For me, one of the most difficult experiences to go through in life is losing a beloved pet. Since I’ve had a dog my entire life, that means I’ve lost a lot of best friends. And although some people say that going through tough experiences only makes you stronger, or the more times you experience tragedy the easier it gets….losing a pet never, ever gets easier for me. If it were up to me, all my canine companions would live FOREVER; I would never have to say goodbye to any of them. As a child, I relied on my parents to make the death of my dogs less painful and more explicable but despite their efforts, the pain of my loss stuck with me for a very long time.

Now, as I play surrogate mom to lots of doggies during the day, I get to experience the circle of life first hand. I cuddle with the newest of puppies as they stumble around still learning to walk, and I support the seniors as they struggle to still use their limbs. I laugh at the adorable, helpless cuteness of the puppies and sometimes cry for the helpless seniors; in any given day, I experience an array of emotions that is as vast as the life stages for which I care.

Just this past week alone, I met Barley (OMG – CUTENESS!) and lost Jager, a 14 year old Dalmatian and my walking buddy for the past 2 years. As I begin to create a relationship with Barley (and her parents), I struggle with the sadness of saying goodbye to Jager and the pain I know her parents feel. Jager’s parents would say that she has been very patient in waiting for them to be ready to say goodbye. I would say that although this is probably the case, dogs are pretty amazing and resilient while waiting for us to be ready, I also want to honor her parents for being such wonderful, patient caregivers during Jager’s final months. It’s funny how I enter homes day in and day out, care and nurture the most treasured creatures, rarely seeing the parents. And yet, the relationships I establish with the owners are very special to me. Somehow, without ever seeing each other, we share experiences that forever bind us. As I sit here remembering Jager, I know her parents are doing the same. They reminded me that our relationship will never end as we have such wonderful memories of Jager in common.

Today, I celebrate Jager and all the family dogs I’ve loved and lost. I love you: Molly, Dubers, Libby, Indy, Twiggy, Emma and Blue.