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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Choe

An Unexpected Loss

I lost a best friend this week. I didn't have the chance to say goodbye, not properly, anyway. One minute Sadie was sprinting after her favorite ball, the next she was collapsed on her side, making small gasping sounds. In the few seconds it took for me to reach her, she had died. She was only 5 years old. The vet informed me that boxers are prone to cardiomyopathy, a congenital heart condition that often causes no discernible symptoms and may not be discovered until after it has taken the dog's life. He told me she didn't suffer. Now I am suffering with the intense shock and grief that accompanies such an unexpected loss. As I reflect on our relatively short time together, I realize that she taught me many valuable lessons about how to live life to the fullest:

1. Be Yourself

Sadie didn't just enter our lives as an 8 week old puppy, she completely filled our lives. She was exuberant, playful, energetic, challenging and demanding. Sadie expected everyone she met to happily submit to being hugged and licked, and then to play endlessly with her by engaging in tug of war, or tag, or throwing her ball. She did not understand rejection and was confused by being told no. She poked and pounced on our older boxer, Harley, incessantly, inviting him to play despite his clear lack of interest in doing so.

2. Play Hard

Her favorite toys were the ones that made noise -- lots of it. Anything that squeaked or bounced or vibrated or crashed occupied her attention (as well as that of everyone around her). Her particularly favorite toy was the ball she was playing with upon her death: a blue plastic ball with a green plastic ball inside that rattled as it rolled along the ground. She regularly pushed it into the pool and then barked ferociously at it until someone retrieved it for her. Sadie refused to swim, ever!

3. Practice Contentment

Sadie developed barrier aggression at the age of 2. She loved to play with both people and dogs unless confined by a leash or fence, upon which she began emitting feral growls and lunging ferociously at the dog she was being separated from. Despite a series of classes and private training sessions to address this troubling behavior, Sadie continued to react negatively to other dogs and eventually broke free from her leash during a walk in the neighborhood and attacked a dog passing by. We managed to separate them before either were hurt, but after that we kept Sadie at home and played with her in the yard rather than taking her on walks or to the dog park. I struggled with this, feeling that she was being deprived of opportunities to socialize and play, while also knowing the risk of another attack was too great. Sadie didn't seem bothered by her house/yard arrest one bit, accepting the limitations on her environment without self-pity or frustration. She happily played in the spaces provided her with the same joyful energy as before.

4. Accept Yourself and Others

Sadie completely accepted herself and her humans without judgement. She expected to be loved and loved fiercely in return. Her contentment with her circumstances and joyful attitude up to the moment of her death set an example for us to aspire to. She wasn't perfect and didn't need her humans to be either. Sadie will be greatly missed and deeply grieved. I am grateful I had the opportunity to spend the past 5 years with such a faithful friend.

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