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A Lifetime Dog
A companion, a friend and a source of joy

So there I was, alone, sitting outside Tully’s and enjoying a latte when a woman approached me.
“Excuse me,” she said, looking concerned. “Is your dog okay?”
Puzzled, I reassured her that Elvis was fine. He’d gone on a walk earlier and couldn’t be budged off his La-Z-Dog recliner.
I had to ask. “I’m sorry, but do I know you?”
“No,” she replied, smiling. “It’s just that I see you around town and you’re never without your dog. I wanted to be sure he’s okay.”

She was right. Elvis is such an integral part of my life that even strangers see me as incomplete without him. I’ve loved many dogs since childhood, but none has been like this one. To use an expression coined by A Good Dog author, Jon Katz, Elvis is my “lifetime dog,” a dog I’ll hold dear long after he’s gone and others have staked their spots on the sofa.

“So many people told me they had one dog in their life that meant everything to them, that stood out in their hearts and memories,” Katz responded when I wrote asking about the expression. “Sometimes it was a dog that entered their life at a critical juncture or changed their life. When people hear the term, they all nod. Loving a dog can be a powerful experience.”

Indeed. Because Elvis isn’t “just” a pet. He’s my companion, my friend, my joy. He isn’t a replacement for the husband I never married or the children I never had. Johnny Depp could be my betrothed and cherubs my children. I wouldn’t love this dog one iota less.

When Golden State Greyhound Adoption delivered Elvis to my home six years ago, I had no idea what a life-altering occasion it was. When I first met my trembling new dog, I was struck by two emotions simultaneously: first, delight that he was so pretty, immediately followed by sheer terror. How would I manage this horse in my house?

Today I would ask: How would I manage without him? I love that Elvis greets me at the door with a toy in his mouth, jumping with joy whether I’ve been gone 10 minutes or 10 hours. I love how he rests his head on my lap while I’m watching television, wanting nothing more than to feel my touch. I love how he guzzles his food with gusto and then, with kernels of rice still on his nose, does a happy little trot as though offering his compliments to the chef. I love how he meanders over to my bed every night and taps my face with his soft, wet snoot before retiring to his La-Z-Dog recliner.

I love caring for Elvis, stroking his knobby head, rubbing his velvety ears, observing him with other dogs, other people. Today, when I look at my beloved boy, who is now nine, I note his gray muzzle and eyebrows. Like his human, Elvis is showing signs of age. And unlike the life I might have enjoyed with that man I never married or those children I never had, I realize with an ache that our time together will be much too brief.

That explains why I’m so fond of one particular Twilight Zone episode. Titled “The Hunt,” it’s about a recently deceased man and his dog. As they amble down a country road in the hereafter, they come upon a gate. “Welcome to heaven!” the gatekeeper declares. Except for the dog, that is. “What kind of heaven won’t allow dogs?” the old man asks. “If he can’t come in, then I’ll stay out with him. He’s been my faithful companion all his life. I can’t desert him now.”

So the old man and his dog continue down the road. Later, they come upon yet another gate. “Welcome to heaven!” the gatekeeper greets both man and dog. When the old man inquires about the previous gatekeeper’s proclamation, he learns he’d been talking to the Devil. “He gets people who are willing to give up a lifelong companion for a comfortable place to stay,” the old man is told. “They soon find out their mistake, but then it’s too late.” And then man and dog pass through the gates, toward the light. Toward heaven.

When I cradle my dog’s face in my hands and look into his liquid eyes, so full of unwavering loyalty and love, there’s no doubt. Elvis is my faithful companion. My lifetime dog. And this is heaven.

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 53: Mar/Apr 2009
Eileen Mitchell is a freelance writer and pet columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Courtesy Eileen Mitchell

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Submitted by Maura | April 16 2010 |

Very nice story!
I have people come up to me and tell me that they see me all over the place, in various towns, out and about with my dog(s). They all say how much we "get around!" I rarely go places that don't allow my dog to accompany me. That's why I like having small dogs- it's much easier to bring them everywhere with you plus my tiny dogs do all the same things that all the big dogs I've ever had could do too (hike, swim, agility, etc).
Good dog times!

Submitted by susan sherry | June 15 2011 |

I can not decide which of my greyhounds is or could be my most special. I used to say Rita my beautiful
white/black brindled girl who lived 11+ of the 13 yrs of her life with me. But now it could be Mikey, who
looks alot like Elvis, who has lived with me 5 yrs now. I know they shower love & loyality, I have had 5 so
far and ther will be more. Thanks for the nice story.

Submitted by sandy | August 28 2013 |

1 year ago I lost my dear companion of 17 years, a shepehrd terrier mix, Buffy. She still hs a big place in my heart. A few months later a coworker told me the story of a cocker spaniel who had been just dumped at animal control and was in foster care...long story shore Alf is now my beloved companion and best friend, he believes every one is on this earth to love him (true) My point here is that all the friends we meet along our walks know his name, as I know their dogs names, long before I know or remember their names.Thats how much a part of our lives our precious partners are.

Submitted by Linda | July 1 2014 |

I just lost my faithful companion of 11 years, Suki. I literally rescued him from the streets of Mexico, starving and sick with mange, extremely close to death according to the vet there, even though he was only 6 months old at the time. I fed him, healed him, and brought him home to live in the states. He entered my life at a dark time. He actually ended up healing ME. 11 years later, we both completed our missions and it was time to move on. It was very difficult to let him go...and since it is so fresh, it is still quite painful. He was part Xoloitzquintle, the dog of the Mayans. In ancient times these dogs were sacrificed when their owner died, and buried with their owner, so that the dog could guide their owner to eternity. Its not ancient times anymore, but I am getting older, and its wonderful to know that his ashes will be buried with me and he will guide me to eternity with him.

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