He died today. He was 15 years and 7 months old. As Golden Retrievers go, he was likely part of a very small minority to see that many sunrises. But, an hour after he passed, I miss his friendly, sad eyes more than I could ever have imagined.

Dogs aren’t property, or possessions, or even companions as much as a warm blanket of acceptance to envelope you every time they’re near. So it was with Ben, who had the knack for finding a spot that was so much underfoot you could never miss him. I learned to step over and around him. I never had the heart to try to train it out of him.

I knew his day was coming and I dreaded the thought I’d eventually have to make “the” decision. He spared me that, much as his perpetually good company spared me the feeling of being alone that has descended on me like a thick, gloomy cloud. I’m comforted his suffering, if any, was short. But I’m saddened I never got a chance to say a proper goodbye.

I’ve had other dogs; all wonderful friends, noteworthy characters and valued family members – but none with the placid, gentle outlook that Ben displayed from his days as a gangly, awkward pup to a handsome (but still clumsy) elder statesman. Ben never met a single living creature at which to be angry or aggressive.

It was mostly just he and I for all his years, except for a brief hiatus when we shared a house with two females; one canine, one human. Ben being Ben, I know his girlfriend missed him more than my counterpart did after our departure. With good cause.

Ben, I’m more grateful for the time you gave me than I can say. I only hope I gave you half the comfort, warmth and joy you bestowed on me. Travel well, my dear friend.

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