Why is losing a pet so hard? And why, especially, is losing a dog so hard? Like so many things in life, I honestly never understood the depth of it until it happened to me. Yes, I would always be sympathetic when a friend lost a pet, and I never viewed it as “it was just a dog,” but I never knew the magnitude of it until it was my beloved dog. I think much of it is because of their unconditional love for sure! It is also because of their funny ways, their little quirks, the routines that they have which then forces you to have routines. It is the way that they give you kisses, the way they are so happy to see you when you come home, the way they are so grateful when you feed or water them.

I also think much of it is their eyes. Since they cannot talk, they have no choice but to communicate with their eyes…and they are so expressive! They have a look for everything – excitement, confusion, wonder, happiness, fear, but most importantly, love. And it is you as their master who gets to see that beautiful look the most. Maybe, too, since they cannot talk, you tell yourself what their expression means and you NEVER have a thought that it could be talking back to you or upsetting you as some humans can do. For this reason, all they exude to you is love and that is the most beautiful gift they can give you and you can give yourself when choosing to get a dog.

My husband is probably one of the biggest dog lovers that I know. I honestly think he is an “animal whisperer” because he has a “thing”, a connection, a bond, with nearly any kind of animal that crosses his path. Even our chickens! So obviously he turned me into an animal lover myself and introduced me to pets living among us – and many at that! So when he proposed to me, it was purposely on the same day that we got our new puppy, Sadie, who was half Golden Retriever and half Labrador Retriever. We fell in love immediately! She was our engagement puppy who we got 10 months prior to our wedding date. We welcomed Sadie with open arms and gave her the most incredible place to call home. We live on a 10-acre farm with two ponds and a unique winding creek that runs through the majority of our property. She had an English bulldog “sister” named Sara, a lop-eared compact rabbit named Sadness, and 9 Java chickens. She also had her choice of a golf cart or a John Deere Gator to ride on whenever she pleased. Seriously, I have never known an animal to love her rides as much as she did. All we had to do was start one of them up and she ran like a maniac to hop on….even if there was no room for her! She loved chasing birds, and she loved people.

Since we were getting married on our property at the end of August, and we purchased a major “fixer-upper,” we had a gazillion different contractors here between late Spring and late summer ranging from a carpenter, an electrician, landscapers, and painters. Everybody knew her and she LOVED being outside with whoever was here, and there truly was a different person (or even groups of people) here every single day. She was the most loving pain-in-the-ass you could ever meet. She would steal any kind of food that wasn’t nailed down or kept high enough off the ground. The word everyone would holler was, “Saaaaadieeee!” when they would reach for their bag of chips and they were gone. Although it didn’t feel like it at the time to the smoker, she even tried to save lives by stealing packs of cigarettes.

When she wasn’t getting into trouble she was entertaining people just by being herself. People didn’t know if she was a dog or a duck because she was in the water as often as she could be. When we would have family parties people would take her baby doll and throw it in the pond just so she would retrieve it from the water. She was so much fun. Her biggest draw-back was that whenever a car would pull up our 800’ driveway she would run towards the car as her way to greet them. This always made me crazy because I was worried she would scratch someone’s car with her nails, but also the people were always worried they would run over her. I always hoped she would outgrow that because nothing else seemed to work to stop that bad habit.

Our wedding was the end of August and as crazy busy as every day was for the past six months, literally all of a sudden it just stopped. All of the work was complete and it was just John and I left to do our finishing touches on the yard. One project that was left to do was to paint a farm fence that was put up near the road on our property. I decided I would paint the fence one morning and took goofball Sadie with me. After I got myself all settled to begin painting she was lying on the interior side of the fence and was just hanging with me. At some point she must have run off and I didn’t notice it at all because the next thing I see and hear is a car driving down the road followed by the most awful sound I will never get out of my head. The second I heard the loud, low, obvious sound of something getting hit, all in one split second I dropped my paint brush, saw my sweet love of a puppy hit the grassy ditch, see a car stop on a dime, and heard my horrified voice scream so loudly and violently, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

