My dog, Sadie, died this past May and it’s taken me this long to sit down to write about it. 

Sadie took her last breath at 6:08pm on May 23rd. She was my BFF, by Best Friend Forever. In October 2005, I met Sadie when she was just 3 months old. She trotted over to me and said with a wag of the tail, “I’m yours, you’re mine.” I picked her up and held her close to my heart for the next 3 hours as we drove to her new home in the mountains. In those three hours, my heart enveloped her entire puppy body, and we became one. In the course of the next thirteen plus years, she would see me through a divorce, unemployment, depression, three moves, a new path to Buddhism, a new love, a new marriage, and a new pack member for Sadie, N, my wife’s daughter. 

When Sadie and I lived in the mountains, she chased rabbits, coyotes, deer, and the occasional bear. She galloped through the snow with me as I trudged behind in snowshoes. She chewed up enough pine cones to start a new forest of ponderosas. 

When I made the decision to leave the mountains to move to an urban zen monastery, I had to give Sadie up for an entire year. It was one of the hardest things I did. We drove all the way to New Mexico to bring her to her new foster home. I cried all the way across the Land of Enchantment the day I left her there. Six months later, she moved to a new foster home in San Diego.  I thought of her every day that year as I cleaned up the debris of my old life, and made room for my new life in the Bay Area, promising her and myself that we would be together again soon. I found the perfect home for us in Oakland, then drove down to southern California to retrieve Sadie and bring her back with me.

She introduced me to the trails and woodlands of Oakland and Berkeley. In Oakland, we took daily walks to Sausal Creek where she would play in the creek, run through the redwoods, and find more pine cones to chew.  In Berkeley, we hiked in Tilden Park as often as possible. Her enthusiasm for trails and all of the wondrous scents they offered was infectious.

Sadie was a mixed breed, half lab, half shepherd. The Labrador Retriever in her loved to swim in the Kern River, Pt. Isabel, the Russian River, the Big River in Mendocino, Half Moon Bay, Pinecrest Lake, and any other body of water she could find. The Labrador Retriever in her also loved to eat anything and everything, including an entire container of Trader Joe’s Dunkers, which her new 6-year-old sibling, N, and her mother were not very happy about at the time.

The German Shepherd in her loved to herd the pack together, making sure we were all safe. When we moved into our new home in Berkeley with my new partner and her daughter, Sadie quickly adapted to her new surroundings, taking her job as the family protector seriously. She hawkishly stared out the front bay window for hours, watching every move of the neighbors and passersby, barking wildly at the postal service people, and UPS drivers. Her ferocious bark allowed me to sleep well at night, knowing that my new family was safe with her in the house.

In these past four months since Sadie has passed, it has become increasingly evident to me that this grief that I am experiencing is real.  Not only is the grief real, but the lessons that my life with her are just beginning to unfold for me. What better way to learn about love and death than through the soulful intimacy between human and dog?