Porter Elliot Wheeler | May 7, 2006 – May 2, 2016

As many of you know, I raised my dog, Porter, to be much more like a little boy than a dog. He slept in our bed every night of his life, under the covers, in between my feet. He was the best little heater on a cold winter night. He didn’t sit on or lie on the ground often – and why would you? The couch or a nice soft chair is much more comfortable. He was so incredibly smart. His intelligence was absolutely off the charts. He went to obedience school as a pup and outsmarted the trainer in several instances prompting an embarrassed confession from the trainer upon picking Porter up from his stay. You could speak to him like a person and he seemed to understand everything you said. Even taking instruction like, “Porter, go get Jesse (my dad’s dog)!” He would dart off and return a few minutes later, with Jesse right behind him. And boy, was he handsome. As good looking a dog as I’ll ever see. His fire red coat was always so smooth and regal – like he just left the groomers. Everywhere we went, people would stop us and ask “what kind of dog is that?!?” “A vizsla,” I would say, with great pride. He was a phenomenal athlete. He would regularly swim and jump off the dock after his ball for 12+ straight hours while at Oak Pond (his favorite place on earth) and was always up for a run through the trails of our local woods, where of course, he would act as our scout, hundreds of feet ahead of us making sure everything was ok. 

That Monday morning he was off. He just wasn’t acting like himself and I knew something was very wrong when I noticed his gums and tongue were sheet white. We rushed him to Kennebec Vet clinic where upon examination, it was found that he was bleeding internally. We opted to perform emergency/exploratory surgery to see if they could save him. Unfortunately, they were not able to find the source of the bleed and had to call to on the table. Just like that my best fiend was gone – 5 days short of his 10th birthday. I simply cannot have imagined a more tragic, gut-wrenching end to our journey together. I wouldn’t have believed in a million years this is how it would end. He was such a magnificent dog and didn’t deserve to go out like that. I made a promise to him a long time ago that when the end came, I would be there with him. No matter how hard it was for me. Ultimately, they wouldn’t let me back in the operating area at the time they put him down – and I understand why, but it didn’t make it any easier on me. I feel as though I lied to my best friend and would never see him again to say, “I’m so, so sorry buddy.”

We lost Riley, our Golden, a little less than a year ago and Porter really never was the same after he passed. I didn’t notice it as much as Heidi did but, looking back, I can now see that, along with cancer, a broken heart was most likely a big factor in his overall health. There is a little comfort knowing that, as Lilly says, “it’s ok because they’re playing together in doggie heaven, Daddy.” Our dogs are what brought my wife, Heidi, and I together. They were (literally) the topic of our first conversation and were instrumental in creating the bond we share today. And now that they’re both gone, it officially closes a wonderful chapter of our lives. Very likely the best, most amazing chapter that will ever be. These dogs saw us through our first date, our marriage and the birth of our two beautiful children. They moved with us from the small town to the city and back to the small town again. 

When friends and family have lost dogs in the past, I’ve often told people to “take comfort knowing you gave your dog a fantastic doggie life.” Well, I’m doing my best to take my own advice, as that dog really did live a freakin’ AMAZING life. There was rarely a day in the past ten years that we didn’t walk/run through the woods. Of our 3,590 days together, we walked and ran together for at least 3,400 of them. It seems like such a short period of time to have taken so much of my heart. 

Porter taught me unconditional love in the time when I needed it most. I was a somewhat lost 26 year-old when he came into my life. He taught me about real responsibility in having to care for another living being. There’s a popular song on the radio right now that suggests, “I’m going to love you like I’m going to lose you.” I’ll tell you right now, that this is some of the best advice you will ever receive – because you really don’t know if there will be a tomorrow. Live every day as though it will be your last.

It’s been a month since I’ve held you, bud. Since I’ve gently yanked on your impossibly soft ears. Since you’ve cuddled up next to me in bed. A month since you’ve greeted me at the door, body gyrating with excitement. A month since I’ve seen the most fiercely loyal friend I’ll ever have. I truly hope to see you again one day, Porter. You changed me and the course of my life and I’ll always have a hole in my heart. It was such a pleasure being your human. Rest easy, my sweet boy.

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