Plane & Pilot
Saturday, December 1, 2007

Obituary For My Friend

You don’t know true sorrow until you lose a dog

Another time, our friend was taking us for a ride in his Seabee and was shooting landings in various lakes and channels. Nizhoni was standing up in the back seat on Marlene’s lap absolutely mesmerized. She was loving it!

At one point, we were floating on the water, and I opened the door to let her see what was going on. She jumped down on the floor and poked her nose into the water just to convince herself it was real. Watching her reactions to the seaplane experience made the entire afternoon just that much better.

I fully realize that a lot of people reading these words haven’t the foggiest idea why I’m making such a big deal out of this. I also know, however, that every single dog lover out there is reliving the grief they felt at losing one of theirs. They know exactly what I’m feeling right now.

A really heartwarming thing happened the instant I e-mailed the Bearhawk airplane-builders chat group about losing our friend. One after another, tough guys who you knew were marines and Vietnam vets, bush-pilot types to border patrol agents, climbed all over one another, online, to share their own stories of dogs they’ve loved and lost. Some were so poignant that you knew the writer had tears on his keyboard. I know for a fact, the rest of us did while reading their words. Some of these guys are clam-like in their refusal to share their emotions, yet there they were, spilling their guts out because of their love for dogs.

Every single pilot who’s part of my personal group can fully identify with the loss of Nizhoni. They’re just that kind of people. At the same time, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find that pilots, in general, are more likely than many other groups to count dogs as their favorite people. That’s partly because dogs ask nothing but give everything. They somehow form themselves to fit any empty niche we have in our lives or our hearts, thereby making us complete.

Two very salient comments popped right to the top of the discussions over the last couple of weeks. The first, “Don’t trust a man who doesn’t love dogs,” and the second, “The reason God gave dogs such short life spans is because, if they lived to be 30, the grief at their passing would be fatal.” I absolutely believe that.

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