Dogs, as well as many other pets, become part of the family in most households. They share time, shelter, food – and most importantly, love and companionship. And once you have had the opportunity to share all that with a loyal pet such as a dog, it brings you much joy and happiness and can help to cure depression among other afflictions. Just the simple act of petting your pooch can stimulate positive chemical reactions in your system that make you feel better.

Howard Pollack and his wife Cindy Cooperman.

Dogs are used in children’s hospitals and senior centers alike to bring warmth and joy to the sick and infirm. They are also used quite frequently to aid those with special needs and help the blind to get around town. There are so many positive aspects to dog ownership, I cannot begin to fit them all in one article. And, while this article is actually about the loss of a special friend, and ultimately (when the time is right) the adoption of a new special friend – to truly understand the impact of that loss, one needs to be reminded of the many wonderful things a dog brings into the mix.

Over a year ago we suffered the loss of not one, but both of our dogs. Separately, we lost our two loyal, big, beautiful Newfoundlands, or ‘Newfies’ to those familiar with the breed. They had been with us for just about a decade each. Unfortunately, as they aged, their health deteriorated and our family watched as they grew older and more infirm. Non-dog people would insensitively ask us why would we bring such pets into our lives if they live such a short time? Why put yourselves through the agony of the loss with something so inevitable?

The time honored answer for me was: “Isn’t it better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all?” Of course, we have all heard that phrase before, in a different context; but it fits here, too. In the end, everything dies in its own time as life runs its course. But it is the journey we look at and should focus on, not the end. After all, we know it will end, just not necessarily when, and so we should make the best of it while we can.

It is that way with dogs, too, of course. And since we know the time is shorter, we must relish it while we can. Certainly, many of us in our great city of St. Petersburg do so. Just look at the number of people walking their dogs around town, along the beach, and by the parks. Try and count the number of doggie parks, pet friendly beaches, and the like which pervade our community. We even have a dog bar here in St. Petersburg! No other community that I know of would even consider that concept.

So, after raising and caring for our two amazing dogs, they finally left this earth and when it was their time, we gave each of them the sweetest send off we could. We miss them dearly, but we were comforted in knowing that while they were with us, they lived great lives, they were loved and respected, and they gave us their unquestionable love in return. And, while this is all sad, in fact, we move forward on a happy note:  we adopted two new puppies, who have now grown to adult size, but are still puppies, nonetheless. Their names are Boulder and Dakota, adorable little Newfies. Well, not so little anymore.

“Newfies” Boulder (left) and Dakota strike a pose.

When we first adopted Boulder, at two months old, he weighed 16 pounds. Now he is well over a year old and weighs in at 140 pounds, with an expected full-grown weight of about 160 pounds. Dakota came to us at about 20 pounds and is now over 120 with an expected full-grown weight of about 130 pounds. These playful, mischievous little pups with all their antics have lightened the household mood and have brought sheer pleasure and utter joy back into our lives. So what if Boulder grabs a sock and takes off with it, begging us to chase him down? What’s the big deal if he steps in his water bowl and spills it all over the kitchen floor?

We crack up laughing when we hear them in the other room wrestling with each other or chewing on a dog toy that makes squeaky sounds in rapid succession the faster they bite into it. And when they come into our bedroom at 7 a.m., one or both may just jump on the bed, or sit at the bedside urgently looking up at me. Boulder, with his sweet, golden, puppy-dog eyes, or Dakota pawing at me, both demanding a walk around the neighborhood is priceless.

Then again, when we call out “let’s go bye-bye” and they bolt to the front door in anticipation of a ride in the car, or a trip to the park, it is magical. They are turning out to be two of the many great dogs we have had. They are extremely smart, they have learned and trained well, taking only a week or so to house break. And they are both now fully off-leash trained. They are great with people and other dogs, and have a blast when we take them to the dog park behind the Vinoy Hotel. Both have even learned to swim. If you are familiar with the breed, you know Newfies are very strong swimmers. With their large muscles, giant paws, and webbed feet, they were originally bred as water-rescue dogs.

Of course, there are always drawbacks, but none we cannot handle. Sure their size can be daunting, especially to strangers who might fear them simply because of how big they are. And grooming is always an issue, as Newfies have double coats of very thick fur, so they shed quite a bit. But they are also called ‘gentle giants’ for good reason. Because of their temperament, they are great with children and seniors alike. They also get along wonderfully with large and small dogs. Our home is finally back to normal, and we are reminded that with all losses there will inevitably be gains, as the future brings brighter times and new adventures; however, we will never forget the past. There will always be a special place in our hearts for all the wonderful pets that have come and gone, and who have shared our lives.