Mitch Albom: Elvis has left ... and what do I do?
October 8, 2000
My dog is gone.
Thir*** years ago, I plucked him from a litter of golden retriever puppies,
tumbling over one another in a box. Why him? The usual reason. Because he
nuzzled against me and***ed me wildly and I was convinced that I heard a
little ruff-ruff voice saying: "Me. Pick me. I'm the one for you."
The thing is, he was. The one for me. I liked to run; he liked to run. I am
excitable; he tried to tackle people when they entered the house. I liked to
throw; he liked to catch.
The one for me.
His fur was golden; his eyes were sympathetic. I named him Elvis, so I could
say, "He ain't nothing but a hound dog." In the early years, he went with me
everywhere. To Florida. To California. I would wait for his crate at the
oversized baggage claim, a voyager meeting a loved one at the dock. He jumped
wildly when he saw me and I'd say, "Hey, boyyyy . . ."
Once I took Elvis in a rental car to my family's farm in Pennsylvania. That
night, we leashed him to a tree and went out for dinner. When we returned, the
leash -- and Elvis -- were gone. I panicked. "Where'd he GO!"
And then we saw him. He was sitting on the roof of my rental car. I don't know
how he got up there. Or why. I suppose he figured, "Hey, I don't know where my
man went, but he's not leaving without this thing."
The one for me.
Growing up together
I trained him. Did I mention that? Hours and hours walking the streets of
Farmington Hills, tugging on a leash and saying, "Heel!" ("Yeah, right," I could
hear him mumbling. "You're talking to a dog. Who's the heel?")
I taught him to sit, stay, lie down. The best part was when I said the release
command, "OK!" and he would rush me and jump me and do, well, you know what male
dogs do. (I could never get him to quit that, even after he was fixed. My leg,
it seemed, was the love of his life. So be it.)
He was with me through my bachelor years, through my first house. When kids came
over, they rode him like a pony. He never barked, never snapped. Everyone loved
him. "The perfect dog," they all said.
And he was mine. He often came with me to a morning radio show I did. And in the
hallway, when he heard my voice over the speakers, he would jump up to the glass
and peer inside the booth, his paws and his nose pressed against the window
The years passed. I got a bigger house; he got a bigger lawn. I got married; he
got less attention. I got busier; he got fewer reunions at baggage claim.
Looking back on that book cover now, I realize how much I changed in those 13
And how much he did not.
The final days
Every morning, sleep in my eyes, I would pour food in a bowl as Elvis ran
circles in e***ment. Then last year, something happened. One morning, we found
Elvis in a pool of sweat, panting and frothing. A brain tumor, they said.
He needed an operation. The best doctor was across the country. The kindest vet
I have ever known, Joyce Obradovich, accompanied him and stayed with him. That
may sound unbelievable, but she wasn't the first woman to fall in love with an
He came home, weeks later, a zipper scar between his eyes. They said recovery
would be complete. The truth is, Elvis never quite came back. He was slower. The
jumping stopped. His left eye grew weak. His legs failed him on steps.
We tried everything. We tried everyone. I would stroke him hopefully under his
front legs, because, in the old days, that would immediately lead to him rolling
on his back, paws up, seeking the ultimate: the stomach scratch. "Keep going,"
he'd say with his eyes, "keep going, keep going forever . . ."
I could, but he couldn't.
Elvis died last week.
I sit here now, looking at his picture, and I finally feel the physical need for
my dog that he seemed to feel for me all the time. I want to tug under his ears,
scratch his head, rub his belly, feel that golden fur, race him, wrestle him,
kiss his snout. I want to call his name and run across the lawn with the tennis
ball inches from his teeth . . .
He was just this little puppy, who said, "Me. Pick me. I'm the one for you."
The one for me is gone.
What do I do now?