit him, and by the time we got there, post-surgical complications had set in. The vet said his blood was clotting; it happens sometimes in cases like these. He told us to go home and sit tight. He called us later to say the clots looked like they had reached his brain. He called 20 minutes or so after that to say that he had stopped breathing. We went back in to see him and put a few last kisses on his sweet head and clip a couple of locks of hair. Probably some other things happened. We’ll never know.

 

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We spent Monday afternoon just roaming. Wandering the house like zombies, retracing the steps of the route we used to walk him. We didn’t know what else to do. And then a couple friends of ours texted us to go look at the sunset, so we did. It was perfect. Ben played R.E.M.’s “You Are The Everything” on his phone, and I poured us a couple of whiskeys, and we toasted the best friend we ever had, and we watched Junior’s sunset fade away. Life with a dog ends in tears, too.

Ours is not a unique story. I know that. You might have had your heart expanded and broken by a dog yourself. If you have, you know what’s happening right now. If you haven’t, I can tell you this, even now, even as we wander this house looking for pieces of our shattered hearts: it was worth it.

But, more than anything, I just wanted you to know about Junior. He was really something.

 

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*Life With Dogs strongly espouses a “Don’t shop – adopt!” motto.

246 thoughts on “I Said Goodbye to My Best Friend Last Night

  1. So sorry for the loss. I have two I Adopted and I dread the day I must say goodbye there my Bestfriend and my Family there all I got ???

  2. They love us like nothing else and somehow make our hearts bigger. I hope someday, when you are ready, you find a new friend. Not to replace him, but in his honor. But I know from experience, some are just super special and he sounds like he was. If it helps, I found writing down my memories helped. Just as they came to me. They always leave us too soon. <3

  3. Read it and teared, because I know what they are going through. We’ve had to do it twice in a short span of time. It’s painful and unbearable and you think to yourself we aren’t adopting no more dogs. Then all of a sudden you have another two you saved from The Humane Society. Or, as it is said they saved me!

  4. On January 28th of this year we put down our 12 year old Boxer Layla. She had cardiomyopathy and was beginning to suffer. The next day, our 13 year old Boston Terrier Harley (Layla’s little big brother) lay down in the sun on the patio, breathed hard and spasmed, then joined his sister at the Rainbow Bridge. This is their resting place. We each grieve in our own way, but I understand the terrible pain of losing furry kids. RIP to his Junior.

  5. O my word i don’t know that i will do if my Dexi must go over the rainbow..i cry my eyes out..sorry for your loss..it must be terrable..

  6. I am 63, and since I was 11 years old, I have lost 10 dogs to natural death, disease, or accidents. Most had up to 10 plus years before they passed away. Every single one was a joy to have in my life. What they each gave me in affection, companionship, and smiles and laughter was beyond what ever I was able to give them in return!
    I have two rescues now. One has been with me 11 years and the other for six. I know each will pass from my life one day as those before them did. With each loss, my heart felt as though it was trying to tear it’s way out of my body. So many tears were shed that I lost count of the of the days until I stopped crying.
    To this day…I wonder why some animals like Elephants can live into their 60’s, and the most loving animal…a dog, rarely makes it beyond 10 to 15…16 years!
    Each one of those dogs who shared their short lives with me through the years gave me the gift of unconditional love and the pleasure of sharing their lives with me.
    They all still live in my heart, however. And the memories I have of each one always makes me smile when I think of them! It’s never easy to lose them…, but I will always have a dog in my life as long as I have the capacity to take care of it!
    A magnet on my refrigerator say, “A dog is the only relative that you can choose yourself.” I agree!
    I am so sorry for yours and Ben’s loss! ❤️?

  7. They are our family, friends and the best companion anyone can dream of. May your Junior rest in peace. Thank you for sharing his story.

  8. every time it happens to me i SWEAR i’m not ever putting myself through that again. last time i lost three dogs in less than a year and it about destroyed me but before too much time had passed i found myself rescuing two more abandoned dogs and three years later i offered my home to another rescued dog … and a cat! now i have four aging animals, one of which just ruptured a disk and overnight became a quadriplegic. i had the option of putting him to sleep or spending five thousand dollars i’d have to borrow at usurious rates. he was nine years old and i was subtly encouraged to let him go but, after thinking about it a very short time, i elected to go with the surgery, even tho there was no guarantee he would even be minimumly better. it’s taken months but he’s back to being his goofy labrador self and making life interesting for everyone. i know i’m going to lose all of them, it’s a no brainer but i’ll enjoy the hell out of every last one of them until they leave me for greener pastures. i grieve for you and your buddy and wish i had words of comfort to give but there are none. when they’re gone the pain is awful and the hole they leave in our lives can never be filled; you find others to love and to love you, but it’s never quite the same, each holds a different place in your life and your heart.

  9. My condolences. Having gone through with 9 of my dogs in the last 35 years, it is so hard to say good bye. My Dali passed away a year ago, I am still in disbelief and I still grieve daily. I cried in my pillow just last night. It does not get easier. Go with love Junior.