I ran to my sweet baby lying so painfully still in the ditch and immediately began convulsing in tears. She was still alive. It was her eyes.  I knew immediately because of her eyes, but this time they were giving me a look of despair and disbelief. I knew she wasn’t going to make it because her breathing was very shallow – not by the sound but by the rhythm that I could see in her chest. All I could do was lie down beside her in the ditch and stroke her lovely head and tell her that I was sorry. Sorry that I was so stupid to let her so close to the road with me. If I could have taken it all back I would have in a second, because that is all it took for this entire nightmare to happen.

The poor neighbor kid who hit her was so terribly sorry. All he could do was say he was sorry as he saw me lying desperately in the ditch trying to give my poor baby the comfort of knowing her mommy was with her. He kept asking what he could do and I kept telling him to drive down the driveway to get my husband and to tell him to bring a gun. I knew Sadie wasn’t savable and I didn’t want her to suffer any longer than she had too. It took the neighbor kid a while to get out of his shock and to move.  In hindsight, maybe it was because he just hit my dog and I was telling him to tell my husband to bring a gun. You think? He kept apologizing over and over. I knew it wasn’t his fault. This happened because Sadie was used to running up on cars when they were driving up our driveway, and I know the sweet little thing didn’t know the difference between 10mph and 50mph until it was way too late.

The even crazier thing in all of this? My husband heard me scream – 800’ away! It made him run out from the barn to jump in his truck to drive down the driveway to see what was wrong. However, when he got closer to the house he found two male Pitbulls aggressing Sara, our English bulldog. They were seconds from a full-on dog fight with two males against one female. Somehow my husband was able to get their attention and he shoved them in the cab of his pickup truck. As soon as he did that he put Sara in the house, who was horribly shaken up, and then jumped in a car and came down the driveway. The entire time he thought it could have been because of the two other dogs that I screamed. Unfortunately, he had to drive up to see me crying over Sadie in the ditch. He knew immediately what happened and ran over to be with us. It is all a blur to me now, but I believe Sadie was dead by the time he got there – thankfully, because having to put her down would have been the last thing either of us ever would have wanted to do, although it would have been the most humane act.

When my husband got to Sadie and I all I wanted to do was cry and tell him I was sorry and to tend to her. He kept talking about two big dogs going after Sara and that they were in the truck. I was so confused; I had no idea what he was talking about. Although he wanted to tend to Sadie’s beautiful black body too, we had to go take care of the ridiculous dogs who literally came out of nowhere and were in the cab of his truck doing who knew what. We drove back towards the house to get the Gator so we could put Sadie in the back of it and checked to make sure the two dogs weren’t doing any damage. Confirming that they weren’t ruining his truck, we drove back down to the end of the lane to pick up sweet Sadie out of the ditch.

Since we all need a breather here, let me tell you that if there was ever a gift in all of this, it was that Sadie did not have any outward trauma to her body. All she had were a few scrapes that resulted in tiny patches of lost fur. No blood, no horrific trauma, nothing. I know in my heart that an impact like that would not result in no body trauma, so I know that was God’s one gift to me in all of this.

My husband couldn’t even mourn her properly because he had to drive the neighborhood to find out whose dogs these were because they didn’t have any tags on them. While he was doing that I found a beautiful location to begin digging her grave under a shade tree and up on a small hill so she could overlook our farm. I couldn’t even see what I was doing because my eyes were blurry with buckets of tears pouring from them and every shovel hit to the earth was a reminder of how terribly stupid I was for not keeping her in the house that day. Somehow, about 20 minutes later, my husband and I join back up because the two dogs – who turned out to be neighbor dogs who recently started “roaming” the ‘hood – were claimed, so now together we could say our goodbyes to our beloved duck-dog and put her in the ground. With how she was placed in the grave by John, her beautiful face and soulful eyes were open to us one last time. And all I saw was peace and love looking back at me.

