March 20, 2024

A Bond Beyond Words: Reflecting on Life, Love, and Loss

By Laura Merz
A Bond Beyond Words: Reflecting on Life, Love, and Loss

Eve’s life reads like that of a high-society figure. She regularly dined in the shadow of Anne Frank’s birth home and frequented farmers markets, always striking in her sleek black fur coat. On weekends she ambled through ancient cobblestone streets, castle grounds, and Christmas markets across Germany. She slept in 500-year-old hotels and dined on choice breakfast meats. Later in life, you could often find her relaxed under the shade of an avocado tree in Kenya or watching monkeys and parrots from the comfort of her porch. She walked in the dust of Maasai warriors and communed with celebrated diplomats. Throughout her life she travelled by train into the city, criss-crossed the Atlantic multiple times in a private accommodation, and ultimately lived on three continents. Not a bad life for someone who was found living on the streets at 3 years old.


But Eve was not part of high-society. In fact, she wasn’t even a person. She was my dog - my best friend.


Over the 10 years she spent with us, Eve was there through moments of happiness, adventure, and family bonding. And she was there in the moments when everything seemed to be crumbling around us. She saw us through some of the hardest moments of our lives and of our marriage. And she taught me some of life’s greatest lessons too.





Lying on a sunbed on the beaches of Mexico, I flipped through profile after profile, hoping to find the dog that would be the right fit for our situation. My husband, Mike, was about to leave for a year-long assignment, and I needed a companion, a reason to get outside everyday. We had a cat, but he hardly forced me to be social - as a devout introvert with a pre-disposition toward depression, the need to get outside the house on weekends and through the winter was paramount. I ticked the boxes for “calm” and “outgoing”, then “good with cats” — and “good with kids” would be import too, as we wished to someday have a child.


It felt a little like online dating. For each dog I selected in the portal, I would receive an email indicating whether or not we were a match for a potential meeting. Email after email seemed promising and then would be a let down. Finally I received the following:


Dear Mrs. Merz,
We thank you so much for your interest in Greta - however, due to an administrative error, we cannot match you with her. She is not good with cats.
However, we have another dog who seems to be a good fit for your requirements, and happens to be staying with the same foster family. She’s not on the website yet, so I am enclosing some details below. Her name is Eve…..



We arranged a meeting for the day after our return from Mexico. With a week to go until my husband’s departure, we had little time to decide together on the next member of our family. I was sure we would meet several dogs in the next few days and be faced with a difficult decision of which one to choose. But that was not to be the case.


It was easy to fall in love with Eve. Everyone said so. Throughout her life, everyone who watched her overnight would comment on her temperament, her playfulness, or calm demeanor. She never once showed frustration - just calm, reassuring steadiness. And she was gorgeous, her striking black coat with the white chest-patch attracted more attention than I ever thought possible.

Our first photo together

We adopted her on a Tuesday. After I finished work the next day, we decided to take her to a dog park, to understand how she would react to other dogs before I would be left to care for her on my own. I thought it was a good idea to take a tennis ball, just to see what she might be interested in. As Mike launched the ball across the field, Eve was off like a shot - a blur of black fur against the green grass. She brought the ball back, dropped it at his feet and sat down. “Again,” she seemed to plead.


Park-goers were astonished and asked if we trained her ourselves or hired a coach - when we disclosed that she had only been with us for 24 hours, one of the gentleman could not hide a look of pure awe. We had hit the jackpot - a dog that was everything we could have possibly wanted, and more.




When Mike left for his assignment, Eve and I quickly developed a routine. We’d walk together before work to the local pond where she watched the ducks, and after I returned at night we’d venture to the large field by our house where she would chase a ball for an hour at a time. She had a habit of carrying a tennis ball in her mouth on every walk, and as a consequence we always had a tennis ball outside the front door. On weekends, we would go on runs together. I enjoyed her company but I was never quite sure we had bonded.


Until the night she ran away.


Mike was home on R&R, and we were visiting family in Ohio. With dinner reservations made, we decided to leave Eve in the company of my brother’s roommates for the evening. But a series of unfortunate events conspired in which she fled the house, confused, scared, and fast as lightning.


It was raining that night, and all we knew was the direction she had left the house. South - towards the campus of Ohio State University, where Mike and I had met. We formed search parties and several people drove, up and down streets. I ran - in dress boots. Hours passed. We relied on social media to help us pinpoint where she had last been seen.


Rain-soaked and with blisters on my feet, I limped through darkened streets. It was not a good part of town, and my cellphone was dead. Mike found me as he was driving, and we decided to give it one more hour before calling it for the night and resuming the search tomorrow.


On foot, we walked a few more blocks, squeaking Eve’s favorite ball. There was an overwhelming sense in my body that I had to reach the church on the corner, that somehow she would be waiting for me there. We had covered over two miles from her origination point, but with all of our searching, we had walked at least four.


When we reached the church, there was nothing there. No dog, no sign of life. My heart sank. Mike squeezed the ball out of habit.


Out of the shadows, across one of the busiest streets in that part of town, she came running. A black dog, in the rain, in the dark of night. I remember running into the street to grab her, praying that drivers would see me in my white jacket - even if they couldn’t see her. She jumped into my arms, and I knew without a doubt that we were bonded. She had been searching for me just as much as I had been searching for her.


