Still Here

Two years ago today, I lost my best friend Kobe.

The last picture with my best friend.

Although sometimes I think of him and a tear comes to my eyes, I would never trade the pain I felt that day and after for the amazing companionship he offered me.  I never had any idea how much you could love an animal, but Kobe changed that for me.  He has made me a “dog person” and I know that at whatever point I am in my life, there will be a dog there beside me.  I will continue to try to be the “person my dog thinks I am”, although the unconditional love a pet gives you, I wonder if that is even attainable.

His hair was always better than mine :)

Since Kobe had passed on, I thought back to so many memories that I had with him and how he taught me that love could be unconditional.  I would often come home on his later years and find poop and pee on the floor and be upset for about two seconds.  Then I would just look at him and smile and feel love.  Everything was great because he was there.  But the lessons that he taught me and the comfort he provided while he was alive seemingly ended as he passed.  I had a ton of great memories but no more learning.

Now this might get a little weird for some but I have wanted to share this story for awhile…

In April, I was struggling quite a bit with something that had happened in my life.  I wanted to feel better but it just wasn’t happening and although I had a lot of great support, I was off.  Although I was still trying to do things, my heart was not there.  I had a great opportunity to speak at the #140Cuse Conference at this time, and although I had full intentions of still doing my “talk”, I had no idea how I was going to make it through.  Public speaking is something that I put my whole heart into, and it can be quite energy sucking, but if my heart isn’t in the right space, I can find it to be extremely tough.  I went to the events the night before, mingled, chatted, but went back to my hotel room and felt the same emptiness in my gut.  I was terrified of how I would look the next day on stage.

And although I had trouble sleeping for weeks, I fell asleep quite easily that night.  Maybe it was exhaustion.  Maybe it was the terrible EST time zone.  I have no idea why but it happened.

Then came a dream.

In my dream, I was at my old house in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and just hanging outside when I realized that I had left Kobe in the house for six days by himself.  Terrified and wondering if he would be okay, I rushed into the house, and opened the door to my old bedroom and then I saw him, tail wagging, excited as ever to see me.  I hugged him, petted him, and just was so happy to see Kobe.  It was so real that the “dream” feeling went away quickly and it was just time I was spending with my best friend again.  We went for a walk, sat on the couch and watched TV, and just spent time together.  It was nothing crazy but just stuff that we used to do when he was around.  Kobe would always do this thing where he would sit beside me and just reach out his paw to say “hey…look at me!”, and I felt that same paw on my lap.  He was just there.

I have had dreams with Kobe in them before and I would always wake up crying.  I felt the opportunity to see him but then he was gone and I hated it.  This time it was different though.  I felt like I spent days with him and they were real and when I woke up, I had the biggest smile on my face and had just felt a calm that I hadn’t had not only in the last few weeks, but seemingly ever.

Then I went on to present and felt like I had one of the best talks that I had ever done.  Interestingly enough, Kobe was a major focal point of my talk.

When I thought about the dream and what it had meant to me was that, although I had sometimes been away from those that I cared about (six days apart from Kobe), the ones that truly love you will always be there.  Kobe had also taught me in that dream that I had to just sit back and enjoy those little moments that are sometimes hard in my hectic life.  Although I wish I could say that I am there, I still have a lot of growing that I can do personally (don’t we all) and I often go back to that dream to help me refocus.  Although he is gone, from that moment on, I always feel that Kobe is still here, popping in my head and heart to help me through times that may be tough.

I remember on the day of #140cuse, wondering if I should share my dream with the audience that day, as it would have tied in well to what I was discussing, but at that moment, I just wanted it to be mine.  For all the times that I have focused on sharing, this story, at that time, was just for me.  No one else.

But with the anniversary of Kobe passing, I received an email from a “stranger” this week, where he told me how he was inspired of the story of my love for my best friend:

“…one of your stories that touched me most was that of your dog Kobe. I know first hand the emotion that goes with losing a beloved pet. (I attached a picture of my Captain on his last day) I regret not having that moment to let him munch some McD’s (I thought that was awesome), my Captain left us on my 6 year old son’s birthday so you can imagine the added impact of hearing my sobbing so say “how can I have a nice birthday without Captain” ugh, I am getting teared up just thinking about this…but this is the power of Connectedness, you were able to reduce a grown man in NJ to tears by your video sharing your story. I feel it is imperative that we all (all of us connected educators) leverage the power of social media to create an avalanche on the so called education reformers, policy makers, and politicians.” Dr. David Gentile

How cool is that?  The story of my love for my dog in Canada, inspiring a Superintendent in New Jersey to push education forward.  If sharing my love for Kobe could have a tenth of the impact on others that it has had on me, then I am happy to continue to share it.

So two years after he has passed, he still feels like he is sitting right beside me and nudging me with his nose when I need that push to be better.  Every time he comes into my dreams now, there is no more crying, but there is just happiness and peace because I know every moment that I see him, is a moment that I need to cherish.

