A song has been running through my head lately….
In my readings, especially about pet mourning, I often come across the term “heart dog,” which I take to be the canine equivalent of a human soul mate. But what does that mean — and what are the implications of having had that experience?
I don’t think I could have loved Frankie any more than I did — still do — but I wonder….Did he earn heart dog status because he was my first dog, because he was Frankie, or both? I definitely didn’t love him at first sight — and vice versa. It’s hard to say which of us was more terrified of the other initially.
Was it the learning, the hard work, the earning of Frankie’s trust that deepened our bond? Or all that plus something even more intangible?
The bigger question: Can find I find such a connection with another dog? And what happens if I get one and don’t feel it?
So I put it to the blogosphere: Have you experienced the loss of a pet with whom you felt uniquely bonded, and then brought another into your home? What happened?
I’d love to hear from you.
I know it’s not time yet. I want to travel. I want to heal. That said, contemplating a furry future while watching a video from the past that I didn’t know existed — I thought Rod Stewart wrote the song! — is, I think, a first step.
By the way, if you haven’t already watched the Cat Stevens version, go back and — I dare you! — tell me that it’s not about a loving and losing a dog.*
Alert music fan Homie Danger — who deserves a “like” on Facebook, y’hear! — pointed out Cat Stevens did indeed love his dog, and even dedicated an entire song to him.
Just as I hadn’t realized there was an earlier version than Rod Stewart’s, I hadn’t realized there was a later cover, by Cheryl Crow. Must be a generational thing…
And here’s Cheryl:
19 thoughts on “The First Cut Is the Deepest: Trying to Love Again”
Maybe a heart dog – or cat, in my case – is the pet we loved just as unconditionally as they loved us. After that, there is no way back, and we love all the pets to come in our life as unconditionally as we loved them. Maybe they taught us. It would be worth a leap of faith. (only when you feel ready of course, in the future)
I like that idea, that once a pet opens your heart, there is no closing it again. That seems right to me.
The same thing (“heart pet”) is true of cats too. Shalmaneser, who lived for 19 years, was my heart cat, my soul mate. The next cat was not. The next one WAS–I think she was the reincarnation of Shalmaneser. After Hatshe died, we got our four present cats. None of them is a heart cat, but I love them all.
Yes, I figured it was the same for cats. I love that you had one named for Hatshepsut, my favorite Egyptian pharaoh (well, historical figure, period). But of course we both have the same bracelet from the Egyptian museum in Cairo.
But I digress. Thanks for sharing this.
Good questions, Edie. I think all answers are right. Everyone may have a different definition of a heart dog/cat–I don’t even know if you can have more than one. I don’t even know what a soul mate is for everyone else… for me, a heart dog was something I felt during the pet’s life, not immediate. But now I’m feeling it in a slightly different way with Luna.
Maybe the term itself — like so many — means different things to different people. And maybe labels shouldn’t matter! So many things to contemplate…
I couldn’t have loved any dog more than I loved Blackie. Or Henry Nelson. Or Ellie. Or Bones. Or Nightshade. Or Biddo. Or Lulu. Or, now, Fu and Mr. Mann. And then there were the cats. (Baby! The Petes! Kittykey!) I’ve had my heart broken in two every time I lost one. But life, for me, is empty without an animal’s presence.
Time to stop typing and take these patient guys for the walk they so desperately long for.
I know exactly what you mean when you talk about a heart dog. In my case, it’s a heart cat. My heart cat left me many years ago, though he still lives in my heart. I’ve opened my home to several cats since then. None of them has replaced any of those that have gone before. But each has earned his/her own place in my heart and none have been/are unloved.
I’ve loved all my dogs like crazy. There was, however, something different with Lilly — something deeper, even before she needed 24/7 care her last 23 months. Her loss has left me much more damaged (and occasionally non-functioning) than the others. I’m not sure how it will go in the future, but I have friends who’ve lost their Heart Dogs in the past who are quite bonded to their new canine pals. Maybe not soon, but I think both of us will be OK when the right canine friend comes along.
If I recall, Edie, you said you did not have a pet as a child, and a photo of your mother with a dog had ambiguous overtones to you. So, naturally, this experience was a seismic shift for you.
All I can say is that for me, our family dog was the only member of the family who understood unconditional love. My sister revealed years later that was the only love she felt as a child.
