Pulling weeds is great therapy. It can clean out your head. At least that’s what I’ve heard anyway; some of which might actually be true. It’s what I did the other day for several hours on the third anniversary of Buddy’s passing. Tears dropped from my eyes onto the soil as I recalled how difficult it was making the decision of letting Buddy go. Finally, I gave up the weed pulling and sat down by the river where I said my last goodbye to my beloved dog. I thought about the words I offer during my pet bereavement group and tried to accept my own advice, allowing myself to grieve appropriately, even after so much time has passed.
Just then, the song changed in my earbuds. It was the new song by Dierks Bentley called “Can’t Be Replaced”, a tribute to his late pup Jake who just passed away at the beginning of July at age fifteen. Anyone who knows Dierks Bentley knows his story reaches far beyond that of being a world-famous country star. It begins as a man who loved his faithful dog more than life itself. Jake was his world before and while he became famous. They were an inseparable team, walking red carpets at countless awards shows and sat side by side on The View. Jake was featured in music videos and even joined Dierks on stage at his concerts. At the June opening of the Dierk’s Bentley Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit, Dierks said, “Jake’s been with me through every phase of my career, since before I had a publishing deal … before I even had a gig, really. When I got my first gigs downtown, he’d be waiting there in the windowsill. He actually wore out a little spot in the couch where he’d wait for me. I’d come home real late, and he’d be there sitting in the window, putting in his time”.
In my book Music Row Dogs and Nashville Cats, Dierks says, “I feel like God brought Jake into my life when I was going through a lot of difficult times. He’s been there when things were really bad, and he’s still here and a part of all the fun we’re having now. I’m just so thankful that he came into my life when he did. He’s happy, thankful and loving — and I guess that rubs off on you.”
Like most dogs at age fifteen, Jake was having issues with his legs and hearing. Last November, Dierks discovered lumps on Jake’s neck that tested positive for cancer. Jake immediately underwent chemotherapy. The lump was removed but Jake was unable to walk after surgery. He was diagnosed with a slipped disc. The vet advised Jake be confined to a crate to heal properly. But six months later, it was clear that time was running out for Jake. That realization was unbearable for Dierks. In a Billboard Magazine interview, he said, “My wife and I were very conscious that when his quality of life reaches a certain point, that’s it. We’re not going to watch him lose his dignity at the end, so we made a decision. We cried for twenty-four hours. It was brutal. My life’s changed and he’s made those changes with me. That will definitely be my last dog. My kids might get another dog, but I’m done.”
Dierks, a husband and father of three, will never forget his roots with Jake as a bachelor and struggling musician trying to get recognized. Jake, through it all, was his one constant companion. Lyrics from his new song, “Can’t Be Replaced” read “For fifteen years right by my side, from a single man to three kids and a wife, friends come and go but when it comes to Jake there’s just some thing that can’t be replaced. No matter how hard you try, all the money in the world won’t ever buy what you miss, what you want back, it’d be nice but life don’t work like that, you can get damn close but it won’t ever be the same, there’s just some things that can’t be replaced”.
George is the new dog at the Bentley home. Yes, Dierks and I have a lot in common. We share a mutual and devastating pain. We both welcomed another dog into our hearts. But we also held onto our old dogs as long as we could and loved them like nothing we could ever again. Jake, like Buddy, certainly will never be replaced.