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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Thanks for Understanding

The outpouring of love, empathy, care, and compassion that has been expressed to us as regards the passing of our beloved dog Tanner has been of great comfort to us during these very sad days of adjusting to life without his presence in our lives.
I love this photo taken by friends visiting Stockholm. We often stood with Tanner looking out our window in Stockholm watching the world go by. 
Sometimes people who have never loved a pet have a hard time understanding the depth of grief that accompanies letting a furry friend go. In our case, those voices have not emerged and instead what has emerged is a beautiful chorus of understanding how much Tanner meant to us. For you see, to know Jodi and Doug was to know Tanner. His presence in our lives was big and bold.
There's Tanner, in the middle of the swimming hole with everyone else!
For much of his life, he weighed over 40 kilos (80 pounds) and at his largest he hit 45 kilos or about 100 pounds! And he was 100 pounds of energy, loving, curiosity and joy. Oh he could be annoying for sure, but mostly he was just super interested in anything and everything we did. He loved to eat and often stole food off the counter or table. He loved to swim and would bark and cry when we were out on the boat if we made him wait for one minute to jump in.
Tanner's 3 life jackets!
He loved anyone that came into his presence, exhibiting that wonderful confidence of a dog that thinks that the whole world exists for his good pleasure. Tanner just knew that anyone who met him would love him and pet him and potentially feed him. He was Immanuel International's mascot and many people who were uncomfortable or fearful of dogs "cut their dog loving teeth" on Tanner because even though he was giant, he was so lovable. Yes, to know Jodi and Doug was to know and eventually love Tanner.
Just last week, we had dinner with my cousin's best friend. He writes a funny review each week entitled Average Joe, grading various aspects of the public conversation. He only met Tanner once, the Wednesday before he died, and yet, he included him in this week's review. 
So many people talk of Tanner as being a dog that changed them. He was so present with us and formed a beautiful and unique part of our identity. To have that now ripped away is really hard and I guess that is what lies at the heart of losing a pet. It's never just a dog that passes. It's this living being that ties everything together, the one 'hobby' or interest that the entire household gets behind and shares together. People knew that if they wanted to enjoy time on our boat with us in Sweden, then they would have to figure out how to be close to Tanner, and yes, even a wet Tanner! They knew that if they rang our doorbell the first noise they would hear would be his bark. And then in true retriever fashion, he would get a toy in his mouth in order to help him cope with the excitement! 
Tanner's pig toy that I won at my book club's white elephant exchange.
I couldn't bear to get rid of it.
And they knew that if they came in and ignored him for a little while, he would eventually settle down enough for them to pet him without him jumping all over them. He was such a huge presence in our lives and it's that tremendous void that is hard to fill.
I believe that it was philosopher Blaise Pascal who spoke of the profundity of the presence of the absence and while he was perhaps referencing our need for God, the principle certainly applies to Tanner. Remember, God spelled backward is dog after all. Right now, there is nothing harder than coming into our empty house after being gone to nothingness. No click, click, click of nails on the wood floor, no wiggling labrador whose tail is going a mile a minute, no cuddle and longing to be loved by the one who loved us without condition for 11 years. That part is hard and will take a long time to get over. 
So I guess what has been very special and incredibly meaningful regarding the comments and notes and calls that have some our way is this deep understanding that losing Tanner is a really big deal for us. We love how many of you have used the term goofy when describing him. We love that so many of you have bold memories of Tanner! We've received so many lovely notes that there is no way I can respond to each one individually so just know that for each word sent and received, we have treasured it. We have enjoyed seeing the photos that many of you have posted that reflect your love of our beloved boy and as time goes on, the sting gets a little less and the joy emerges in the midst the lovely and funny memories that so many have with our pup. 
Tanner was an amazing comfort to us, especially as we watched beloved family members pass away. He would come and lick away my tears if he knew I was crying. He was such a good sport of letting me squeeze him and cuddle with him when I needed that extra layer of comfort. Doug and Tanner shared a nightly ritual of being on the bed, Tanner sprawled out on top of Doug, waiting to be given treats before the deep slumber and loud snoring would commence. The small, funny little things are the profound things we will miss the most. I know for sure that we loved Tanner and we loved the name Tanner. Tanner was the first thing that Doug and I ever named together and it took a long time to come up with this most perfect of names. We'll miss having his name on our lips and calling him our baby dog, Tanner bananer (the plural of banana in Swedish), hunden (the dog in Swedish), Nicky nyfiken, (curious George in Swedish), Mr. Tan Man, and our favorite of all, love bug. 
In many ways, it's a bit easier to be here in the desert without him than if we were still living in Stockholm. For while we have good memories of him in London, especially in our garden, at Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath, and fun memories of him during the renovation and riding the golf cart, sunning on the chaise lounges here in the desert, the bulk of our life with him was in Stockholm, on the boat, in the snow,
and walking through the city. It would be tough to maintain that lifestyle without him by our side experiencing it all. We had really hoped to create more memories here with him, especially when cooler weather hit, but that was not to be.  I am very thankful that he is not hurting anymore even though I wish he would never had gotten sick.
We will miss finding him sprawled out on our bed taking a nap and the many other places he found a comfy place to settle. 
I write today to say thanks for the compassionate empathy and to encourage all who know someone who loses a pet to walk gently with folks in their loss. It is usually more profound than one can imagine and leaves a giant void that often hard to fill. We will miss seeing our dear Tan Man on his bed in front of our fireplace and in all of the places in our hearts that he snuggled into. Thanks for being such a good, good boy.