Much later in life, and following many dog iterations, I got a cat and much to my surprise, learned much more about love, the cat really taught me how to love as well as be loved.
Now I have 3 dogs and 3 cats, and have, like any parent, a different relationship with each – they call upon different parts of me and teach me in their own unique ways. And of course I have my favorites, but try to treat them all equally.
I think it’s like everything it will happen when it is meant to happen and not before. Some advice given to me is you probably won’t love in the same way again, but you will love in a different way and that’s ok!
Maybe it’s because I’ve had a lot of animals in my life, family dogs since childhood, a lifetime with horses, and dogs of my own and foster dogs as an adult, but I have no trouble bonding with a new dog. They are all individuals and I love discovering each one’s personality.
I lost both of my fourteen year old dogs this summer within ten days of each other. One was sudden, the other had been declining over the past year. Perhaps it was the shock of going from two dogs to zero dogs, but I couldn’t stand it. I did not want to be in my too-quiet house and started looking almost immediately. One week after losing my second dog I brought my Ruby home.
It was a huge adjustment going from settled-in senior to an 8-month-old high-energy puppy. Ruby is a Border Collie/Jack Russell mix and doesn’t let you doubt it for one second. She has inspired me to learn about positive reinforcement, trick and clicker training and join the pet blogging community. I adore her more than I thought possible, and loving her only causes me to love, miss and appreciate my previous dogs more.
My Chow/German Shepherd mix, Lasya, was easy, calm, confident, independent. She was in tune with my emotions, maternal and protective. There was always something uncannily spiritual about her, and for that reason I’ve tended to label her as my Soul Dog.
My Norwegian Elkhound, Freya, was clownish, insecure, affectionate and needy. She depended on me in a way that was endearing. Named after the Norse goddess of love, it makes sense to call her my Heart Dog.
Ruby is brilliant, fiery, demanding, endlessly playful. She brings out in me a thirst for knowledge and a new-found patience. She reminds me to have fun. Like the gem she’s named after, she sparkles. Our story has just begun…
Her name was Sif, a beautiful blond Cocker. Named for the wife of Thor in Norse mythology. She was loose in cold, wet New Orleans winter. So sick. She weighed only 19 pounds out of a usual weight of 30 or so. She was so malnourished she didn’t go into heat for 9 months after she picked us to live with. We fed & cared for her for 6 weeks before we even dared to try to treat the heartworms. She had terrible ear infections; but, she would come & sit patiently, twice aday, while I cleaned & doctored her ears. Only when u finished did she shaker head.
She had an amazing soul & serenity. I taught at college & she went with me each day. After a while, people knew she about her. Students, staff, and faculty alike would come into my office. Seat themselves on my sofa & motion for her to join them. They would sit & stroke her gently for 5 or ten minutes or so. Then, they would leave with a quiet “Thanks.” I learned that most didn’t really want to talk, just so let thr serenity she projected settle over them.
I too traveled & thought I couldn’t have dogs again. But life thought otherwise.
We lost her to spleen cancer after Katrina. We were evacuated to a strange city with no routine vet. She lost weight weight without an explanation. By the time we got settled & I found a vet, the cancer had spread. We only had about a 25% chance. She developed diabetes and had an eyeball rupture. When she refused to eat even the most tempting morsel, I knew what she was telling me.
My vet wouldn’t make a house call, but had a beautiful little garden on the property. He had helped me save her, and he whispered “Goodby Beautiful.”
My life ended then-or so it felt.
In about a year, I started thinking about another dog. But all I could envision was Sif sitting on my couch surveying the world. There wasn’t room for another dog. My vet has cages of dogs for adoption in the waiting room. I went to pick up some meds for my other Cocker, her son, and they were very busy. I stood near the cages waiting. I glanced in, & there was this beautiful, shiny, pointed black face staring out at me. … I put my hand in the cage and he scooted over & put his whole head in my hand.
His name is BW. He is a black & white, miniature long-haired Doxie. He was born, probably, a couple of months before Sif died. He is an amazing lap dog; Sif never was. I always wished she were more of a lap dog. I figure she sent him to me for that very reason. Two other families tried to adopt him but returned him, their dogs wouldn’t accept him. I didn’t know whether her son would. But they are fast friends. BW is a big protector for the Cocker & will take on anyone who, he thinks, might do him harm.
It sounds like the time is not quite right for you to get another dog just yet. Your soul will know when it is right. And Frankie will be looking out for you, so you can be assured it will happen in its own time. When the time is right & you are ready, it will happen.
