2/13/2020 - 6/22/2020A Love Letter to My Soul Dog,
I know, Raja, you’re already rolling your eyes. But as much as every part of me doesn’t want to be writing this, I need to. So, humor me. Do you know how much I miss you? 15 years, my heart. I knew one day I would have to pay for how much I love you, yet knowing it’d be worth it. And it so was…
We had a bit of a rocky start. I chose the most driven of the litter… I didn’t quite know what I was in for but I am so very grateful I got you! When they put you in my arms on the day I would be taking you home, I felt a shift in my world. I instantly knew you and I had a great love story ahead of us. Again, that first year was a bit rough with your independent, alpha nature. You stared boldly with those intelligent puppy eyes that said, “I am NOT a cute puppy, just wait”. But once you decided I was your person… we were inseparable. I am sorry for the trips I took without you. The ridiculous lengths I would go to try and sneak out; you always knew. I think you learned how to pull the big guns towards the end.
Our start also included a stop at Cardiology for heart surgery where they told us you would likely have a shortened life span. That makes me laugh… we didn’t yet know what a boss you were. Been holding my breath since you turned 10 and had a weeklong celebration for you at age 12, thinking every day after would be a precious gift. And all 1,225 of them were!!!
You got me through vet school. Thank you for your patience and also dropping toys on my studies, saying “Break time!”. This is where we pick up our little amigo, Shep, an adorable foster pup that is terrified of the world. You took him in immediately and knew exactly what his tender, timid heart needed. You saved him and we proceed as a trio.
Next stop – Vegas ‘09. I entered into the world of vet med and learned about the heartache my career choice can bring, but you were there to catch every tear. And force me to play… like all the time. Your toy drive was next level, love. We had hiking right in our backyard. Also got the Jeep that would take us on many road ventures with you up front, gaze fixed on the horizon.
We move to Colorado in 2011. You loved the snow immediately. Yeah, sorry about the 2 year desert stint. Started at Gma and Gpa’s house. So many great memories there with the extended family pack. You loved and got to spend a lot of time at that family haven. Yet always ready to leave with me. Unlike Shep who still thinks of it as Disneyland and wants to go back and stay forever. You were always one eye/ear open to make sure I wasn’t leaving without you. My ride or die. My loyal shepherd. I would never truly leave you… you are forever in this heart of mine because you are my heart, remember?
We find a place in Denver and I need you for more vet med lows. Life changes bring us to the cute little house in Louisville – And then almost immediately you escape the front door and get arrested. I come home from work to Shep hiding in the bedroom and can’t find you anywhere. I call local shelters and go bail you out. I learn they maced and catchpoled you because you were running off the porch and barking at people passing. Scary as heck but your true nature showed. Like it did so many times. You had every opportunity to bite or attack, but you never did. Still, they banned you from the town for being a loose scary looking shepherd. I spent the next couple months building a case for you – lawyer, two behavioral assessments, new fence and 3 court dates later you came home. You had to have a special collar and signs put up, but I think it all adds to your legacy.
Next we move to California ‘15. After 3 weeks in an at times sketchy hotel set up (always felt safe with you) we move into our new home. I have the emergency job that allows you to come to work with me. It was so awesome that for 2 years you were in the next room while I was challenged with some of my hardest days. You start needing help up the stairs. Your hind end decline was thankfully so very gradual that we were able to adapt over the years. At first with some minor support, later with loving arms carrying you up and down. I know it was because of your immense strength and spirit that you forged on for so long without complaint.
This is where you start pulling out the big guns, letting me know I can’t leave you. You let me have my 2016 Thailand trip (barely) and then put your foot, or literally your whole body down, on my 2017 attempted Africa venture. I fly home immediately and promise that I will not take a trip without you anymore. That was 3 years ago, and I kept it.
We had our campervan trip with “Wings” to take us to 6 national parks including the Grand Canyon. You were in your element. On an adventure and on guard, watching out for me. You are the best camping buddy. Your head in my lap or forehead to forehead is my version of heaven on earth.
We did the Sequoias in 2018. That was such a spiritual trip. Sitting with you by the creek, observing Venus snuggle up to the crescent moon. You were struggling pretty bad with that hind end by now. Needing support to walk around, but you still did everything with such dignity and resolve. Taking it all in. I knew I needed to see those giant trees with you. Fitting to have such a giant spirit among them. I loved that trip.
Our last big venture was to Idyllwild in September 2019. The wild part drew me as a place for us. At this point you needed full support but we had some lovely porch sitting, fresh air and forest bathing. And I decided I needed to get you a home where we could do more of that. I knew it would be soon... Everything I was doing at this point was for you. The love you generated in me was something I didn’t know I was capable of and I am so grateful.
The next month, I find “Raja’s” house in my favorite little town. A place where I could open the door for you to look out at the people passing. A grassy park right out front that we sat in every morning and night for 9 months where you would come alive, smell the breeze and be on watch duty. We took a long, quiet cart ride on Christmas Eve night, looking at the lights. You turned 15 in February!!! Oh, my love. So many cuddle movie nights. A ton of cart and car rides. And then the gift of being able to be home all day to really care for you when you needed me most. To spend the last 3 months of your precious life right by your side cherishing every toy catch, cart ride, lawn lounge, kiss, cuddle and memory made. What a gift…. that your whole life has been to me.
The last couple months, although your spirit remained so crazy strong, your body continued to visibly decline. I hated that for you and questioned if I should be letting you go. I thought as long as I saw that light in your eyes and could keep you comfortable, I would. I would do anything for you. You still had that fire and drive. Still wanted to be outside and have me throw the toy, now directly at your face. I had to trust that I knew you, that I would know and that you would tell me. And my beautiful girl… you did. You decided you were ready with your typical grace and bravery. Thank you for making it so clear for me. Saying goodbye to you was the hardest thing I have ever had to do… but it was a beautiful day to hold you and tell you in a million ways how much I love you and am thankful for our life, our love story. It was dignified – everything you deserved.