  10. Made me cry. …memories of Georgie my bearded collie He left a gaping hole age in our lives when he passed away age 16 years. Beautifully written article.

  11. I despise the fact that the dog was not adopted nor rescued. For every dog and cat that is bought from a breeder, one gets put down at the shelter. Sadly, overcrowding of animals at my local animal shelter that I volunteer at is a big issue. This is because people want puppies or kittens; and I agree, I do too. But middle aged/ senior dogs are just the best! Age doesn’t defy who they are nor does it have any limitations. Their personalities are just as big as ever, it’s just that nobody ever gives them a chance. Please everyone, I hope that this holiday season people will consider adopting instead of buying from breeders.

  12. just read this and in tears,…a dog does touch you deeper than you think,and i cuddle my dog in bed at night savouring every minute of him,,might sound weird,..but i do love him xxx

  13. My heart goes out. I had to help my adopted dog to pass on Saturday. She suffered cancer and years of neglect from her previous owner. She was a great dog & I wanted her last months to be happy & full of love.

  14. Love my Bailey. This will be the hardest day of my life when it comes. Until then o will Cherish every second on this planet i have with you.

  15. My condolences, hope your grieving doesn’t deter you from adopting another fur baby one day, you had that much love for one, you still have a lot of love to give to another. Signed been there, done that,??

  16. I have no words of comfort , no wisecracks or the usual platitudes to bestow on you, for the pain of losing the best part of your soul is beyond words. Some emotions and thoughts are just too overwhelming for words to do it justice. Almost all of my soul is lying in my garden, guarded by various plants, and my thoughts are sad, happy, filled with love, and private. You wrote a beautiful article, Sir, and I am grateful to find that I am not alone in these intense emotions surrounding my furkids. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Very sorry for your tremendous loss…it’s worse than a human family member passing…we went through it with they passing of our Lhaso Apso 5 years ago….my heart is with you and tears are flowing…what a wonderful tribute to Junior.. RIP …

  18. I am all in tears …. I could relate what u must be going through. Stay strong junior will be watching over you. He gave you wonderful 10 years. Cherish them.

  19. Had to say goodbye to my best buddy of almost 15 years (in profile pic) this past Sept. His little sis, my 5 year old Springer and I are missing him dearly everyday. Dogs touch your heart like nothing else.

  20. Toby has been gone for almost eight years, but I think of him almost every day. He was a great little beagle with a lot of “tude” but more heart. He loved to run around the backyard announcing his presence by barking and baying. When I would open the gate to take him back into the house, I would bend over to hook his collar with the leash and he would touch my forehead with his head, every time, as if he acknowledged that I was a pretty good for a human.

  21. Blessed are the people like you who has the heart that knows how to treasure and love our furry friends that is truly a mana best friend. If you look them in their eyes there is something that you cant explain. They cant talk but they have their ways to tell us that they love us and they always look up to us as their friend. Sometimes they are much a better friend than a person.

  22. My thought are with you. They help up through life and all they ask for is love in return. Let those sweet happy funny moments help you heal.

  23. I’ve got to stop reading things like this. It only makes me cry. I adopted a shelter pup when I was 10/11, just after my little Japanese spitz died of a viral infection (she was 7 months old).

    This little brown pup grew into a beautiful caramel coloured medium furball, and we named her Chewie. I loved that dog for 16 years. She was with me through everything- teenage years, university, first job etc. She died of old age, and she went in my arms, in 2010.

    I have two others- Sprite, who was also adopted from the same shelter as Chewei, 9 years apart, and an English Golden Retriever named Sophie.

    Sophie & Sprite are a bonded pair.

    These dogs. They always keep a part of your heart. I dont know what I’d do without them <3

  24. I have lost many dogs, but the worst was Spenser, a Giant Schnauzer. At 13 he came down with bloat, and I was advised that an operation would be too hard on him and he would probably not survive it. I held him as he passed, and though I tear up over some things, I rarely cry. I bawled all the way home, and periodically after. On the date of his death the next year I broke down again. Now I still tear up, but the crying is over. But in reality it is never over. I still miss him nearly 20 years later!!!

  25. Ugh we’ve had 5 of our dogs pass on. But I know they lived happy healthy lives…also…who else had no idea Dave Holmes was gay? Man I had no idea. Does it matter….no but I recognized the celebrity and had no idea lol

  26. Greeted me at the door when I came home, followed me around, listened to what i had to say, didn’t argue with me and didn’t care if I looked at other dogs. True friendship is revealed when your best friend passes away

  27. We have found that in home euthanasia helps everyone say goodbye in a peaceful and loving way. It makes a heartbreaking decision a little less stressful for all. We use Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice of Chicagoland … Find an in home euthanasia near u to help with the one last act of compassion…

  28. Animals have an amazing way to surprise you with their love that when they go you never realized you could live that way… I recently lost my cat Precious almost 2 months ago from a hit and run and devastated me… I feel your pain… e

  29. So sorry for your loss, we have gone through it 5 times, vow to not do it again, but we do because we love our fur babies. Our last one is now 15 and know we are in for another heartbreak. RIP Junior, enjoy the romp through the Rainbow Bridge.

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