Life together


Throughout that long year, she was my constant companion, and she became our sense of calm and stability as our life began to change in drastic ways.


When Mike returned home, Eve stayed by my side through pregnancies and continued to walk with me as we added a stroller to our routine - first one child, and then another. And when we received our orders to move to Germany, there was no question she would go too. Three years later, she would make another journey to Kenya as we moved once again for Mike’s work.

Ready for her flight to Kenya


Each time, we spent more time and money sorting out her travel permits and flight arrangements than we did our own - but we had made a commitment to keep her in our family. The money was nothing compared to the bond we shared.


Everywhere we went, she went. Almost. But we made sure that her life would be more than just the four walls of our house.  And so she became one of the most well-travelled pets I know. Just a few blocks from our home in Frankfurt was a beautiful cafe, called Brot und Freunde - “Bread and Friends.” We would go sometimes with Eve, and she was sit with us in the sunshine. Coffee for us, a bowl of water for her. Pastries shared between us. 


During the pandemic, when Germany was entirely shut down, we would walk from our house all the way into the city - and she explored downtown with me as I sought photographs of the hauntingly empty historic area.


And in Kenya, her daily walks often included sniffing at a chameleon or chasing a monkey along the way. One day she met a tortoise, and insisted on re-visiting that spot every day for weeks as if she wanted to find it again.



Eve at the Romer in Frankfurt
Eve at the Romer in Frankfurt


No matter how far we travelled, or where we ventured, all our kids cared about was getting back to Eve. They grew up with her, and she was our constant - the thing that never changed. Eve was the one thing that stayed the same no matter where we lived or what the circumstances of life looked like. Always calm, always reassuring. She was a willing participant in dress-up games, and tea parties. We baked cupcakes on her adoption anniversary day once a year, and there was always a tennis ball at the front door. Once, the kids asked me what Eve looked like when she was a baby - when I explained that we adopted her as an adult, they were genuinely shocked to find out that I had not given birth to her. She was so much a part of our family that it never occurred to them we were a different species.


 One of my favorite photos of her. 


We moved back to the US from overseas last year, and at multiple points we were not sure that Eve would make the trip. At 13 years old, after a cancer-scare, and several bouts of unsure health, we were prepared to return to the US without her. But she kept calm, and in her same staid persona, she made the journey from Kenya to Dubai, and finally to the United States, where I introduced her to our new home - the one I knew would be her last.


Our house is near a beautiful wooded nature path, and one of my greatest joys for the past 8 months has been venturing down that path with her each week. Ducks, foxes, raccoons and turkey vultures all call the area home - so many new smells for her to discover. Recently she came face to face with a white tail deer, and it was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve seen, each of them considering the other without malice.


The trees are all blossoming now, pinks and whites for as far as you can see. It seems cruel that at the birth of spring, when everything is becoming more beautiful and new life is springing up in every corner, our family is shattered.

One final walk together. 


The end came far more quickly than any of us could have predicted. One week ago, I took her to the vet for some concerning symptoms. She was acting fine, but losing weight quickly. The tests all came back negative for anything of consequence. No one wanted to say what was really happening, but I knew. She was calm, as always, a steady presence. Within days she had stopped eating, and finally she lost all control of her limbs. She was no longer really there, no longer able to express her needs, or support her own weight.


I never wanted to make a decision - I had hoped nature would take its course. Watching her waste away so quickly - and yet so slowly - was pure torture. And yet, her loss of mobility underscored the depths of our love and care, how much we are willing to do for those we love when they can no longer do anything for anyone else. We were now doing for her what she had done for us all along - provide a calm and constant presence. A reassurance that we were always there for her.



I’ve been shocked at the depth of my own grief. The raw, aching of my heart over the loss of an animal. The river of tears I have cried until I couldn’t produce any more.  I’ve sought solace in nature, in my faith, in those who’ve lost pets before me. I’ve considered interventions, and reasoned through endless lists of pros and cons. But in the end it was Eve that gave me the peace to let go, in her calm and kind manner. Always calm, always constant.


At the end, it’s normal to wonder if you’ve given your pets the best life possible. I’m thankful that in my grief and heartache. I don’t have to wonder - I know.


  • Denise Ashley on March 23, 2024

    This is the beautifully written and profound tribute of life. I’m sure you already knew this, but Eve was never your dog – you were her family. She was blessed to have you all love her as you have. You all graced each other with immeasurable joy, companionship, and unwavering devotion. Your devotion and promise to her stood true to the very last breath of her life in earth. Your decision to let her pass peacefully was the ultimate act of love and selflessness, as you freed her from pain or suffering. Please know that you are not alone in your sorrow. I’m here to support you, to listen, or be a shoulder to cry on in this difficult time.

  • Rita Roth on March 21, 2024

    So very sorry for the loss of your fur baby. Our hearts go out to you.. We lost our Ginger in 1988 and still talk about her. It will get easier and you will miss your fur baby but you will rejoice in your memories. What a wonderful life you gave her. Please accept our sincere condolences and prayers for you and your family.

  • Vanessa on March 21, 2024

    This is so beautiful, Laura! 💛 Eve lived a long wonderful life and has made a great impact. To love and to be loved 💕

Leave a comment