As if any of this could get worse, the most difficult part of all of it was that it was just simply over. One minute I have a lively, beautiful dog and the next minute she is gone, and in under 30 minutes she is buried in the Earth. Done. John and I did our crying and hugging together, but once we had no more tears we went back to what we were doing. Maybe that was a good thing because he got to spend some time alone and so did I. About 30 minutes later I hear the Gator coming down the lane and he jumps off of it to walk up to me and just hug me again. We both needed it so desperately at that point.

Another very weird part to this story is that, although she was 10 months old, Sadie had not come into season yet…until that week! The poor thing! She probably wondered what is worse, getting my period or getting hit by a car! Either way, from the direction where those two dogs live, they should have come from the direction where Sadie and I were. Instead, they came from some different direction that neither John nor I saw them. Had they come by Sadie first, I would hate to have seen what would have happened with two un-cut male dogs approaching one female dog who was in season. I can’t even imagine how that would have gone down. But on the flip side, had Sadie not been hit and had I not screamed bloody murder so loud my husband could hear me from 800’ away, he was deep in the barn that the two dogs surely would have attacked Sara and God only knows what that scene would have been like. And do you want to know what? We have not seen those two dogs anywhere near our property since then. Not once.

You never really know why certain things happen, but I do know that I will always feel Sadie was a life saver. Let me fast forward one week to our absolutely beautiful wedding on our property. It was spectacular and a day that I wish I could bottle and open up again whenever I want to feel the incredible love and joy that we all did that day. One of the reasons it was so spectacular is because a generous neighbor arranged with another neighbor and friend to have a horse and carriage ride for us and then our guests. It was the most loving and generous gift we could have received, and it completely topped off our wedding and our country and outdoor theme. Fast forward one week after that and it is Labor Day weekend and our generous neighbor is giving the same rides to yet another neighbor who was having a family party for the holiday weekend.

To make a very long story short, a drunk lady was speeding down the road and hit one of the beautiful horses on the team and tore the team away from the carriage…..a carriage that was carrying six people and two dogs! Many of us were sitting outside within 300’ of where this accident occurred. Again, it was the same horrific sound of a car hitting an animal. Once you hear that noise, you recognize it immediately. Within seconds of hearing the horrific noise and then quickly putting two-plus-two together, we see the team of horses sprinting down the road. A few people ran after the horses and the rest of us ran to the carriage. Although some people were hurt, miraculously nobody died. An absolute miracle on so many fronts! This accident occurred no less than 100’ from where poor Sadie was killed two weeks prior. After the intense commotion calmed down and the ambulance drove some people away, John and I just looked at each other knowing that if sweet Sadie McLady had any angelic hand in preventing a catastrophe because she is now our road angel, then we believe that is what happened. And that makes us feel a bit better about the entire horrific ordeal!

To make us further believe she could have had an angelic paw in this, the next day when John and I were taking a picture of our barn where we had just hung some family farm signs, a hummingbird intentionally and slowly flew right in front of both of us. It actually hung in the air right in front of my camera so that I was lucky enough to get a picture. As quickly as the beautiful hummingbird came, it was gone – just like our beautiful Sadie! – and John and I just looked at each other and said “Sadie!” at the same time. It was absolutely beautiful!

In addition to believing that sweet Sadie is our road angel, we find comfort in knowing that we gave her the best life any lab and retriever mix could ever want. She lived 10 years in 10 months on this beautiful farm of ours and all the amenities that it provided her.  We also decided that she was “the people’s dog” and part of her brief existence was to touch so many lives. After she passed I had to call so many people to tell them of her passing because it could be no other way. They simply needed to know because they loved her so much too. So, here is to you, Sadie McLady….my beautiful puppy with the most beautiful, soulful eyes! I will always love you, baby!