“How lucky I am to have known someone who was so hard to say goodbye to.” – Anonymous

I write this with tears steaming down my face. Our noble friend and companion, Tai, has crossed the Rainbow Bridge – that sappy, mythical but nevertheless comforting place where much-loved pets go to await their masters. He would have been 12 this December.

I debated whether I should do a blog post about this. But Tai was so well known by the Roadtreking community that he was a celebrity in and of himself, often being recognized as we camped across North America. People would come up to meet him and get that awesome Elkhound wag of the tail in return. He even got regular fan mail here.

So it’s fitting that I tell the Roadtreking community.

We first learned that Tai had serious health issues about two weeks ago when he was found panting and having great difficulty breathing one morning. Rushed to an emergency vet clinic, a huge tumor was found around his aortic valve. It was inoperable. His heart sac was filling with blood and he was very near death. The fluid was drained, the tumor measured and a terminal diagnosis was given.

We haven’t shared that publicly but our hope was for a few more months. That wasn’t to be. He began having seizures last night and, though he seemed to rally, they continued today. It was obvious his heart sac was again filling up. Tai took his last ride in the Roadtrek about 1:50 pm today (July 23, 2015). Jennifer and I were both by his side as he peacefully drifted off.

Now, we are in a house that seems so empty.

I drove home in the Roadtrek without him, a few tufts of his thick beautiful grey and black coat on the floor still between the two front seats where he loved to sit and be petted as we drove across the country. Unashamedly, I admit to crying the whole way home. His spirit and our Roadtreking lifestyle are so intertwined it’s absolutely gut-wrenching to realize he won’t be with us anymore.

To those who never had a dog, I’m sure all this grief seems misplaced. But to those who have been blessed to have a dog, you know how we feel.

Tai loved Roadtreking. When we were home, he’d sit next to it in the driveway, anxiously awaiting the next adventure.

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And adventure he had. I have hundreds of photos of him. Hiking riverbanks and forests, mountain tops and canyons, beaches and meadows. He barked at bison, sniffed bears, chased elk and deer, mixed it up with raccoons, got sprayed by a skunk and made friends across the country.

He had a good, full life. But now ours is so empty.

Like our house. Like the Roadtrek.

This will pass. Tai was our third dog, all of them Elkhounds. We’ve been through this before.

Some say the only way to get over the loss of a dog is to get a new one. That may happen. But not for a while. That new one wouldn’t be Tai.

I thought you should know.

I want to end this with another quote, sent me by a reader:

“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them.

And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart.

If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog,

and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”

– Anonymous