Losing a loved one sucks!

On December 21, 2000 two Rhodesian-Ridgeback puppies were born in a little town in Pennsylvania. That they were born just in time for Christmas was awesome as it meant that I could place their photos in my wife Carrie’s Christmas stocking. As soon as they were old enough, Elsa and Shumba flew to Michigan to join us. As early gifts to us – a newly married couple who’d just bought our first house – Elsa and Shumba ensured that we quickly became a family and that our house became a home.

Eleven and a half years, three children, and two homes later, I found myself yesterday afternoon sitting on the floor in the vets office. Elsa’s head resting on my lap as I stroked her, whispering as reassuringly as I could as she stared into my soul with her big brown trusting eyes as I thanked her for her loyalty, her love and her friendship. As tears streamed down my face, the vets injections did what they were supposed to do… first her cancer-ridden body relaxed a little, then she took one last deep breath and then she died.

When Carrie and I got home, our children were devastated. Tears were the order of the day… tears and sadness that even snickers ice cream bars couldn’t alleviate. And then there was Elsa’s brother, Shumba… so sad that I could hardly look at him without choking up.

Tonight Carrie told me about how this afternoon Shumba was arthritically stumbling around the house searching for Elsa, mournfully howling his grief every so often to every corner of our home. Our five year old son Jack, was walking around with him, keeping him company when he dropped down, gave Shumba a hug and told him “I love you Shumba…” and then in a hushed conspiratorial tone… “We won’t be able to see Elsa… but you know she’s a Dog Angel now and she can see us!”

Thanks for the reminder Jack that regardless of whatever’s going on in my life – no matter how happy or sad, excited or scared I might be… how fair or unjust the world might seem – I need to keep in mind that… though I don’t always get to choose what happens to me or how life unfolds… I do always get to choose how I respond to whatever it is that transpires… and if I can just keep my eyes open and seek to take care of what I care about, there’s always going to be an opportunity to be kind.

And thank you Elsa for your love, your loyalty and your friendship… I’ll bet you’re having a fabulous time as a Dog Angel.


Success simplified; lessons learned down a hippo's throat. Speaker, Author, Coach who will parachute in when traditional solutions won’t get it done.

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  1. Thanks Paul, I guess it was your turn to make us cry!  Wow, so beautifully written, thank you.  And your son is just too cute for words – dog angel – I love that!

  2. Oh that everyone in the world would know what it feels like to be loved by a dog. There is no love as sweet. It is unconditional, and it knows no bounds. Good night Elsa. Rest in peace. And as the Templer house sheds tears, may they also be held warmly in the memories that Elsa left behind. Hugs from the Swansons in North Carolina, who know just what it feels like to have a dog angel.

  3. So sad for your incredible loss. Beautiful words of wisdom. Goodbye Elsa.

  4. Oh my, Paul. Thank you for sharing your experience with us – and for the wisdom that your son keeps giving us all.  I am very sad for your loss and – happy that Elsa the Dog Angel is still with everyone she loves – who loved her so much.

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