Anniversary and the Sad Eyes of Dismay

By Jay Stoeckl, Chief Assistant to the Assistant, Assistant Breeder, Jan. 16, 2024
Patagon, a female from the Giants litter

Today I share with you a personal story that reminded me of the pure reason we grieve when saying goodbye to a good dog. It is not for the reasons we think that we will miss them. No, it goes so much deeper than that.

Many years ago, when I was attending college, I was in the process of returning to Germany where my parents were living. It was the wonderful decade, the eighties, when everything was different—when America was different. And I, a young man barely twenty, had still intact all my dreams and happy hopes for a bright future.

It was during that time that a college friend of mine invited me to join him and his girlfriend on a trip to Wyoming where his family lived. It was just two weeks before my flight back to Europe and a perfect way to enjoy what little time I had left.

During that time, my older brother Rick was going through a divorce. It was a tumultuous time for him as most breakups are. One of the worst pieces of that broken relationship was his desire to give up his dog.

As Rick knew of my Wyoming trip, he wondered if my college friend’s family would be willing to adopt his dog. You see, “Annie,” was a gift from his wife at a recent anniversary. So the dog’s name, Anniversary, was shortened to Annie. As a gift, my brother could no longer appreciate her value because the dog “came from her.”

I knew Annie well. She was a pretty, medium sized, athletic shepherd with orange and white short-hair coat. The orange ran across her back while the white highlighted her underside. She had a white blaze on her muzzle between her eyes. She was a very sweet dog with a lot of love for people.

What made Annie most attractive was her inquisitive stare and pinwheel ears (one ear up and one ear down). She was a wonderful dog. My brother had no more love for her.

My Wyoming friend Greg contacted his family who agreed to have us bring her to Glenrock. Once the three day visit was over, his parents would decide if Annie was worth the adoption.

During those three days, I rode a horse across the Wyoming desert, was on the pit crew of a stock car drag race (Greg’s family won first place), and got to partake in Cowboy hospitality. And at the end, Greg’s father made the decision.

Annie was worth adopting.

Now while this story has a happy ending, I recall getting into Greg’s car. Sitting in the back seat, I looked toward the front door of his parent’s house. There, behind the screen door, was Annie. She stared after me with those same inquisitive eyes. Her pinwheel ears were in full tilt. Her eyes only on me.

Why are you going away?

That was what those eyes were saying to me, those sad eyes of dismay. I felt as if I was abandoning her to the great unknown. THIS is why we grieve. It has little to do with missing them which we do. It has much more to do with their utmost trust in us during that abandonment.

This morning I lifted two girl puppies from the Giant’s Litter and stared into their joyful eyes. One is Patagon (Patty). The other is Elatha. Wagging their tiny little tails and licking my face, they too, entrust me with everything. I am their miracle. I am their heart, their hope, and their future. As I embrace them, I feel that very same sadness I felt saying goodbye to Annie.

As a pure empath, I find myself deep into the mindset (and heartset) of these two innocent pups who know nothing about the world and what is to become of them.

I whisper a prayer.

We grieve a dog or puppy, because of their innocence, their unknowing, their placing utmost trust in us, their guardian angels. They are designed to love unconditionally. They look at us with a deep trust. Everything depends on us. Then as I focus into their hearts, I realize that theirs will be the sad eyes of dismay. One by one Patagon and Elatha will watch their siblings move onto their dream lives. But they will not. It is this unknowing that makes us sad.

Why were they the unlucky ones? They were no lesser caliber pups in the Giants Litter. Each of them are of the same spirit, same gentle nature, same sweet disposition. As I drive away, it will be for them that I feel a sadness.

The heart of the dog. Their only wish, to become a part of us—to be someone’s favorite dog. This is what God had created them to become.

There is just one week left before the Puppy Express trip departs. If you or someone you know would love an amazing American Dirus puppy to call your own, contact Jennifer at or visit the puppy sale page at:

Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.