Gator came to us, his forever home just 2.5 years ago. Gator was a BIG dog. One you couldn’t ignore. When he wanted attention Gator walked up sat down, then barked.* If I ignored the bark (and he wouldn’t stop) Gator climbed up in my lap. Being a work-at-home dog-Mom, we’d start the day in the office with his head resting on the cool marble window sill watching squirrels and rabbits out the window. Both dogs would sleep under my desk. Walk at 2 and then each day at 4 o’clock he let me know it was time to be fed by coming over, first with a nudge of the nose, then the bark, then the climb.

He’d run back into the house galloping with joy. At night he stood with a toy dangling in his mouth …letting us know it was time for bed.

He was a character.

I was his Human.

I don’t have Gator’s back story. Overweight at 117 pounds, gray before his time, given up twice, I sense his journey to us wasn’t so good. His first trip in the car to the groomers my husband came home visibly upset; to Gator car rides meant being sent away- AGAIN. That day when he picked him up and he got to come home, well Gator lit up! One happy dog. Those first couple weeks, afraid of being abandoned again, he stuck to me like glue. First out of need and then out of desire. We bonded. His love for me was BIG. Following me from room to room, he never let me out of his sight. A protector. I was his Human.

My heart just opened for him.

One night in those early days Rich came home from the road; there was a rustle in the dark by the closet. “What the heck?” When I turned on the light, Gator had squeezed his BIG dog body onto Rich’s flattened out suitcase. “Hey look Mom, a bed!”

Who knew!

None of our other dogs ever took to beds! When a week later the plush dog-bed arrived, we put it in the bedroom, Gator walked right into it and lay down as if saying “Finally I’m home!”

The first six months he lost 25 pounds. He played, chased squirrels, and loved riding in the Beetle with the top down. A proud BIG dog.

At the beach last week I kept taking snaps of him with my iPhone; playing in the waves, chasing crabs, lizards on the screens and watching flying pelicans. He loved the beach.

In the car ride home Gator slept on the armrest as our co-pilot for a long six hour drive. Then suddenly without warning, 3 nights later he collapsed on the floor in front of me. It was his time to go. Saying goodbye I thanked him for being with us, for being a good dog, celebrating all the joy he brought to our family. The emergency vet was no option, I didn’t want him to die with strangers.

When I picked up my drum and started the healing he raised his head; he looked up at me one last time as I sang him home. Thirty minutes later he was gone. It’s been a tough and tender week. I feel him. I see him. I want him back. Grief is a journey, and I’ve been riding it.

Having lived the first half of my life not feeling very much, I welcome the tears. Life is so much sweeter now. BIG feelings won’t take me down; riding the wave maybe they are fuel for creating a BIG life.

Thank you for being our BIG Dog Gator. We miss you.

Lessons from Gator’s BIG dog life.

You can be abandoned.

And still find love.

BARK. If you have something to share, stand up. Voice it.

Keep barking.

Be willing to climb for what you want.

Stop worrying about being rejected for those BIG ideas…

Do them anyway.

Find a tribe that isn’t afraid of your BIG-ness.

And if none can be found.

Create your own.

Allow Love in.

BIG thank you to:

Family, friends and clients on Facebook who sent healing and love the last couple of days.

The Golden Retriever Rescue South Florida for choosing us. We celebrate the good work they do in finding forever homes for abandoned goldens.

Dr. Basabe and his staff at Village Pet Clinic: your phone call and heartfelt conversation the morning Gator passed gave me peace of mind and heart. Rich and I are so grateful.

Forever Family Pet Cremation Services: They came and lovingly picked up Gator within 90 minutes of my call; then returned him in a beautiful urn two days later. Please stop by and “Like” their Facebook page at:

Catherine Behan has an email program for pet loss that is no cost…Please check it out…..what would we do without our four legged family members?!?

* Gator was well trained, doing all the commands asked of him. Sit, stays, heel and down. Each dog has their quirky gifts. Barking and climbing was Gator’s.