Penkava: There’s no cure for this hole in my heart

There’s a hole in my heart. I always knew it would eventually come one day, I just didn’t dare ever think about it. But it came, nonetheless, like a sudden clap of thunder jolting me from a seemingly perfect dream. And now that I’m awake, my heart beats with an inescapable hollow echo of sadness.

What happened? Well, let me ease you into it…

A little more than two years ago I wrote an article titled, “The common denominator between two old dogs.” In it I introduced you to Buddy, our boxer. At the time of that writing I had figured out that, if you calculated his age in human years, we both were 63 years old.

It was interesting to note the things that we two seniors had in common, like how our whiskers were growing grey and how we both made grunting sounds when we got up and how we couldn’t walk around the block without having to go to the bathroom. Not to mention we both had developed drooling issues at the sight of snacks.

I also observed a few differences between us. Buddy had perfected unconditional love, while I was still in the learning stage. He was very content with a simple tennis ball in an old sock, while I always wanted the newest, most expensive gadget. It was clear that he was a better dog than I was a human.

What I didn’t mention in that column was how my wife and I got Buddy. Our oldest son had always wanted a boxer, and so after he got married they got a puppy. Everything was fine until his wife became pregnant with twins. It was a tough pregnancy, and a spirited boxer puppy in training coupled with double-dosed morning sickness was a bad combination. Thus, I received a telephone call from my son one day…

“Hi Dad, I just wanted to tell you that we’re going to have to give our puppy away.”

“Gee, son, that’s too bad.”

“Yep,” he responded in his best hopeless voice, “I only wish there was someone who could just temporarily take care of him. That way we won’t have to say goodbye to him. Then when things settle down, we could take him back.”

I was no ordinary dummy. I knew what he was doing: the classic Boxer Puppy Guilt Trip. And it worked like a charm. Within a few days Buddy, his food bowl and his Milk Bone treats had arrived for their transitory visit.

Well, that was more than 10 years ago. Evidently, even though the twins will soon be entering the fourth grade, things had not “settled down” enough to facilitate Buddy’s return. And how thankful we have been for that!

This is where writing this becomes difficult, for by now you know what it is all leading up to. We lost Buddy last week. A sudden illness. A quick decline. A sorrowful goodbye. A peaceful ending.

I never thought I’d feel this way about a pet. But something magical happened between Buddy and I. We were not master and dog, we were two best friends growing old together. He just got older faster.

My memories of him are like thick cobwebs that constantly brush against my face. I see him waiting for me at the door, sitting beside me at the dinner table, laying alongside me at my writing desk.

I suppose that incurable hole in my heart will be trickling visions of Buddy from now until my own dog years are up. But that’s a good thing, because that way I will have endless memories of our time together. After all, it’s hard to forget someone who gave you so much to remember.

Thanks for everything, Buddy, my dear old friend.

Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He would always give Buddy the last corner of his toast from breakfast each morning. Now he can’t bring himself to take that last bite. All he says is “Geesh.” His wife hugs him and replies, “Take your time, Michael, take your time.” He can be reached at

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