I just now reached and picked up my keys from my desk, but I did so slowly and quietly. I didn’t want to alert Woofie with a signal that he has become so familiar with; a jingling of keys. 

It’s like me putting on my shoes or hat which would also indicate to him - “Hey we’re going out. We’re going out. Outdoors, adventure, and freedom! Run, jump and chase rabbits”.

That’s when it right away hit me. No need to worry about that any more. He’s not here. Woofie’s gone. 

 No more animated exuberance and excitement in greeting me when I get home, just a cold, empty apartment. No more rolling around gnawing on his rawhide bone, happy, happy Woofie. 

He’s gone. 

Sadness grips me. I’ve been crying off and on all day. It’s so embarrassing for a grown man, especially at my age. 

I have a fierce sense of loss for his going. My emotional sorrow pours out. 

I’m sad now but I’ll be okay. I’ll get over it after a while. But, for now, I still grieve. 

All was well early this morning as we headed out on our morning run. We hiked up the trail we know so well. I sat on a rock and rested while Woofie ran off hunting through the desert brush. I didn’t know he had circled back down to the highway.

I hung out there for some time waiting for him to return from his run, as I so often have. But when he did not show up I became concerned. Then I hiked back downhill to my car. 

I waited there again, but still no Woofie. 

I walked from the turnout out to the highway and looked up and down the road. 

There was a form in the distance stretched out still in the middle of the asphalt highway.

What a cold, sudden shock; it was Woofie’s body motionless and lifeless. 

It was there right in front of me but I couldn’t believe it. 

We were partners, bonded, best friends forever, but now he’s gone ahead of me. He’s gone off into forever. 

I sure will miss you Woofie. 

Love and affection is simple and uncomplicated for puppy dogs. It’s complete and unconditional.

It’s been my experience that canines, unlike humans, accept their aging process quite calmly as a natural occurrence. They have a much shorter life span than ours of course. So when you really get to know them and love them most, sadly, that’s often when they begin to slip away. 

They also seem to grow more mellow, sweet and loving as they advance in age. 

I’m continuing this article a bit later now. It’s been a few days since I dug Woofie’s grave, covered up his body with dirt and placed a mound of rocks on top. 

I returned to that spot today. I found that, thankfully, the coyotes had not disturbed it. 

I placed a bunch more rocks on top and all around making it a fitting monument for my recently departed true friend. 

I’m still sad and blue but also I’m starting to accept the finality of his departure. I keep thinking of all our good times together. However a big empty space still remains for now. 

It’s hard for me to talk about Woofie when my friends express their concern for me. The memories come flooding back. 

Love and friendship does not end with death. There is still a strong bond between us, and he comes to me in my dreams.

However, all this came about by me getting to know, live with and love just one member of the animal kingdom. There are many other Woofies out there.

Our world has so many homeless, abandoned, unwanted and unloved cats and dogs. Animal neglect is such an ongoing tragedy in our environment. 

We can’t save, protect and find homes for them all of course. But we can take a lot more responsibility for their overpopulation and their subsequent living in misery.

The solution, it seems to me, is so simple. To reduce and help eliminate the homelessness and neglect of pets, all we need do is spay and neuter our dogs and cats.

And if we really have a heart, then we can show it and prove it by adopting a homeless pet. Chances are we won’t regret it and it will bring happiness to all concerned. 

Any bit of care and affection given to a puppy bounces back to you many times over. He or she will demonstrate to you the true meaning of unconditional love.

Woofie was a faithful friend who still retained the call of the wild. He was ten years old and starting to slow down. 

But he would jump right up like an excited enthusiastic puppy eager to run, jump and play. All it would take would be the slightest signal, such as the  jingle of keys.

Dan can be reached at danhughoconnor@gmail.com