“The Fear of Losing a Loved One”

By David Saginor

This article was written by my 19-year-old grandson, and is a farewell to his his German Shepherd, “Wolfie,” who died last month.


Ignorance is is bliss. There is not a time in my life in which I can remember this maxim being clearer to me or more poignant. Ignorance is bliss, sweet, sweet bliss. How I long to live in that blissful day once more, where all I knew was happiness. For in that day, my life was solid, stable, and I did not even think about things changing. Unfortunately, though, so unfortunately, life has a way of taking that security, that assuredness mind, and throwing it out the window, thereafter as meaningless and outdated as yesterday’s newspaper. But I’m not here to complain, for complaining, in itself, is also meaningless, and that is the very last thing that I want to give to the memories that are now all I have.

The date was January 30th, 2008, a Wednesday. I had just finished my classes for the day when my father had called me. He told me he was waiting in the parking lot, just outside my dorm, and he wanted to speak with me. I thought nothing of him wanting to do this; I did not know why. Perhaps he wanted to deliver some of my clothes, just say hello, tell me something interesting about his workday. He had come to school like this before; it was not unusual. All of these thoughts crossed my mind, all of which were perfectly logical guesses. But I guessed wrong. There was nothing logical about what was about to happen, I only wish that any, any, of my innocent predictions was what he truly had come for.

I arrived at the parking lot and was soon at the door of the car. I opened it up and proceeded inside. Do you know that look? That look someone has on their face, and you just know something is wrong? I had never seen a look like that, in all my years, on someone whom I knew. It was only something I saw in movies. That is how my father looked when I got into his car, and that look I will never forget. His next words told me all I needed to know, but all I could do was wait and listen, hoping I was wrong, hoping that I was misreading him…somehow.

The following is the best of what I can remember of what was said between us, and I will narrate it for better understanding.

I closed the door and turned to look at my father. In his eyes I could see something odd. It was not his usual clearness or happiness. But, instead, his eyes were cloudy, and somewhere, in the deepest part of my consciousness, I thought of someone who had been crying. He also was, most certainly, not happy like he always was when I saw him, as his face wore an expression of utter somberness and regret. But why would he be this way? The fact that it was so uncharacteristic of him kept me from being suspicious. He straightened up in his seat. David, I have to tell you something’s about the dog. Okay, Dad I said, my whole body tightening. He continued. Dave,last night, Wolfie had to go to the hospital. Mom called me and told me that his stomach was bloated again. You know, like last time.”

I was thinking he was alright. I was praying he was alright.

“She brought him to the hospital and he had to have emergency surgery. I was talking to the doctor and he said everything went fine, that he made it through the surgery. I made sure he would call and update me constantly on any changes. Apparently, his stomach had twisted around and they had to correct it. The doctor called me at two in the morning and told me he seemed to be doing fine; there was a minor problem where he had stopped breathing, but he had fixed that and seemed to be doing okay.”

Let him be alright, I silently prayed. Let him be in critical condition, anything. Just let him be alright, anything but…

“Then, around three in the morning, the doctor called back. He said he didn’t know what happened, the dog was doing fine.”

I could see the pain manifesting in his eyes, I could feel the tears coming in my own.

sorry, David, ™m so sorry, but he didn’t make it, Wolfie didn’t make it. The words came out so quickly from him. Yes, my dog was old; I knew he did not have years ahead because of his complications, but not like this, not so suddenly. The sheer rapidity with which it was spoken was an all too ironic confirmation of the sudden nature of his death itself. My dreading over the last few months had been realized within in an instant. I never saw my Dad cry like I did for that time we spent in the car together. After he told me those awful words, I cannot even say how long we wept together in each other’s arms. But all I knew was that I had to see him just one last time. I had to say goodbye.

