Love first.

Years ago, I lost my dog Isis.

She got hit by a car right outside my house.

She was absolutely my best friend.

I was devastated.

I carried her body into my house, and frantically tried blowing rescue breaths into her still body.

When I was burying her in my back yard, my knees gave-out and I collapsed into the hole in the ground I was digging.

My face was buried in the pile of dirt.

And I felt like I would die.

I held her dead body for hours.

Before I’d place her in the ground.

It felt like days.

She was dead.

And I couldn’t believe it.

And it was my fault.

Let me explain:

See, I knew there was a street outside my house.

Sure it was just a neighborhood street, but cars came down at 45 MPH+ all the time.

I knew of the potential danger.

I knew I needed to do something.

I even added to my New Year’s resolution list.

Not one year.

But three years in a row.

I’d write it something like this,

“Teach Isis about traffic.”

I said ‘teach‘ because Isis was the smartest dog in the world.

I taught her enough tricks to be in the movies.

She could learn anything.

I just never chose to FOLLOW-THOUGH.

There was really no other way for me to look at it.

I’d failed her.

My dog.

My dog who taught me the real meaning of unconditional love.

I’m not kidding.

I don’t remember ever being loved more by any soul ever, as much as I was loved by that dog.

Not girlfriends.

Not family.

Not my mom.

Nope, Isis taught me.

Isis gave me love no-matter-what.

Isis had been my shadow EVERY SINGLE DAY for years.

She went to work with me every day on my boat.

She’d travel to me when I traveled.

She slept in my bed every night.

She was given a seat at my table, and a plate of food during our Thanksgiving dinner.

She was my family.

She was my responsibility.

And I’d failed her.

I was a mess for weeks.

But I had a business to run.

So I stayed functional.

I kept answering the phone.

I interviewed new employees.

I ran the day-to-day tasks that I need to run to keep things functioning.

But there was a hole inside of me.

I started to feel trapped.

Until I felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore.

I felt so much guilt.

And pain.

And fear.

And I felt so irresponsible.

I knew I was to blame.

I wasn’t being hard on myself.

I just recognized that it was my job to keep her safe.

To at least try.

And I’d failed.

For over 3-years I’d failed to do anything.

I could have put up a fence.

I could have put one of those invisible fences up…

You just plug those in, and slip a collar on your dog, and you’re done.

I could have trained her.

I could have kept her in the yard on a leash.

Hell, I didn’t even have to do that, I could have just been with her in the yard.

That would have been enough.

She would behave virtually any command I gave her.

But I didn’t.

I even knew it was ‘important‘ …

I just didn’t do it.

So weeks after losing Isis, I started freaking out a bit.

I felt anxious.

I felt scared.

My heart raced.

I was having a hard time sleeping.

Until it came to a head.

Eventually, I felt like I was going to explode.

I felt like I was losing it.

And that’s when I came to a new understanding.

Out of desperation, I had to change the MEANING of her death.

Just dwelling on it, as if it was my FAULT was killing me.

I knew she wouldn’t want me torturing myself.

I wasn’t honoring her or her memory by suffering.

I asked the question, “What else could this mean?”

I had to.

And here’s what I learned…

Isis had given me a gift.

She had given me one last gift, one last lesson, to help me learn what real, unconditional love meant.

To love first.

Not last.

Not when it was convenient.

But first.

And always.

And she’d made the ultimate sacrifice to teach me this lesson.

She needed to teach it to me, so that one day, when I had children, and a wife, and a family, that I’d remember to love first.

That I’d remember to do what needed to be done, when it needed to be done.

That if someone I love was in danger, to handle that immediately.

I chose to believe that Isis made a sacrifice to teach me a lesson.

To teach me to protect those that I love.

First and always.

And, I chose to believe that she didn’t leave me.

I believe that Isis is still with me.

That she is always with me.

That she is my guardian angel, of unconditional love who is always there to help me, and remind me of what’s most important.

To love first.

Look, I can’t guarantee that any of this is “real” or not.

I don’t really know if she’s “really” there…

I just know that, because I believe it, it’s real.

She’s real.

And that lesson…

And that experience…

Would change me forever.

In a good way.

In a way that served me.

I believe that Isis’s gift to me, would one day save the life of one of my children.

That one day, I’d make a decision that would SAVE their life, instead of take it away.

Today, my daughter, Phoenix, is ten.

Soon, my baby boy will be born.

I don’t know which one of them will be the beneficiary of the lesson and the love that my dog Isis taught me.

But I hope with all my heart that it’s both of them.

One last thing:

I’ve lost other loved ones.

For those people who have lost someone close to you.

I don’t know how to help you deal with your grief.

I can’t imagine how I would deal with the loss of a child or a spouse, and thank god, I’ve not had to deal with the loss of a parent…

All I know is that I learned a lesson from my dog, Isis.

Love first.

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