Dogs have a job to do - and that job is enriching our lives. If that's the definition of work, they go their entire existence working for us.

Unfortunately, their job is done far too soon.

When the inevitable happens, there is always the debate of whether or not to get a new dog, how long to wait, etc. Everyone has an answer. No one is really right.

Truth be told, it's all in the person in question. Some people (my dad comes to mind) swore he'd never get another dog. We all knew it was a matter of time before he'd be out with another canine companion, but a year after we all thought he'd get a dog, his wife got a dog. That dog quickly became my dad's animal, and all is well in the world.

The reason I bring this up is because a dog that is very near and dear to me just recently passed. He wasn't stricken with cancer and the inevitability was near. He wasn't sick. He was swiped up at the ripe age of 2 years and 11 months.

You hear about dogs leaving earth all the time, but when it's a dog you personally know, it can be tough. Not only does my heart break for Sam, but it absolutely is crushed for his owner. He did all he could for that pup for the brief time he had him- poured his heart into the dog, and vice-versa. Just the other day I called to see how they were both doing. "Sam is curled up in bed while I'm on the phone. He's definitely mellowed out. He's a good chill dog."

If only you knew the hellion he was as a puppy, you can't even begin to appreciate this statement.

He went from Distructo-the-Wonder-Mutt to Little Buddy, and somehow never lost his free spirit. Sam thought he was a border collie, but was instead a confused spaniel. He's compete in all the Frisbee events with Sadie, and actually taught her a few tricks of the trade. Hell, if it wasn't for Sammy, I wouldn't have had the chance to be a dog trainer- or at least, things would have transpired very differently.

I look at this and suddenly, and vividly, remember the painful part of having a dog. The part where we as owners have to say goodbye- and it's never easy. I knew from when Sadie was a pup that I'd eventually have to make a decision as to when would be the time...but that would be 12 years (statistically) from when I got her. That would put me at 34. Plenty of time...which, for the record is also technically half over. Where does the time go? Until now I didn't really consider what if that decision was taken away, and something happens out of the blue? Logic is handy, but very rarely is it useful in this type of situation.

When the voice mail came, I knew instantly what was going to be said. I didn't want to believe it, but it happened. And now a dear friend is dealing with the loss of his companion- and all that is left to do is reflect. The reflections tend to go pretty predictably:
"I remember when I got him. He was so big/little"

"We got her from a shelter/breeder/dirty side street in the Bronx".

"I remember when he ate a bottle of codeine cough syrup and got pink paw prints all over the white dog...and carpet"

"Remember when she ate your Christmas bonus/pound of fudge/the goldfish?"

What I remember is how small he was, how timid he was, and how funny he was. I picked him up at the airport in a post 9/11 world and asked the person next to me for a knife to open the zip ties on the crate...no one had anything aside from quizzical expressions.
No matter how mad I'd get- with each pair of glasses he ate (3 total), shoes (4.5 pairs) and all the poisonous material he consumed (codeine cough syrup, a bottle of ibuprofen, trying to ingest the hydrogen peroxide we used to induce vomiting because he liked the flavor), he'd always "get cute" and make me laugh.
I can't believe how high he could jump. Or that he beat Sadie in a Frisbee event.
Never will I forget the lessons he taught his owner, which go far beyond the "feed twice a day and walk for an hour" basics. Or the lessons I learned, which included be patient, and you can't control personality.
He helped coin the term "ear-gaasm"- the funny foot twitch dogs get when a sensitive spot is rubbed funny. He'd do that every time his ears would get cleaned. The grunt was the best part of it, hence the ear-gasm.

The degree of pain is an indicator as to how much the recently departed touched you. It hurts pretty badly, which means he did his job, and he did it well.

Good dog, Sam. Good dog.