As we pulled up to the Veterinarian’s office, my Mom and brother were just pulling up too. Dad had called her on the way over, and she and my brother had decided to come. When we pulled into a parking space, I realized that I knew this Center well, I had been here before. I never once, though, took notice of the Animal Clinic that was now all-too obvious. I saw the look on my Mom’s and brother’s faces as I got out of the car. They both looked dreadfully tired and as though they too had been crying. We all hugged each other, walked up to the door and went inside.

The waiting room was pleasant when I think back on it now. But I don’t think I would have noticed the most pleasant thing on Earth in that moment. We all sat down and informed the nurse behind the desk why we were there. She told us we would only have to wait shortly. My brother was not speaking, simply looking off into nothingness. My mother and father were talking in hushed voices. I, on the other hand, was distracted. On the walls of the waiting room were a few pictures, but there were two that really caught my eye.

The first picture showed two puppies playing together, one nibbling the other’s ear, and I was immediately back to the very first moment I had laid eyes on Wolf. I do not remember very well because I was only nine, but I remember seeing Wolf at the breeder’s house. He was with all his brothers and sisters, and I could not help but wonder, had he too nibbled like that on one of his sibling’s ears? Had I also seen him playing like that as a puppy, so carefree, so alive? The tears filled my eyes and I soon found myself looking at the other picture. This picture showed a dog about how old Wolf was, lying in a comfortable position on the floor. I had just seen Wolf like that the other day before I left for school, I thought to myself. He was lying on the floor as I was preparing to depart from the house. I always made sure to say goodbye to Wolf before I left, just because I would miss him so much. I never even imagined having a truly good reason to do it, a reason like this. Suddenly, the door to the main part of the clinic opened and a new nurse came in. She told us we could go see him now.

As we walked into the main part of the hospital, I did not know what to expect. I was imagining all sorts of grotesque images of what a dog might look like now that he was dead. My mother was the first to open the door and walk in, but immediately, to my surprise, she turned back with loving consolation in her eyes, and told us how peaceful he looked.

I too waked in, followed by my father and brother. Wolf was laid out on a polished steel table and was covered by a large, blue surgical blanket from his tail to his neck. Mom was right, he did look peaceful. His eyes were closed and he looked exactly I remembered. He looked like he always had when he was asleep in our home, and I thought for sure, at any moment, he was going to spring up and we would get the hell out of there. But that moment never came.

I needed to feel him one last time, I needed to feel the closeness that was still so familiar and fresh to me. Walking up to him, I extended my hand and felt his strong neck. His fur was wet and cold from being kept cool. I moved my fingers in between his ears and scratched them. So many times I had done this when he was still with us, so many times more I wish, now, that I had. He’s a good boy, I said to him, just like I always did when I petted him. My parents now were petting him as well and so was my brother. That is the only way to pay respects to an animal: feeling them. Animals do the same thing with their own. I guess we were all animals in that moment. We had been transformed by all the years of love Wolf had given and taught us, and it had come to fruition then and there. We were all members of the pack and had come to say goodbye to one of our own.

All was said and done, and it was almost time to leave. Giving him one last touch, all of us said our final goodbyes. But when I went to pet him one last time, something incredible happened. I’m not sure if I imagined it, was tricked by the lighting, or something beyond this world had taken place. I went to touch the bridge of Wolf’s nose, one of his favorite spots to be stroked, and, just as I made contact with him, I swear I saw his eye twitch just a little bit, as though naturally from a hand in close proximity. I swear I saw his nose wrinkle up as though to better feel my caress. But it couldn’t have been. How could it have been?

I turned to walk away with my family, finally having paid our respects. I was leaving him for the last time, I had said goodbye as I had always done before I would go. But this time was different. I was leaving him for good, forever. Leaving him there alone; not alive, neither sad nor happy, neither young nor old; not lonely, frightened, nor in pain. I was simply leaving him. A dog, yes, but something more. I was leaving a friend, a friend I had known and grown with since childhood. My dog, my friend, my best friend, Wolf.


About this entry