One month ago today, the unthinkable happened. That morning, my wife and I took our two Belgian shepherds to play in an abandoned horse racing complex. All was perfect. Upon returning home, I tweeted the following at 11:15 am: “Nice walk this morning with our dogs in an iconic but defunct horse racing track. Back to my book chapter on evolutionary consumption.” By 7:30 pm I would become the King of Sorrow (apologies to Sade for having borrowed her song title), as our majestic and regal male, Amar, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. ‘Amar’ is the Arabic word for ‘moon” but is also used as an adjective for ‘great beauty,’ a trait that Amar possessed in abundance.
As many of my readers know, I am not a religious person. However, I have had the honor of sharing my life for the past twelve years with a being that embodied all of the divine traits that the most pious of individuals might seek to possess but seldom achieve. Beyond his striking physical beauty, Amar was kind, compassionate, gentle, fiercely protective, playful, non-vindictive, and forgiving. He showered his pack members with infinite waves of unconditional love, and abided to the ethos of carpe diem. He was godliness incarnate but he possessed one fatal flaw: he was mortal.
Much has been written about the physical and psychological benefits that accrue to those who share their lives with dogs. Sure, Amar helped me maintain a physically active lifestyle, and he soothed me from the ugliness of the outside world with a simple lick or a gentle stare. However, his influence on me runs much deeper. His capacity to live in the moment permitted him to experience each day with maximal exuberance and verve. He reminded me on a daily basis that I should not “sweat the small stuff.”
To those who might experience such a loss, I have a few nuggets of advice: (1) Try to keep your mind busy. Engaging in various tasks only serves as a temporary respite from the pain but it is helpful. (2) Share your grief only with those whom you think will empathize with your situation. You’ll be surprised at the number of people who are unable to comprehend such a loss. He is not “like a family member.” He is a full-fledged family member (if not more so), and you are perfectly sane for grieving as long as need be. (3) You may find solace in reading what famous historical figures have expressed about their fallen companions. One of my favorites was penned by the British poet Lord Byron: “Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the Virtues of Man, without his Vices. This Praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery if inscribed over human ashes, is but a just tribute to the Memory of Boatswain, a Dog.”
As a young boy growing up in Lebanon, I fantasized about the idea of Amar. For years, he was a figment of my imagination, which only materialized twelve years ago in a tangible form. Today, he lives on in my heart and mind, and in the innumerable ways that he has enriched my life. Amar, you are eternal. I love you in ways that cannot be expressed.
Thank you to the folks at Psychology Today and to my readers for allowing me to share both my love for Amar and my grief in this public forum. Interested readers can see here for a clip of our two dogs in happier times.