I keep trying to find the right words to capture your spirit. You lived full throttle, loved with ferocity. You were a force, fearless, bold, adventurous. A boss. You loved new experiences. Getting in the car – Shotgun! Face forward “Where are we going… doesn’t matter, Let’s Go!” You would have made a hell of a police dog but I am so glad it was us instead. Your boldness throughout your entire life has been an inspiration for me and will continue to be. If I can take on even an ounce of your ferocious spirit… then I might just be ok.
You had the sweetest soft side too. When you accepted someone, and for those that recognized your true gentle nature, you welcomed them with the most thorough, genuine kisses. Ugh, I loved those kisses. The look on your face, how it softened, before giving your signature face wash… pure love.
You were breathtaking. You had an effect on people. They had to stop and there was a pause, an admiration. Almost like you made them think deeper or search within themselves for what reaction you were stirring. You radiated true beauty, power and intelligence. You had an intensity to you that was impossible to miss. “Dad, did you see that wolf?” The day before your last, we were sitting outside and a woman paused and commented on your spirit “She’s beautiful….majestic” Yeah.. that’s a good word.
Thank you for teaching me strength, loyalty, being an example of living full tilt, sharing a passion for life, adventure and showing me what selfless love is about. Thank you for plopping your massive body into my lap and showering me with aggressive kisses until I stopped crying. Or just being the absolute best shoulder to cry into. Thank you for always keeping me safe - All those camping adventures, new homes, hotel stays. I knew no one would dare mess with you.
I do not want to be writing this… mourning you is like being hit by a freight train repeatedly. Fitting as that is how you approached everything in life. I have called you “my whole heart”, “my world”, “Mama’s heart”. What do I do without my whole heart? I don’t want to do anything without you. You’ve been my ride or die, partner in crime, Soul Dog for 15 years. It’s impossible to imagine a future that doesn’t include you. I need you shotgun. I will try to focus on how lucky I am to have been your person. You have had me in awe and in love since day one. I will cherish every single moment shared with you and honor your entire life for the rest of mine. I will love you forever. I LOVE YOU.
Heather MatthewSeal Beach, CaliforniaJune 29, 2020
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I had to come back to this because every time I read it, your love for Raja made me cry.
You two truly are unique and I'm sure gained strength from one another. Remember, you are not the person you are (nor Raja the dog she was) without one another.
You honor one another every day you approach with ferocity and zest for life! She will be with you on all your trips as part of you.
Dr. Charlie - July 8, 2020
Heather- I am so very sorry in learning that Raja has passed. As you know, I understand the pain of losing a cherished loved one. When Selene passed, your kind words were such a comfort. I would like to share your words and I hope they help you in the healing process.
“She trusted you to know what was right for her and that’s what you did. Her body was failing and you gave her a gift of a dignified, painless passing. Out of PURE unselfish love with only her best interests at heart. She is now free. Trust what you know in your heart so you can heal and be free also. ❤️❤️❤️“ Love, Cheryl
Cheryl Arvanitis - July 2, 2020
Beautiful letter. She was your girl, your ride or die (haha- so cute), your heart. Just like ZsaZsa was mine. My heart goes out to you, and I wish I could be there with you and have a drink to toast to Raja. I'm always here for you though. Love you, and love to Raja. ❤Tracy Mata - June 30, 2020
I am so sorry for your loss. I just lost my German Shepard girl at age 11 yesterday. My heart breaks for you as I know you are feeling the same pain I am. But how proud are we to be blessed with such amazing babies in our lives.Mackenzie Sanchez - June 29, 2020
I can't express how very sorry I am for Raja's passing. I feel your incredible love for her through your tribute and your pain too. Raja was so incredibly blessed to have you and you to have her. Thinking of you and wishing you didn't have to go through this 💔Kelsey Miehe - June 29, 2020
Love your love for your baby. Love that you were able to share life together. Sounds like it was an AMAZING adventure.Valerie Pagano - June 29, 2020
No words to match the love so beautifully expressed. I too always knew my precious daughter was safe because Raja was with you. My heart hurts for the loss your are experiencing, but it's also so filled with love and appreciation for the years you shared together. I love you, Heather Rose <3Grandma Matthew - June 29, 2020
You and Raja had a truly beautiful relationship. I am in tears after reading about your journey together, and deeply saddened for your loss. Thank you for offering a glimpse into the life of your beloved pet. The love, joy, frustration, and sadness resonates with me, as I'm sure it does with anyone who has formed a special bond with an animal.Sarah Mullenax - June 29, 2020
OMG Heath...I can't stop crying...but in a good way knowing that I was able to have Raja in my life as her doggie Grandpa. What a moving, genuine tribute that both Raja and you deserve! Thanks so, so much for putting this together Heath. I love you so much.Grandpa Matthew - June 29, 2020
Oh, Sis. Such a beautiful and fitting tribute to Raja and your life together. Difficult to read, at times, through the tears. She had such a great partner in you and such a great life because of you. I'm grateful that I knew her and for the times I got to see her, through the years. I'm so sorry for the pain you are feeling right now. I love you, Sis.Aaron Matthew - June 29, 2020
I am so sorry for your loss. So many of your words resonate so deeply with me, as I had the same special bond that is hard to put into words with my cat Bubby. I lost him last weekend and the pain is immense, I feel for you. 🧡Sierra Petro - June 29, 2020

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