One of the strangest parts of human existence is the fact that being happy in many ways requires compensating for being unhappy.
Happy times won’t feel as good if you don’t know what it’s like to feel sad and vice versa.
Grief comes in different forms.
Some people are sad because they are alone. Others have a sense of despair. Some people are unhappy with their place in life. Many people become depressed or unhappy simply based on what is happening in their lives at a given point in time. Some are sad by nature. Then there are experiences that can leave you sad, like a tragedy, heartbreak, or loss.
Last week I experienced a different kind of sadness. I was sad because of pleasant experiences in the past.
Ella, our 14 year old dog had to be put down this week.
It’s been getting worse slowly for a few years now but I must say it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I grew up with dogs my whole life so I know how it works.
But this one felt different. Maybe because I’m getting old. He has been with us for more than a third of my life. Also my children were devastated. As a parent, you want to save your child as much pain as possible. They have known Ella all their lives so it was a difficult experience for them.
She was not just a pet, she was part of the family.
And although there were a lot of tears throughout the process, it all had a silver lining.
Because she’s been such an important part of our family for so long, we’ve spent the last week or so reminiscing about all the happy moments we’ve had with her. We are telling stories and looking at pictures (so many pictures) and remembering the good times.
Looking back has been cathartic. It doesn’t make the sadness go away, but that sadness wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for all the memories we had with it.
This took home the most obvious thing in the world – dogs are just awesome.
These are some of the things that I will remember the most about him:
The way she used to talk to us to sleep in our bed every night. We told that she herself was going to sleep in a crate when we first took her… she just wanted to be with us, eventually settling into a routine where she slept under the covers.
The way she lay on the back of the sofa so that she could survey the entire room like Shashank’s prison guard, not letting any movement around her go unnoticed.
Along the way she used to try to get into scraps with other dogs 10x her size as they watched in entertainment. He had a huge ‘hold me back’ energy as a puppy.
If I came home with the smell of my friend’s dog, she would look at me with envy.
The way she was so nice that we lay on the couch watching TV.
Along the way she bound through the powder when we took her snow-shoeing in northern Michigan. She was only 7-8 pounds so Snow was taller than her. We used to see her little head rise every few feet as she jumped. I think I got him in the most of the way.
Just like every time we got closer to our house after a long walk, she panicked because she wanted to let go of the leash to go home as fast as her little legs would take her.
The way she lay at my feet under my desk while I studied for CFA every night for 3 years.
The way she used to accompany me for a late night walk, when everyone else in the house was asleep, while I was thinking about life.
The way she got so pumped up every year when it got cold enough to wear her winter sweater for the season.
The way she used to lie down between my legs on the ottoman of my favorite chair while reading a good book.
The way she fits in your arms when you pick her up. She loved To be carried around like a little queen.
The way she used to stick her head in the window when we were driving. She was smiling every time I wear it.
The way she used to look at home. In her prime, Ella got nothing. The Amazon delivery man told us he turned it into a little game, as stealthily as possible to drop our deliveries at the door. He told us that he might never meet her. He feels her coming every time.
The way she lay by my daughter’s crib when we brought her home from the hospital as an infant. And then slowly watch them fall in love with each other.
The way he told us “What the hell?!” See when my son didn’t realize his strength as a toddler and started carrying him like one of his stuffed animals. And then watching them turn into friends and snuggle with each other on the couch every morning is one time he showed a gentler side.
The way she used to kiss my youngest daughter every now and then, just because she wanted one. could not resist.
The way she started sleeping on my 7 year old child’s bed in the last one year.
Along the way she became a bit neurotic and needy in her old age, following her everywhere around my wife’s house.
The way she lit up like a Christmas tree whenever we walked through the door.
No matter what was going on in my life – good day, bad day, uninteresting day, happy, sad or nostalgic – she was the first to say hello, wagging a little tail and overjoyed to see me. every time.
Maybe that’s what I’m going to miss the most.
Sometimes it hurts to remember all the joys in life that made you sad in the first place.
RIP ella. You were one hell of a best friend.
Michael and I spent some time on this week’s Animal Spirits talking about how awesome dogs are and more:
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Now here’s what I’m reading this week: