If you’ve ever lost a beloved pet you know pure heartbreak. An ache that shatters you into pieces. Disbelief, shock, anger, denial. A phantom limb that’s been chopped off but you still feel it, sense it, look for it. You’re thinking any moment she might come trotting around the corner as you start dinner, or there’s that millisecond anticipation of the bark on the other side of the door when you come home, or her shadow that seems to follow you from room to room. But none of this will happen. That sweet girl is gone. 

Coco was almost 14 when she passed away. So yeah, she was pretty old, but her getting sick and dying came out of nowhere and happened fast. And that whole “she lived a long life” shit sounds good, but there will forever be a twang of loss.

I was always aware of the love I had for her, our family had for her. And I know that she knows she was loved. She was a vibrant, caring, wild spirit. She would light up when she knew we were going for a walk in the park. She knew to wait at the top of the beach for the all clear before running down to the water’s edge (strict no dog-law at the Jersey Shore). She was always up for a mysterious adventure, a challenge, and was one of those dogs that could run off leash on any new terrain and never, ever get lost. She loved the snowy mountains of Vermont and was my snow-shoeing companion on many long expeditions. She ate well, slept well, got lot’s of attention, exercise and care. She was part of our family, our protector and our unifier, our beast and our teddy bear. Coco was pure love, but she was also an excellent teacher. 

I have posted hundreds of pictures of her on social media, and somewhere along the way I came up with the hashtag #cocothewonder dog. She will forever be our wonder dog.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned from the loss of my dog:

1. Unconditional love doesn’t die

Love might be an overused word, but the love Coco infused into my whole family was the real deal. She loved you no matter what, If you were sick, had a big zit, were upset about something, if you were hungover, if you were having a bad day, she didn’t care. She still loved you and would be there for you with her tail wagging and kisses waiting. She taught me that unconditional love lives forever.

2. Patience is a virtue to be honored

Being a dog you have to learn to wait for things. Someone has to feed you, take you out for a walk, keep you groomed, give you that special treat. She taught me that waiting is ok, slowing down to enjoy something that catches your eye or some other sense is ok, that taking a nap when you’re tired is ok, that waiting for something really good is ok. 

3. Chill and be in the moment

Humans constantly step into the future, worrying about what might happen next, or fret over the past and how we may have done something differently. Coco lived in the moment, that’s just how dogs do it. She could take off chasing sandpipers on the beach, and in that moment all that mattered was trying to catch up with the little teasers. I learned from watching her – so that when I’m struggling with thoughts I have no control of, I think of Coco and that helps bring me back into the present moment. She taught me it’s ok to chill. 

4. Being real isn’t really as hard as we think

Coco was Coco, pure and simple. She was proud to pull out a little ahead of the family when we all went for a walk, leading the way was her job, one of the main purposes of her existence, her passion. It was real. She didn’t overthink who she was, or what she was. She didn’t over-analyzing, no second guessing, no self-doubt. She just pulled ahead and did her thing with pride.

5. Our spirit lives forever

I don’t know this for a scientific fact, but I really do believe she will be forever present, forever here, in some way, shape or form that is spiritual, that is embedded in our hearts, in the world, perhaps in some reincarnation. She is still loving us and we are still loving her. She is eternal.

Every experience, including every loss, has something to teach us.

Losing my dear pet has been a chance for me to reflect on the value of living in the present moment. My time with her and the loss of her, has strengthened me, humbled me and quieted something unsettled in me.  #Cocothewonderdog was the best little girl in the world, and she was an excellent teacher.