I was 8 years old. My dad, who was living with Leukemia at the time, was a 5th-grade schoolteacher. Not knowing he was ill and dying, I had no idea that every moment I spent with him, was leading up to final moments.

One day, my dad came home with someone else; a little beagle. My heart stopped and I couldn’t believe my eyes. 
She had been sitting by the schoolyard, alone and lost, so he did what any gentle person would do, and brought her home to a safe, warm place.

My heart, my soul, and everything inside of me were melting. I knew this beagle was meant to be mine.

First, a name. Meatball…her name would be…Meatball!

My dad told me we would keep Meatball overnight, but if someone claimed her the next day, we would have to return her to her owner.

Now, I knew that was impossible. I knew with every fiber of my being that Meatball had come to me. 

The next day, my dad went off to work, with Meatball in tow. I hugged and kissed her, but had no doubt that she would be returning that afternoon.

All that day, I dreamed of Meatball, seeing and hearing every tick-tock of the school clock in slow motion.

When the bell finally rang, I couldn’t run home fast enough. AT LAST!!! My dad pulled into the driveway. I was sure the whole neighborhood could hear my heart beating as I ran to his van. 

But I noticed something wasn’t right. NO MEATBALL. 
Meatball’s owners had come to claim her. 

My beating heart had come to a halting stop. This was the first time I would come to understand the meaning of a broken heart.

From Meatball, I would learn about love, and loss, and what it meant to move through grief.

I have often wondered if my unique and quick attachment to that sweet puppy was something to hold onto amidst the impending chaos that would soon unfold in my life.

Maybe Meatball was there to teach me about the grief I would soon be facing.

That furry little puppy taught me a lesson in love and grief that I would never forget, even if for just a tiny moment in time.

And for that, I will forever be grateful to Meatball.


  • Randi Pearlman Wolfson

    Founder of Grief & GRITS

    Randi Pearlman Wolfson is a Los Angeles-based grief educator and author. After experiencing the death of her dad when she was ten years old, it became her life-long dream to provide hope and healing to grieving children and adults. She is the author of “I Wish I had a Book to Read: Helping a child’s heart heal when someone special has died” and is founder/writer at Grief & GRITS on Facebook/Instagram.