My love lives underground. It lives with Ajax, my first dog, my best friend. This 15-lb furry friend looked at me with such longing in his eyes. Side by side we walked through life for twelve years. He listened to me go through some of the hardest years of my life, emotional turmoil and frustration which I was ill-prepared to deal with.

Ajax was twelve when he passed, but it was much too soon. It was not old age or disease that did him in, something which allows for time to say goodbye. No, it was sudden. he was sick on Saturday, and by the time the severity of it hit me, he died on Tuesday. I was heartbroken. I cried like never before at the loss of this little buddy, this daily partner in life.

As we buried him under a towering cottonwood behind the house, I was forced to face my mortality. I had the fantasy (delusion?) that Ajax and I would live forever, that somehow I’d find the wherewithal to break away from the draining relationship I felt committed to, and he and I would walk off together, best buds on a never-ending adventure.

It was not to be. He passed, and now he is underground, a piece of my heart buried with him.

Over the next several years I buried three beloved dogs and an equally-loved kitty. There was sadness and loss to cope with around each death, but nothing hit me as Ajax’s death had.

Then there was Billie Jean. This beagle appeared in my life in 2009, and a deep connection quickly formed between the two of us. Ajax had looked at me with longing. Billie looked at me with a deep understanding, a maturity and sense of patience that could always strike a chord in me. She was the gentlest creature I’ve ever known, a sweet sweet soul that (I felt) exuded compassion.

Just over a year ago this beloved dog passed suddenly. From the first sign of anything being amiss, on Tuesday night, it was a whirlwind 48 hours to her passing on Thursday. As with Ajax, I was heartbroken. But this experience was new. I had never experienced such intensity of emotion. I felt that the ground was spinning out from under my feet as the vet told us the news.

I swore that I would never go through that again, it was so hard. We buried her, and a piece of my heart again went underground. Still, I knew how fortunate I was to feel that emotion, painful as it was. I know that hand-in-hand with great love is the risk/certainty of great loss.

I am in love with a beautiful woman, a beautiful, sensitive spirit who has helped me to open to emotions I am fortunate to experience. We have just adopted a dog, after a year without that energy in our lives. No matter the past, or rather, because of it, I will love them both with all my heart.