Three months have passed since I said goodbye to my best friend.
And I miss him more and more every day.
This best friend was Elwood, my dog of 14 years who succumbed to cancer on Nov. 1, 2012. His brother Jake died three years prior, almost to the exact day. I honestly have no idea how I'll be able to fill the void their deaths have left in my life. I know that may sound dramatic considering I'm talking about dogs, not people.
When I think back on their personalities, they were a lot like humans.
Elwood was quirky and silly, kind of like me. He even garnered the nickname Elweird from an ex-boyfriend based on his eccentric demeanor. The funny thing is Elwood had many nicknames. To many, he was one or more of the following: Elway, Elwoo, Elmo, Beelzebub (based on his ornery ways), Beelzy, Buddha, My Little Buddy, Boozey (based on an occasion when he thought he would try whisky and cola in a glass left on the coffee table), Boo, Fuzzy Face, Bear Face, Facey and sometimes just Bear.
Elwood was a dog with many names.
Jake also had a distinct personality I'll never forget, but his was a bit more serious. He connected to men more often than women, but he guarded me with his life. He did not like to be the life of the party like Elwood (and me), so when I had dinner parties or get-togethers he would often go into the front room to look out the window. He wasn't as rotten as Elwood could be, but he could get into some trouble.
They were a lot like little kids that way.
Once, when my parents were visiting from Indiana, the gate to the backyard where I lived on Bennett Avenue in downtown Glenwood had accidentally propped opened as we were bringing in bags. Jake snuck away and promptly returned as my dad was getting into the back of his car for another bag. He heard something rush up behind him and felt a sprinkling of water near his legs. Jake had booked it down the sidewalk on Bennett to the Colorado River, jumped in for a quick dip then came right home when he was finished. He was shaking off as my dad discovered him, happy as Joliet Jake Blues being released from prison in "The Blues brothers."
Luckily this Jake didn't encounter his ex-fiancee with an M16.
Elwood, on the other hand, wasn't nearly as independent. Those who were ever around us know that he was constantly by my side. Elwood was my buddy for life. He was always yearning for attention, liked to lick a face, and was much more boisterous than Jake. I taught Elwood to speak in puppy kindergarten.
Jake wanted no part in that trick.
Elwood had a face that looked almost like a cinnamon bear. Especially last summer when I gave him a trim so he could stay cool in the hot months of the Colorado summer. It was a mediocre haircut, much like a parent would embarrassingly give a child to save money. He looked like Fozzy the Bear. If he could talk, he probably would have made jokes about the bad haircut his mom gave him.
Elwood sure was a good sport.
There are so many stories from the double-digit years I shared with Jake and Elwood. It's difficult to truly express what my dogs mean to me now that they're gone. That's mostly because I can hardly talk about it without wanting to cry like that woman in the viral YouTube video who sobbed about cats.
Ironically, Jake and Elwood hated their feline counterparts.
I was talking with my colleague Ed recently and he said people sometimes don't realize how much our pets can be our teachers. I learned a lot from my two red buddies. My dogs came into my life when I was in my mid-20s. I have grown so much since, and they were with me along the way.
For that I am truly thankful.
My dogs didn't know it - or maybe they did - but they were my biggest support system when I was divorcing. They brought joy to my life when I could barely even eat I felt such despair. When I was sick, especially when I underwent surgery, Jake and Elwood were there to sleep by my side. When I suffered loss too unbearable to talk about publicly, they were there to bring me hope. I will never forget their unconditional love and the lessons in patience they taught me. My dogs were my best friends and my favorite teachers.
Hopefully doggie heaven is as fun for them as it sounds.
- April E. Clark would like to wish her best (human) friend Megan a very happy birthday. Welcome to the club, sister. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.