BW sends you his love.
I is a little black pug named Angus McConnell that my momma brought home straight from the Crualella Deville Puppy Mill. See hers saved me because they couldn’t sell me cos I have wonky eyes. I am the fifth pug that she has walked out the door of that icky mill with. Stella Rose my big sister is her first. See Stella Rose is a heart hog and she thinks she takes up all our momma space in her heart but I no’s her doesn’t. Momma has space for me, remember i toles you I am Angus McConnell and Margaret Mae also. Hers even has space in her heart for my Angel Brudder Sammy Jo, and Aunt Trudie.
My Momma toles me once that she thought when she lost Sammy Jo and Turdie (lol sometimes we called her that just as a joke…) within a few weeks of each other, that her heart broke into so many pieces that it would never be healthy enuf or whole enuf to love any of us. Well, hers was sure wrong, cos look at our house. We are three pugs that are loved all ways around.
It doesn’t mean that Sammy and Trudie don’t have a special piece of it that only they will own, it just means by loving them as much as she did, her heart grew even bigger to make room for us. We are sure glad, cos wesa loves our momma and hers loves us.
Hugs from Three Little Pugs in Iowa
Stella Rose, Margaret Mae and Angus McConnell
That is such a difficult question, and I definitely don’t have anything useful to say. I lost 3 dogs, and I mourned each one for longer and deeper than I knew would happen. But I took so much from those dogs that I love my current 3 even more because of their predecessors… if that makes any sense. That being said, Emmett and I are bonded stronger than the others. He truly is my best friend and my doggy soul mate. Does that make him my heart dog? I have no idea and I sort of dislike the concept, because I’d hate to think that I could never love another dog as much as I love him!
“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.” I don’t know who said it, but I believe it. You’ll know when your heart is ready to receive again.
I’ll try not to write a novel here, but no promises.
Our first Greyhound was Treat, and as far as dogs go, she was darned near perfect. She was perfect for me, in any case. She was a certified therapy dog and READ dog and traveled all over with me. Having her in my life opened up whole new worlds for me. I just knew she would be a fabulous grande dame when she became a senior dog, but at ten years old, she wasn’t even slowing down like our two hounds who were slightly older. She had more energy than the young dog at our house. And then one day, we went out for turn out and when I put her in the pen, I realized that she couldn’t stand back up. We rushed her to the vet and I felt sick when they explained during the exam that it was very serious when she couldn’t feel pain in her back feet. Miraculously, she responded very well to steroids overnight and was standing on her own the next day, but that was just the beginning of the emotional roller coaster ride. Five weeks later, it was time to let her go. I was devastated, and I will admit to you very honestly that it changed a part of who I am forever. We had such a close bond that I felt like an amputee. I stayed home from work for days and cried more than I ever thought possible.
We had three other dogs in the house, and I loved each of them dearly, but it wasn’t the same. A few weeks after Treat died, I started thinking about how I didn’t want to stop doing therapy visits. That meant that I was going to have to find another dog, though. Going back to the adoption kennel was scary. I knew what I wanted, and my deep fear was that I wouldn’t find it. I met a dozen sweet dogs that were wonderful, but I just didn’t feel that I’d met “the one.” I wanted to feel a click like I had when I met Treat. Finally, they told me they had one more little female who was very young and they hadn’t had her long enough to know anything about her. I decided to meet her, though, and decided that I didn’t have the heart to meet any more. If I didn’t feel it with her, then it was going to be going home empty-handed. She walked in very calmly and leaned up against my leg, looking up at me with the most gorgeous eyes I’d ever seen. I was hooked.
When I brought her home, at first it was hard not to grieve what I’d lost. Treat was PERFECT walking on a leash and Bunny had never been on one before. It was like walking a kangaroo and I remember crying tears of frustration on several occasions.
It took time, but now, I can’t imagine what life was like before Bunny came here. Now she is perfect and we’re working on breaking in Flattery, who’s different in her own rite. We have loved and lost here, for sure, but I have never been sorry when we added a new dog after one passed away. In a way, it’s honoring the lives of those we’ve had by opening our hearts again and making room for another dog who needs a home. I think it would make them happy to know that and also to know that we’d found happiness again.
I will never be able to listen to that song the same way again. It is about a dog, isn’t it?
I’m glad it’s not just me…!