I wasn’t ready to rescue a dog but
I learned of a puppy in need of a home
so I decided to visit him on a whim.
A miniature white Schnauzer,
he was only two months old
and just a few pounds, mostly ears.
When they opened his cage,
he burst out of it with all his might
and jumped up on my lap.
His uncropped ears were bigger than his head,
his skin was still pink, his fur soft,
and he was pure love from the first moment we met.
He kissed my face and wagged his tail at light speed.
He was adorable but the time wasn’t right.
I put him back down and prepared to leave.
He jumped back on my lap.
I hugged him and set him back down.
He looked up at me, tilted his head, and cried.
I said, “I’m sorry, I can’t bring you home,”
and he barked and refused to let me leave without him.
I picked him up again,
he pushed his head into my chest,
and I knew we were meant to be together.
Our bond began with a very special encounter.
We were connected from the first time we met.
It was in that moment that I knew
I couldn’t leave without him.
I took him home that day
named him Pretzel after my favorite childhood snack,
and for the next 14 years,
we were inseparable –
as good of friends as any man and animal
that have ever lived.
Have you ever loved an animal so much
that the feeling fills you with incomparable joy?
I could hug and kiss him all day
and I would feel like I hadn’t loved him enough.
We used to play a game, “I kiss you, you kiss me.”
It always ended in a tie.
Through the early years of his life,
he became an ambassador for other dogs,
visiting thousands of children in schools
and attending events to teach people
about the rewards of rescuing animals.
He became loved by so many people,
earning him the nickname “everyone’s dog.”
What did this gentle soul mean to me?
In every moment of my life,
when I needed someone to cheer me up,
to hug after a difficult day,
to make me smile during life’s most challenging times,
or to remind me of the importance of helping all animals,
Pretzel was always there.
He gave me purpose in my life,
and he always made me feel better.
If I was sick or sad, he always knew,
and he would push his head into my chest,
and lick my face.
He also made me laugh every day –
whether running around with one of my socks,
or putting the UPS man on notice.
Pretzel loved to play with other dogs,
dig up his blanket,
run around with his food in his mouth
and look for places to hide it,
and smell flowers.
We sat on this bench hundreds of times.
It was our bench.
I would scratch his head as
we watched the boats sail by,
and the pelicans fly overhead
as we absorbed the fresh ocean air.
Pretzel loved belly rubs,
to hide under blankets,
to watch birds,
to feel the breeze blow his beard,
and to kiss children’s faces.
He loved my friends and family,
and he loved to love everyone
and everyone loved him.
He taught me to slow down,
to enjoy the simple pleasures in life,
and to be kind.
Sometimes I would just watch him sleep –
such a peaceful sight.
During the past year,
I nursed him through several medical conditions,
and he always persevered.
When he developed trouble walking,
we used a stroller.
As we faced each challenge,
I pulled out every stop
to ensure a quality life for him
always promising him I would never let him suffer.
This was the last photo of Pretzel enjoying his life –
one of thousands of walks we took together –
taken the day before he suddenly and tragically
I miss him so much.
The void is deep now,
I hear noises
and I think it’s Pretzel
eating his food,
asking me to take him outside,
digging his blanket,
or coming for a hug,
and then I remember.
One night, he came to me in a dream
as vivid and real as any I’ve ever had.
He was walking down the hallway,
and he barked.
I come home and still expect to see him
and he’s not there.
His bowls still remain on the floor
as I’ve been unable to put them away.
It marks an end
that I still can’t face.
The finality of his passing
hurts my heart every day.
Our bond began with the most beautiful moment
and it ended much the same way it began.
As I held him in the hospital
in our final minutes together,
and gently petted him
and kissed his forehead
and our years together raced through my mind,
I couldn’t believe
it was coming to an end.
We had survived so many close calls
through the years.
I did everything I could to save him.
No matter how prepared I thought I might be
to say goodbye to this gentle and beautiful soul,
I realized I was not.
If he had lived to be 100,
it would not have been long enough.
Right before my best friend passed away,
through the hardest tears I’ve ever cried,
I sang him a song
I used to sing him as a baby.
His eyes were closed.
I said to him,
“Pretzel, please don’t leave me.
Please give Daddy a kiss.”
He was very weak and making a groaning sound,
clearly now in discomfort and exhausted.
With all of the strength he had left,
he opened his eyes,
looked at me,
and gave me one last kiss.
It was the most heart-breaking
and beautiful moment of my life.
I don’t know what will happen to me when I die
but if there is any chance I can find my dog again,
I will spend all of my time searching for him.
I would do anything for one more hug
and one more kiss –
to take him to smell the flowers,
and feel the breeze again.
What a run we had.
Our lives together ended the same way they began,
with a kiss.
That is how I will remember this sweet little dog
that brightened every day of my life for so many years.
I visit our bench sometimes
and remember our lives together
as the birds fly overhead and the ships sail by.
I’ll never be the same person without him
but I’ll always try to live a meaningful life in his memory.
Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D. is the founder and CEO of Animal Rescue Bar, a delicious plant-based snack for health-conscious people that donates 50% of its proceeds to animal rescue organizations, providing compassionate people a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of abused, injured, neglected, confined, and abandoned animals.