Many moons ago, after the Twin Towers came down and before One World Trade Center sprouted, we lived on the Jersey City waterfront, directly across the Hudson River from downtown Manhattan. There’s a strip of land there, a small peninsula alongside the Morris Canal, where we used to walk our two dogs when they needed more than a lap around the block. Our dogs, raised in Southern backyards and adjusting to life in a tight city apartment, loved that little park—especially Shug, who bounded up and down the length of it, scattering pigeons and geese with glee.
That’s Shug, above, at the point of the park, perched on an old wall. We called this her “survey from on high” pose. She’d sit there, stoic, overlooking New York Harbor and Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, like she goddamn owned ’em all. She did this when we lived on the 31st floor of a highrise too. Shug would leap on our bed, lay on her stomach, extend her neck and look out the windows to take in the sprawling New Jersey and NYC vistas. There’s an old Catholic church hymn whose refrain includes the words, “Infinite thy vast domain,” and I enjoyed singing it whenever Shug assumed this position.
Shug died Wednesday. She was 12 and battling toe cancer. She survived it once, having one of her doggie pinkies amputated three-and-a-half years ago, the first week we moved to Southern California. (We’ll move you to the beach, Shug, but it’s gonna cost ya a digit.) But it came back recently in another paw and it was time to say good-bye. She went out like a champ, spending her morning laying in the sunshine on the hot-tub cover on our back deck, surveying the backyard from on high. Now, I imagine, Shug is in heaven, looking down on the world—infinite thy vast domain, indeed.
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Shug is the second dog we’ve lost in the past year; her dog sister Monkey passed away last March. I wrote about Monkey’s passing then and want to borrow from that post now.
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I emailed a friend who recently had his dog euthanized for advice. This is what he wrote back:
ANY TIME you put your dog to sleep is a bad, bad time. That time is coming for every dog owner. Just know this, and please tell Danny, that there is a good way to not have this intense pain and tears. And that way is to never own a dog. What an empty life that would be, dog-less.
It reminded me of a phrase that my wife and I use for strength in tough times. We leaned on it when we lost a baby 24 weeks into a pregnancy, and again a year later when my sister passed away suddenly. And that is: Everything worth doing hurts like hell. To love something, you have to give your whole self to the cause and risk the pain that comes along with that.
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In the spirit of The Ensemble, I wanted to pass along a couple links today. Two writers I greatly respect have written columns about losing their dogs and they’ve been comforting to re-read:
And the origin of the phrase, ‘Everything worth doing hurts like hell,” comes from a short fiction story printed in The Atlantic in 1997:
The Ensemble is a frequent list of links to what’s catching Dom’s eye in the world of men’s lifestyle. Have an item for consideration? Share it.