Thursday, July 26, 2012

What Do You Say to a Grieving Dog Owner?

Asia, minus her dog pal

I don't know what it is, but lately I've been talking to a lot of dog owners about loss.  Last weekend it was a man in Boston's North End.  He was walking Asia, his one dog instead of the usual two.

And yesterday I caddied for a nice fellow who put his friend of 13 years down just a few months ago, and quickly bought a new Lab to replace him.  He had such joy talking about his new puppy, but it was clear my golfer was still grieving the other one.

After the round, I shared with my loop part of what we wrote in Follow the Dog Home, because in many ways he was feeling similar to how my 10-year-old daughter and coauthor Samantha did a few years ago.  Samantha came home and discovered our 12-year-old German Shepherd, Tiffany, dead on the floor.  A few months after that, we got a new German Shepherd--Beverly.  I thought all was well.  What I didn't realize was Sammy's feelings of joy for the new dog were tempered by her concern that Tiffany would think we had abandoned her.   I never would have known this had she not expressed it in her writing.

Tiffany (dog) with Amanda (left) and Samantha

So as I was saying goodbye to my golfer, I wanted to leave him with something.  I told him what Lebanese Philosopher Kahlil Ghibran wrote about in The Prophet; something that we included in Follow the Dog Home.  Sorrow carves away at your being so the vessel can be refilled in whole when joy returns.  It's like a tall glass of cold lemonade on a hot summer day.  Were we not parched in body and spirit before, the replenishment wouldn't be as refreshing.

Beverly (dog) with (L to R) Samantha, Kevin and Amanda

Thursday, July 19, 2012

One Golden Dog, Two Kevin Walshes

I talked to the other Kevin Walsh.  Who's he?  He's the guy who found my Golden Retriever, Susie, on the campus of Purdue University.  I wrote about this in Follow the Dog Home on pages 147 & 148.  That's him below.

Kevin Walsh, Purdue Graduate, Dog Finder

Actually the better way to describe it is, Susie found him--on a campus of 40,000 students in West Lafayette, Indiana.  My adventurous dog slipped out of my fraternity house, as she often did, and somehow managed to find her way into a different frat.  Low and behold Susie walked into Kevin Walsh's room on the second floor of the Sigma Epsilon Phi house.  Nobody knows how she found her way there.  Satisfied with her discovery, she plunked down on his floor and took a nap.

Susie and Walsh Family, 1988

Many of our readers have told us Susie finding the other Kevin Walsh is their favorite story.  They also wondered whether I'd been in touch with my namesake, with news about the book.  Twenty three years after the 1989 discovery, we reconnected.

The other Kevin Walsh lives in suburban Chicago, and it turns out we have more in common than our name.  We're both married with children, and all of our kids are girls.  I have a Samantha (coauthor of Follow the Dog Home), he has a Samantha.  There's probably more that we'll discover later.

I'm sending Kevin a book.  He doesn't have a dog now, but he did growing up.  He tells me his wife and kids are really putting the pressure on him to get a puppy.   Something tells me after his family reads Follow the Dog Home, they'll get one.  And if they do, we'll have another good Kevin Walsh dog story to tell.