via Jeff Griffith-Jones – AVAC
“A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.” ~Robert Benchley
Above: Beach, hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, swimming—Simba went everywhere outdoors with me.
Five weeks ago I had to say goodbye to my best friend, Simba. My 8-year-old yellow lab succumbed to cancer within 48 hours of us finding out. The vet saw the disbelief in my eyes and my voice. This is a dog who runs 8 miles at a time, a couple dozen miles a week, swims regularly, and eats organic no-filler dog food. 8 years might be aging, but it shouldn’t be dying, I thought.
In the whirlwind of life–work, school, two young kids, moving to a new area code—I barely had the chance to say goodbye let alone reflect on how and why this happened.
Why Have Pets?
I have had pets my entire life. I have never thought twice about wanting an animal in my home other than randomly quoting some of the studies on happiness and longevity of pet owners to my friends for fun. The topic has come up a lot recently with friends and family, especially those who don’t have pets: what’s the point of putting yourself through the inevitable loss?
Simply put, I think being a dog owner has made me a better human. It has made me more compassionate, more loyal, and definitely more patient. Without a doubt it has made me a better father. There is a maya of duality that separates humans and nature, which I don’t buy into. Humans are nature, and I believe that having dogs brings us closer to our natural humanness.
What Simba Taught Me:
- Protect your pack, especially the members who can’t protect themselves. Simba was a gentle dog—wasn’t interested in fighting. But even the gnarliest Presa Canario wouldn’t back down Simba if his pack was threatened.
- Tough it out. And don’t go around whining or even talking about your plight—just tough it out. Simba spent a snowy winter night at 7000’ in the Sierras with me one year in a non-heated hut. Even at 10 degrees plus wind-chill, Simba was still thinking sunshine and daisies just like a proper Labrador.
- Carpe Diem. Simba woke up with authority and enthusiasm—something my 2-year-old son has inherited. It’s hard to have a bad day when your dog’s motto is Wake Up, Kick Ass, Repeat.
That’s the short list, and I’m sure it’s a fraction of what he taught my German Shorthaired, Whisky. Whisky is a co-dependent rescue who would make Houdini look like an amateur. Without his pack leader he’s a different dog, a new project for me, and a living reminder of Simba’s absence.
But when asked if the last few weeks, and the coming months of re-training Whisky are worth it: the answer is an unequivocal absolutely. Simba’s loyalty to me will not be forgotten. It will be paid forward to Whisky, my family, and any new members of our pack.
“All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.” ~Charles Schultz