Today marks the 1-year anniversary of Ziggy leaving us. We had a hell of a 2022 and so I’m only just now getting the opportunity to write about my best bud. Thankfully, I’ve had a year to work through my grief, so I can arrive at this difficult task with a better perspective.

The origin story

Getting a dog was a bribe to get Melissa to move from NYC to Pittsburgh. I was eager to move closer to family, but Melissa was reluctant. In retrospect, I didn’t handle any of that transition well, but “we can get a dog!” proved to be an effective bargaining chip.

We arrived in Pittsburgh at the beginning of July 2012, and by the end of the month this guy entered the scene:

Ziggy as a 3-month old puppy, smiling with his tongue out.

Melissa’s college roommate had a cousin who just bred a litter of English bulldogs, and we swung by a small town in Virginia on our way to our annual family vacation. We were smitten! So we swung by on our return trip, and Ziggy helped drop me off at my first formative An Event Apart.

Ziggy the 3-month old puppy in the back seat of a car

Now, I never had a dog before. Our neighbors growing up had annoying dogs so I grew up indifferent or even a little annoyed by them. Ziggy immediately changed all of that, and now it’s almost impossible to imagine myself being on the fence about dogs.

A shaggy-haired Brad and Melissa smiling with Ziggy the puppy in their arms
Brad and Ziggy smiling

Our first apartment in Pittsburgh was a hideous place, but the concrete floors made cleaning up puppy pee easy and also provided us the perfect skateboarding training park.

Ziggy on a skateboard looking at a bone.
An animated Gif of Ziggy sitting in Bra'd lap

Ziggy in Lawrenceville

We eventually moved to the Lawrenceville neighborhood in Pittsburgh, where Ziggy quickly became a staple character along Butler Street and at the dog park down the street from our house.

Ziggy with a big beard made out of mud
Ziggy as Captain Mudbeard
Ziggy standing in front of the Deli on Butler St

One of my favorite things about Ziggy was his ability to make even the saltiest yinzers chuckle and smile. That really was his super power. We always said that Ziggy “put sugar in people’s hearts”. While I love dogs who are sweet and loyal, Ziggy was just straight-up hilarious, goofy, and derpy.

A profile of Ziggy with a bone in his mouth and his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth
Ziggy on his back with his mouth open with a gremlin-ish smile
Ziggy curled up on the couch with his tongue out
Ziggy laying on the floor at Home Depot while Melissa shops
Ziggy begging to get into a deli, with a frown on his face.
Ziggy wearing a bowtie on a skateboard
Ziggy leaning on one paw propped up on a couch arm
Ziggy pooping while wearing a pizza outfit
Ziggy wearing a crown and purple satin cape with a money chew toy.

Ziggy the sensation

Word quickly got out about Ziggy; of course I couldn’t help putting him into my conference presentations and frequently sharing his shenanigans online. He certainly amassed a very loyal fanbase. On multiple occasions at international conferences, people approached me to deliver presents of doggy beer and treats for Ziggy (thanks Rowdy and Ben!)

Ziggy drinking doggy beer.

I’m sure all dog owners say that about their dogs, but not every dog helps you get backstage at a concert for Grammy-award winners Snarky Puppy.

Ziggy standing at the Roxian theater in front of the music equipment of Snarky Puppy
Ziggy with Michael League of Snarky Puppy

Big brother Ziggy

From the moment we brought our daughter home from the hospital, Ziggy assumed his new role as big brother and protector. He loved Ella so much and was constantly by her side.

Ella as a baby cuddled up in Ziggy.
Ziggy and Ella on a baby blanket
Ziggy wearing a santa hat sitting next to ella wearing a snowman hat in front of a lake
Ziggy and Ella laying on chaise lounges
Brad, Melissa, Ella, and Ziggy all dressed up as pizza for Haloween

In the newborn phase, Ziggy learned how to open the sliding door to the nursery in order to rush in and tend to the crying baby. As Ella grew, they became inseparable buddies and playmates. Despite being a 62-pound “monster thick burger” of a dog, Ziggy was always so gentle and sweet around the little one.

Ell and Ziggy posing on some stairs
Ziggy and Ella on a playground slide
Ziggy and Ella dressed up like robots for Halloween.
Brad, Melissa, Ella, and Ziggy dressed up in Halloween costumes
Ella as a toddler holding Ziggy's leash with a gorgeous sunset and clouds in the background.

Thanks for everything, bubs.

Ziggy made my life better in so many ways. I am so incredibly grateful for our time together, for all the memories, and all of the love he gave. He made me a better person in so many ways, and my family is better because he was a part of it. There are also so many lasting gifts he’s left us.

I have hundreds (thousands?) of photos of my family, friends, and life experiences that I would have never taken if our goofy bulldog wasn’t in the frame.

Ziggy and Brad's grandpa
Ziggy and Melissa's grandma
Ziggy sitting in a campchair with friends sitting around a fire
Ziggy jumping up on a posed picture with a bunch of guys wearing plaid shirts
Ziggy meeting Jeremy Keith and Jessica Spangler
Ziggy Melissa Val Head and Ivy walking in the park
Ziggy, my mom and dad, Melissa, and baby Ella
Brad, Ella, Melissa, and Ziggy dressed up in costumes and smiling

The last time I really tried to take Ziggy out for a walk, he stopped abruptly, in typical bulldog fashion. But it was less of a “I want to go home” stop. It was a crisp, clear morning and the sun was shining. Ziggy just sat there for a long time, soaking in the sun, mostly with his eyes closed. I obviously can’t know what was going on in his head, but he seemed to be telling me that his time was coming soon. In that still of the morning sun, we reflected on the beautiful life we shared over the years.

Ziggy standing in a snowy field looking out over a park.

The night he passed away, he hovered over Ella in her bed as if to say goodbye. Shortly after, he started having a hard time breathing; we raced to the hospital and he ultimately died in my arms as I rushed towards the hospital door. I wish he didn’t die in such spectacular fashion as the traumatic memory of that night really gets in the way of the decade’s worth of beautiful memories and shared time together. But I’m confident that will dissipate over time. I already feel the grief turning into gratitude, and that’s exactly what should happen.

Thanks for everything, Ziggy. I love you so much.

Ziggy standing on some traintracks with a sunset in the background.