I hope that today you will forgive a small detour away from the world of music and into matters of the heart. On Sunday I lost the best and most loyal friend I will ever have when we had to put our beloved dog Scout to sleep at the ripe old age of almost 17. Those of you who have lost a pet know how incredibly hard this is. It is amazing how much a beloved animal can become a part of your family.
We began looking for dogs when I had first left Windham Hill and my wife was worried that I was becoming depressed and spending too much time alone. One day, we were perusing pet ads in the paper when we spotted one from an animal rescue group that said something like: "Boxer mix. Incredibly special dog, one of our absolute favorites. Looking for the right family".
I had grown up most of my life with a wonderful boxer and we were intrigued enough to arrange to meet this mysterious beast in Dolores park, here in San Francisco. The people that ran the rescue group wanted to make sure that we were "compatible" so they drove him quite a ways for our get together. (it was almost like a blind date). Our first impression of Scout was how striking he looked. No one was quite sure of his mix- but they knew his mom was a boxer and their best guess was that he was mixed with black lab. Whatever his lineage, he was a uniquely handsome and strong dog. Because he had been in a shelter for a long time, he had some "aggression issues" with other dogs and his fierce bark was a bit intimidating to us at first but...there was just something there. My wife and I immediately felt a bond with him. Although we told the rescue folks that we needed to "think about it", I believe we were both already half way in love with him and were already visualizing our lives with him. The next week I had to go out of town on a business trip (shopping Six Degrees to labels in New York) and when I returned, my wife surprised me by picking me up at the airport with Scout in the car. It was signed, sealed and delivered... we were a new family.
Years later, the day after my daughter was born, I went home from the hospital to check on Scout and to bring him one of her baby blankets so that he could get used to her smell and prepare himself for the new arrival to his home. When this strange, tiny bundle of humanity entered his life, he was incredibly patient with her. When the baby would cry he would give us the most poignant look, as if to say "hey something's wrong with her, do something about it, make her feel better will you?".
When my daughter laughed for the first time as a baby, it was of course at Scout.
Somewhere along the line, Scout transitioned from being my dog to my daughter's dog. He of course continued to love us all with his same, sweet, pure and unquestioning loyalty but he had clearly decided that his main job in life was to love and protect the youngest in the clan. He began to sleep exclusively in her room and would mope around in the mornings until she finally woke up, signaling that his day could now officially start. They remained an inseparable team for the rest of his life.
In his later years, Scout began coming to work with me every day. He had always had separation anxiety as a result of being given up by his first family and he had always HATED being left at home alone. Our downstairs neighbors would tell us stories of the strange and pathetic keening and whining noises they would hear from upstairs when we were gone for long periods at a time. Coming to the office and being surrounded by people that lavished him with attention and treats, clearly suited him well- My wife often says that she thinks it's one of the reasons he lived so long. He quickly became territorial about the office, barking fiercely at the poor Fed Ex and UPS guys and bringing many a Six Degrees marketing meeting to a grinding halt with a particularly nasty dog fart.
In the end, he lived a long and wonderful life filled with love, attention and lots of treats. There are absolutely no words that can convey how much he brought to our family and how much we are going to miss him.
My favorite Scout memory (and the one I find myself continually going back to during this difficult time) is of him running on the beach, tearing at full throttle speed, chasing seagulls, looking like some incredibly alive cross between a race horse and a gazelle. My fondest wish for him is that he has found some endless stretch of beach where the chase goes on...
One of my favorite authors Graham Joyce , wrote a wonderful piece on his web journal when he lost his dog. His feelings so eloquently mirror mine that I enclose the link should you want to check it out.
The bond between human and canine is a wonderful, powerful and mysterious thing. Somehow we have found each other and helped each other through the trials of an often hostile world. It's almost enough to make you believe in some higher power that has thrown us together.
On this weeks edition of our weekly internet radio show, Six Degrees Traveler , I have channeled some of my feelings of grief and love the best way I know how, through music. I call it "Traveler's songs of loss and remembrance" . Music can be such a powerful medium for dealing with these feelings and it is my fondest wish that this week's show may resonate for you and the loved ones you have lost in your life.