The Pets We Love and the Legacy They Leave

PHOTO: Anine Bing Campaign 2016 (left)

Recently, I lost my beloved dog George. Since then, I’ve been reflecting on the process of grief―despite experiencing loss repeatedly in our lives, the process doesn’t seem to get more manageable. The weight of it shifts the contours of our lives in both expected and unpredictable ways. The passing of a loved one, whether human or a four-legged pet, brings profound questions about the nature of grief and its enduring grip on our hearts.

George epitomized the quintessential canine companion. His arrival was unexpected. He entered my life at a time when the absence of my first dog, Frances, left a palpable void. In the wake of losing Frances, I began to relish a pet-less existence and enjoyed the freedom from responsibility to another. Yet as time passed, that unmistakable void began to fill my life. Then one day, on my way home from the airport, a serendipitous encounter would forever change the trajectory of my life. Meandering down a busy boulevard was a very large but emaciated, heavy-footed, white and black American Bulldog (who bore a striking resemblance to the canine character ‘Chance’ from the movie Homeward Bound). I immediately took on the task to save him from the busy intersection. Three hours later, after it was clear he was lost (and after building his trust with some treats), I got him into the back of my car. Upon his admittance to the local shelter I was informed that if he wasn’t claimed in five days he would be put down, likely due to his breed’s so-called negative reputation. The responsibility of his fate weighed heavily on me. And so, at the end of those five days, he made the journey to his new home―mine.

The passing of a loved one, whether human or a four-legged pet, unearths profound questions about the nature of grief and its enduring grip on our hearts.

PHOTOS: Dave Mullen

Quickly, it became clear that George and I were forming a special bond, defying the odds stacked against him and filling that void of mine that had been lingering. His life was characterized by adventure and travel. He was solid―in form and in character. His head required a sturdy body just to hold it up. He looked tough, but was surprisingly frightened at the slightest wind and its powers to move curtains and close doors. We became inseparable. We moved east and north and back west again, with George winning the hearts of even those who claimed they did not like dogs. He came to the recording studio with me while I was making my record. He was featured in print ads and commercials, and accompanied me when I was modeling for fashion campaigns. He was patient and sweet. He was George.

Eventually, our family expanded and we gained a younger sister pup and a human partner who took George in as his own. Their bond was undeniably special. During our 11 years together, there were only a few times I had to leave George at home. At the end of 2021, my mom was in her final weeks of life at hospice. It was then that I truly came to realize how much I had depended on George’s companionship and love, and how I wished he could have been there to help me through the overwhelming grief and reality of losing a parent.

PHOTO: Dave Mullen

Each relationship we have is characterized by its unique tapestry of memories, and navigates its own trajectory through grief.

 

Over the last couple of years, it became clear that George’s health had started to decline. He lost his hearing suddenly. We had to adapt to new ways of communicating and to stimulate his other senses. In February, he was diagnosed with an incurable disease. A few weeks later he woke up and had lost the use of his leg. For the first time, I realized how tired he was. He was uncomfortable and in pain, and it was only getting worse. The time came, and we spent the day taking him to visit his favorite places and eat his favorite treats. In the comfort and calm of our own home, we supported him through his passing, surrounded by all the things he knew and loved.

Our animal companions teach us so much. George, I realize, made me the person I am today. He made me better. I wake up most days thinking George is beside me, or call out his name to come get his dinner or go for a walk. In time I know these habits will pass, or at least get easier. I set aside time each day to think about him and allow myself to be present with whatever feelings arise during that time frame, and then I get back to my day. It’s a helpful way to manage my grief without allowing it to consume my life.

Each relationship we have is characterized by its unique tapestry of memories, and navigates its own trajectory through grief. While George’s physical absence leaves another irreplaceable void, his enduring legacy of friendship, love, and the people he met serve as a beacon of gratitude.

 


Marnie Herald is a model, musician and ceramic artist. Although Canadian, she spends most of her time in the US with her partner Dave and their dogs. Currently they are spending some time on the east coast in Upstate NY. You can follow Marnie on Instagram.

PHOTO: Marnie + George