Eight years ago, I had to let go of my soulmate.
It was his time to leave this world and make room for me to grow in ways he couldn’t help me with. Heck knows, he’d done great work in that respect already.
We climbed mountains together.
We explored ghost towns in Alberta and British Columbia.
We were together through thick and thin.
And letting him go was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
Then came the time to let go of his truck.
Our great Escape
In 2007, I found myself earning a bit better salary than I ever did as a sports journalist at newspapers in Canada. I had entered the field of marketing and communications after I was laid off from the Calgary Sun.
Life started to change in other ways, too.
I finally recognized that the life Shep was living — one-bedroom basement apartments — needed a little more zest. He needed to get out more, to explore the great outdoors.
I awoke one cold January morning in Calgary, looked at him and said, “I’m going to go buy a truck!”
He nodded his approval.
I came home that day with — not a truck — a 2005 Ford Escape. He no longer had to duck his head while sitting arse up on the back seat of my 2000 Mustang. I no longer had to sigh in his general direction for shedding in my beautiful little pony car.
This was our utility vehicle, his wee truck, our way to boot around southern Alberta on the weekends without a care in the world.
We put so many kilometres on her. I started to document our journeys on a website I called “Our Great Escape” and paid a cartoonist to create a logo for it.
I never washed her, or vacuumed her. My boyfriend — the man now brave enough to call himself my husband — found a bird’s nest in the engine once.
He looked at me and said, “Only you,” shaking his head.
Our great Escape did her job well. And when Shep had to go, she became Bella’s truck. I even added a pink bow to the logo to reflect the new era.
And then it came time to say goodbye.
You know that thing about vehicles … the one where they start to become a money pit when they get too old. Our great Escape was getting that way.
I wasn’t helping matters either. I took Bella out for an escape one autumn afternoon and drove through a puddle that turned out to be a lot deeper than I thought.
One thousand dollars worth of coilers, plugs and whatevers later … we decided it was time. While the Escape was at the doctor, we took an Edge for a test drive.
We scoured the web looking for just the right model and found it, sitting at a dealership in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, just 20 minutes away from our home in Spokane Valley, Washington.
Twice, we started to drive the Escape to the dealership.
Twice, I started crying and told him to turn around.
I wasn’t ready.
Here’s what I wrote on the old website at the time:
The memories started flooding in. She was loved. And no matter what My American will tell you, she was taken care of. (Vacuuming and dusting don’t count as “taking care of.”) She was the last real “thing” I had to hold of Shep, whose ashes rest in a special place in our home.
I took some time and thought about it, letting logic take over. The Escape needed to go. Bella needed her own adventure ride.
And the memories of Shep and our great Escape will be mine forever.
I sold the Escape to a coworker’s daughter.
The last drive was tear-filled. I looked for Shep in the rearview mirror and I swear I saw him there. Sometimes, I’m sure I see him in the rearview mirror of the Edge.
We made amazing memories together — me, Shep, Bella, my husband (who is affectionately known as My American).
Hold onto the memories
Our memories don’t live in the things. They live in our hearts and minds.
But we hold onto a lot of things because those memories are stuck to them. They represent the years together and the love.
One woman went viral on TikTok for her video — now with over 6.5 million views — about her inability to clean her car months after her dog had died.
maybe one day but definitely not anytime soon. Going in that car smells like gunner still. It was our safe spot. I will never get used to not seeing him in that rear view mirror. 🥺💙👼🐾♬ original sound – Tvdoaudios
Her caption reads: “maybe one day but definitely not anytime soon. Going in that car smells like gunner still. It was our safe spot. I will never get used to not seeing him in that rear view mirror.”
Oh, honey. I get that.
In Episode 15, master grief coach Cathy Cheshire talks about how the depth of our grief is in direct relation to the depth of our love.
When our best fur friends move onto their next world, we are left missing their constant companionship, their unconditional love, their comfort.
Our worlds are turned upside down.
There in the corner sit his bed, his bowls, his toys … constant reminders that he isn’t here, that we don’t have to let him out to potty or walk him or feed him or …
You wonder what to do with those things. What to do with a bed and a bowl might be a less administrative task than selling a car but that doesn’t make it any easier a decision.
Here are a few ideas on what to do with your dog’s things after he’s died:
- Throw them out. Ohmigawd, get rid of that shit. If you’re done curling up on his bed in a heap of tears and realize it’s old, tattered and smells like wet dog, the best thing to do might be to stuff it in the bin. It may even be a cathartic act to physically throw it.
- Sell them. If his stuff is good quality, you might be able to recover a few bucks. Heck knows, those vet bills can get pricey toward the end and you might need every dollar you can find to pay them.
- Give them away. Friends and family who have pets might be in need of a few supplies. And if you change your mind and decide you weren’t ready, they might give them back.
- Donate them. In an act of kindness in your dog’s name, you could donate his things to a shelter or rescue in your area. They always need beds, towels, bowls, etc. Keep in mind, though, that the stuff should still be in good condition.
- Save them. You might today say “I’ll never get another dog, it hurts too much when they die,” but you can’t be 100 percent sure you won’t. I made it nine days before a 60-pound cotton ball came bounding into my life.
- Repurpose them. Give your dog a place of honor in your home by creating a shrine to him. You shared many wonderful memories together and his things may remind you of those memories and bring you comfort in the days, months and years ahead. I have Shep’s collar next to his urn of ashes, Coleen Ellis keeps all of her dog’s bowls in a line in the kitchen as a tribute to their lives, and my friend Jamie created shadow boxes in her beagles’ memories. Be as creative as you want to be.
You are going to feel overwhelmed and emotional when you think about what to do with your dog’s things after he dies. Try not to make any rash decisions. Grief experts tell us we should wait six to 12 months after our loss before making any big, big decisions.
And, take it from me, don’t thrust rolls and rolls of poop bags into the hands of your neighbor as he’s walking his new Newfoundland puppy and you’re a tear-y mess. (He still crosses the street when he sees me.)
Just like navigating the grief journey, there is no right or wrong way to do it. There is only your way.
It’s important to do what feels right for you and primarily, you must give yourself time to grieve this incredible, profound loss. If you are unsure, it may be helpful to talk to a trusted friend, someone who understands your loss and won’t dismiss it.
P.S. Yeah, the Edge is a boy. His name is Eddie.
Angela Schneider is the founder of One Last Network and owner of Big White Dog Photography in Spokane, Washington. She takes her clients on adventures throughout the Pacific Northwest, creating epic images, artwork for your home and, most importantly, memories. In her free time, Angela is out on adventure herself, creating a lifetime of memories with her Maremma sheepdog, Bella.
I love seeing Shep’s handsome face as happy as can be riding along with you. I can see why it was so damn hard to get rid of his ride.
We had so many great road trips together. I’m still a little bit scared to make Eddie do all the great things the Escape did.
I love your stories about Shep 💕 This is such great information. When my parents lost their dog last February I know they struggled to know what the right thing was to do with Taki’s things.
It is so hard! I wonder if the struggle is wrapped around guilt. You know, if I keep these things, it means I’m going to replace my dog someday and I can’t think about that. We know now, though, that we’ll never replace that love, we only build on it.