The Loyalty of a Dog: Remembering Rowan

There’s almost nothing greater than loyalty. Yet, when it’s gone, it can hurt more than any physical pain.

My family felt that pain this week as we said goodbye to our dog, Rowan. She had been in our lives before marriage, kids, our first home, and every other major life milestone my wife and I had gone through together.

During that time, she was nothing but a loyal companion, one who loved food and sleeping as much as she loved us and our two kids, Evan and Ava. She was sweet, gentle, and calm. Her brindle coloring was as unique as the Batman symbol of white hair that covered a portion of her back.

When Evan was about three, Rowan began sleeping in his bed. Every night, we’d take Rowan outside to use the bathroom, then she’d march upstairs to his bed, where they’d cuddle up next to each other. This lasted until a little over a year ago when she wasn’t able to make it through the night without having to use the bathroom again.

Rowan was Evan’s “blankie” and losing her at bedtime was hard on him.  Evan understood but also had the comfort of knowing she was only 11 steps away from him.

Rowan was 17-years-old, if not 18. We have no idea. We had adopted her after recognizing she was the only dog up for adoption that wasn’t barking. (A DNA test showed she was part beagle, pug, and cain corso.) It took me longer than my wife to want a dog (change is sometimes hard for me), but we were so happy to have her in our lives.

Seventeen is pretty old for a dog. The number of friends and family who would visit and comment, “Rowan! She’s still here?” was quite large. People who knew The Stanchaks knew Rowan.

We were recently watching videos on Evan’s birthday from when he was born. Rowan was jumping on the couch, running in circles, and had so much energy. It was hard to remember she used to move that way. As Rowan got older, she got heavier, had a hard time walking distances, and would cough a lot. She battled cancer, several times.

Rowan loved food. Even last week she would gnaw at the cabinet to try to get more. But when the kids brought McDonald’s into the house, she became a different dog. Barely one to make a sound, Rowan would whimper and cry for Evan and Ava to give her a chicken nugget or french fry. They always did, but I don’t think she could ever get enough.

One time, she was being watched by someone who had left a full container of dry dog food out. Rowan ate just about the entire thing, filling her stomach so much she couldn’t even walk. The mess that followed was not something I wish on anyone.

Another time, we took her to our friend’s lake house for a weekend getaway. After dinner, we came home to find she had eaten all of the ant traps placed throughout the first floor. It turns out that ant traps have peanut butter inside.

I don’t know for sure, but I believe our second dog, Kobe, whom we got about three years ago, was a comforting presence for Rowan, who picked up the nickname “Ro-Ro” since we often call Kobe “Ko-Ko.” Kobe has more energy than Rowan ever had and adored his sister. If there were five dog beds in the living room, he’d always choose the one with Rowan, lying on top of her. Kobe is going to miss her warmth.

Last night, I asked my kids if they saw how important family is in moments like this. We laughed, we cried, we hugged, and we prayed. Yet never alone. All together. As a family.

It has been therapeutic for me to write these words. I’m reminded of how important loyalty is and the impression it can leave on your life. It doesn’t matter if it’s personal or professional, find people or pets who are loyal and keep them close, offering the same sense of loyalty they provide you. 

I’ve been in situations where a boss or colleague acts loyal when they need you, then goes in the opposite direction when they don’t. This selfishness was never a complete surprise, nor easy to handle, but how you respond is where you grow.

My family will respond to Rowan’s passing by honoring her memories. Her shed hair will be part of our home for a long time. I’m glad it’s there.

If dogs could talk, I would love to hear the stories of what Rowan had seen over the last 17 years. The perspective she had was a front-row seat to us becoming a family, her included. Rowan’s loyalty, love, and constant presence during that time were worth the pain we’re feeling right now.

Rest easy, Ro-Ro.

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