Tiberius was a giant fuzzy ball of energy who would shower anyone he met with overwhelming amounts of love and affection. He was my dog, and he saved my life.
I lost my grandfather on June 18, 2012. He was the most loving and hard-working man I’ve ever met. Growing up, I saw him as a rock – a fixed, constant object that never changed. A man of few words with a humongous heart. Sure, looking back, I knew he was getting older and slower. I just never thought about him being gone until he was. He took his own life that day, and my world flipped upside down. At first, I was confused. Then I was angry. I didn’t really know how to process what had happened, and I was left with this place in my heart that, in the end, just felt… empty.
Over the course of the following year, a lot of things changed for me. I ended a relationship with someone that I loved very much. My best friends (and roommates) both moved away. I packed up my studio and my home, and put my life into storage. I went into a downward spiral of depression that I fought every day by finding new ways to cope and distract myself from my reality.
Eventually, through the help of a good friend and a new sense of home, I was able to move back into a normal, happy life, and in February 2014, I adopted Tiberius. From the moment I met him, he latched on to me and loved me like I was the only person in the world that mattered, the type of unconditional love and affection that can only be shared between a dog and his human. He gave me a new reason to wake up in the mornings and a new reason to come home every day.
In March of 2014, one of my students took her own life. It was a very sad and tough time for everyone at NHS, and I tried my best to stay strong for my students, but internally I was reliving all of the emotions that I had supressed from my grandfather’s passing. I stopped sleeping, I barely ate, and I lost my motivation to even get out of bed and go to work in the morning. The one thing that kept me going was Tiberius. His goofy, smiling face and tremendous love sustained me during a time when I needed it most, and I’m not sure if I would have been able to make it without him.
Tiberius was hit by a car and passed away this past February. He was only in my life for one short year, but I wouldn’t give up that year for anything.
Of all the things that Tiberius loved, riding in the car was probably his favorite. If you opened a car door anywhere near him he would immediately come running and jump in, ready to go for a ride. On long trips, he’d climb over the seats and ride shotgun, curled up in a ball in the passenger seat that was far too small for him. He made the best road trip companion.
While planning this trip, I couldn’t help but think about how much Tiberius would have loved to come along, and wanted to find a way to do something for him along the way. My wonderful friend and colleague Susie Silver beat me to it. As a parting gift, she gave me a bag of ten white stones, and explained that in her culture, instead of leaving flowers at a gravesite, one would leave a white stone as a more permament memorial. The ten white stones, she said, should be left at the places Tiberius would have loved the most, and would represent our spirits being together in those places. It was one of the most meaningful things anyone has ever done for me, and I am eternally grateful.
This trip is for you, Tiberius.