I miss and love you buddy.

Sleep warm Kobe.

 

Shaq and I still miss you Kobe.

14 thoughts on “Still Here

  1. Laina

    Those who say that animals are without emotion have never had a Kobe. Nice story to share. It's amazing what can inspire us in life and what makes our spirit sing.
    laina

  2. colleenkr

    Dreams can be so powerful, and often unexplainable. A few months ago I had a dream about my Dad (who died in 1996) and it felt like we visited for such a long time. We talked about everything. It was so real, and it gave me a peace that I couldn't describe very effectively. I'm so glad that you were able to find comfort in your memories of Kobe. Sometimes those relationships are indescribable.

  3. Joanne Babalis

    Your post brought me to tears. Thank you so much for sharing this! My first dog turned me into a "dog person" too. He will always be in my heart and thoughts, and a small part of me likes to think he lives on through my new dog.

  4. Selena Woodward

    A powerful post. Sad and happy all at once.

    I love how one beautiful, loving dog continues to inspire you to inspire others and show them how to connect more effectively for our students' sake. Through you, Kobe’s really helping us all to find a personal, meaningful way to share our experiences.

    David has summed it up perfectly. Together, you two (and your shared experience) are "leverag[ing] the power of social media to create an avalanche on the so called education reformers, policy makers, and politicians.”

    I know that everyone who's been inspired by you (and Kobe) feels privileged and empowered to make a real difference. Of course he’s still here! He's travelling the world through social media :)

  5. Todd Schweitzer

    Well written George. I have a 5 year old black lab named Cooper. He makes me a better person and reminds me constantly to sit back and enjoy the simple things in life. I fear the day when his end comes, but when it does I will know he will have left happy and loved and spoiled rotten!

    Take care. I still think back to the good old ESS days at the UofS. Good times!

    Todd

  6. Joan McGettigan

    Thank you for the beautiful post. My dad passed away 6 years ago this week and I miss him like crazy. We always had anywhere from 3 o 6 dogs growing up and each one was a great companion. Your Kobe reminds me of the great Enzo in the wonderful book by Garth Stein

  7. Tina

    Thanks for sharing George – you are inspirational in the way that your personal stories connect people everywhere.

  8. Sue King

    Beautiful post!! I just read it as I am sitting in my living room with my wonderful yellow lab, Dakota. I am currently working and living about 2 hrs from home during the week. I had to find an apt where he could stay with me – I just cannot stand to not wake up to him each morning and come home to him after a long day's work. (my husband has asked if we could share him, but instead my husband will be staying with us whenever he can! He knows Dakota is really "mine"). I had a rough several months and I can tell you I am not quite sure I would have handled it as well without this devoted four-legged friend! There are so many reasons I am so connected to him; not sure I could articulate as wonderfully as you did what he means to me and why. Thanks for sharing your story.

  9. Kathy

    Tears in my eyes reading this – a beautiful post George. Pets are very special and there is nothing like that unconditional love they give their owners. Even though it is nearly five years since my faithfully dog 'Tandy' passed away I still miss the greeting I used to get from her when I would return from work.

  10. twhitford

    Thanks for sharing, my friend. An incredible post and more importantly some insight into a man we all look up to and learn from. Your ability to enhance the connectedness many of us feel with you, just became stronger. You are an amazing person and have shown us how it is OK to let people in a little and that to bare our souls doesn't have to be scary, but empowering. Wishing you the best always and looking forward to crossing paths one day. Hopefully with our dogs….

  11. mattywpearce

    Thanks for sharing this- we have a black Labrador named Ruby who is the fifth member of our family.Even as I write this now she is asleep ( snoring) on her bean bag at my feet. It's funny how our four legged companions become so ingrained into your life you can't imagine them not there. You have been blessed with this dream, may it be a constant reminder of the great times you shared with a special friend. Cheers from OZ.

  12. Helen Westermann

    Thank you for sharing Kobe – another stranger in tears who will be passing on that story to stacks of students. & thanks to Selena for pushing another group of language teachers onto Twitter – the story of the dream about Kobe in & of itself made that so worthwhile… H !^_^!

  13. Simon

    Thank you so much for sharing this post George. I am sitting here through another sleepless night having lost our fifth family member less than two months ago. It feels like there is just a giant hole in me where our black lab Piper used to be. Reading your post made me realize that I am not the only one to feel so alone and empty. That losing your energy and drive at school can be a normal thing.

    I never realized how far that little girl had wiggled her way into my heart and my life and how much I would miss her when she was gone. I guess you don't think of these things until they happen. I look forward to being able to draw from the strength she gave me and the unconditional love that I felt. This post gave me hope… to continue dealing with the grief, knowing that there are good things to come on the other side. Your blog inspires me professionally on a regular basis, but this particualr post touched and inspired me personally. Thank you for sharing!

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