Sometimes an Airplane is the Perfect
Place to Let Go of an Old Friend

11:04 PM

Today I found myself going flying, alone. I do enjoy flying somewhere fun with my life/business partner Julie, but as any pilot knows, being up there as Pilot-in-Command – alone – is one of the best experiences we aviators get to enjoy. Here's why:
To me, there is something extremely spiritual about flying. I don't spend much time inside the confines of any church, I spend my time thanking God for my flying skills while slipping surly bonds at a few thousand feet AGL. When I fly alone, the waves of daily thoughts that flood this busy human's brain melt away, and my usually overloaded noggin can focus on flight. Gliding along, free for the most part from the confines of gravity, I can concentrate on stick and rudder things. But once fat and happy in level cruise, I can allow myself to do the best sort of reflection.
After doing a number of things today for home and family, I found myself at the departure end of Eugene's 16R...ready to blast off to nowhere in particular. So I launched and headed west, towards the beautiful Oregon Coast. After a smooth, effortless climb out, I leveled at 6,500MSL. The sun was thinking seriously about setting, and the reflections off the water were breathtaking. Without a schedule or even a destination, and with the autopilot keeping Katy at 270 degrees and spot on the altitude, my thoughts wandered to something that has been heavy on my mind for the last 48 hours.

For those who follow my Tweets, we had to end our family dog's life this past Friday. After 15 active years, our beloved Keeshond, Sage, had lost functionality in his back legs, and struggled to walk and could barely stand to pee or poo. He had always been an energetic guy, never missing an opportunity to chase a wild turkey or deer from our property. But in the last month, he had lost the freedom to move, and as his condition worsened, we knew it was time. I was almost relieved with the Mobile Vet showed up and told us Sage was actually much sicker than we had realized. It made "the decision" the right one. So as I flew west today, this is the kind of things that slipped in and out of my brain:
After 15 years of dog ownership, your furry friend becomes a legitimate member of the family. You get into a routine, get the paper in the A.M., let the dog out to water a tree. When you come home, he is at the tall window at the front of the house, and you can see the "Doggie in the Window" jump with excitement as soon as he realizes it is us coming up the hill. As I flew along today, it sunk in that this is all gone now. No more walks, no more giving him treats for barking and scaring the deer away from our garden. Up there, away from life's demands, I was able to get right with the decision we made, and started to believe it really was the final act of love to have the vet start the injection.
Now I get it that everyone says their dog is the smartest around. But did YOUR dog ever have his own email address? Yes, that's right, Sage was the only dog I know that was online and dialed in, and was the source behind our first Sage Advice column on our very first ad agency website. People would click the icon showing his smiling snout, and email us advertising questions, hoping to get some "Sage" advice. We'd reply in his "voice", it was all pretty cheesy but great fun too. Yes, this dog new the difference between work and play:
For those of you who have ever known a Keeshond, they are incredible dogs. Probably their most valuable asset is their undeniable love for their owners, and being very social, they MUST be by their humans at all times. We have taken Sage to work his entire life, and he has had several jobs. He guarded the back room at our picture framing shop, and greeted "his" customers at Visions Gallery, the fine art space we owned back in the day. He was the official greeter and recipient of 1,000 hugs a day during his daily visits to Julie's classical ballet school, The Dancers Place. And these days, when not on guard against the dreaded deer or scheming against the wild turkeys that literally waltz behind the studio, Sage HAD to position himself between our two offices. When Julie throws on the headset and moves gracefully around the studio on a conference call, Sage would continually have to re-position himself to remain exactly between the two of us.
Yes, as pet owners, we know our time with these precious good friends is limited. We were blessed with 15 great years with Sage, and while he never got to experience flight with me, he will someday. That's because he is waiting in that wonderful meadow that lies just this side of The Rainbow Bridge. And one day, when I Go West, I will meet up with Sage again, and together we will cross that bridge to the other side. When we arrive, we'll get to fly all day with Papa Louie and the many others who have passed before us. I kinda sorta have a hunch that Amelia will take a liking to everyone's favorite pup, that is, if she can manage to get him to come down from Doolittle's B-25.

Once this dog gets a look down on Heaven with his cold, wet nose pushed tight onto the plexiglass of the Mitchell's nose gunner's pod while his new friend Jimmy buzzes the grounded clowns over in Airplane Hell, I believe Sage will become the ultimate aviator dog. And when Doolittle is flying high and the OAT is sub-zero, he's going to want this lovable furball lying across his feet, keeping them warm just like 1,000s of Keeshonds have done for generations of barge Captains in Holland.

Goodbye, my friend, and thank you for teaching me what it means to love unconditionally.

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