Real Men Do Cry
Losing a dog is heartbreaking, and if this is not hard enough, there can sometimes be an underlying stigma in society regarding the grief that follows – particularly for men.
We spoke with John Littlefair, host of podcast Never Just A Dog, who has made it his mission to completely crush this stigma one conversation at a time, by chatting with dog lovers from all around the globe.
Q: John, tell us about your mission for Never Just A Dog?
A: My aim is to remove social stigmas – one conversation at a time. There are so many emotions associated with losing a beloved best friend including hurt, shame and even guilt.
The first part of my mission is making it OK to share. All of the guests on my podcast are speaking openly and freely about dog loss, and that helps to make it OK for others.
The second part is to shed light on the issue for people that don’t understand the pain of losing a dog. Everybody knows someone who has lost a dog. There is this same global theme – “get over it, it’s just a dog”, or “there’s so much worse going on in the world.”
I want to encourage people to show a little bit of love. It may be as simple as saying “I hope you’re going ok, how about going for a coffee?”
I’m not here to offer advice. I’m not a counsellor or therapist and it’s a different experience for everyone. When I choose guests for my podcast I always ask myself “Is this going to be good for the audience?”
I’m just providing the platform for sharing stories, which is helping to relieve the pressure for many bereaved dog owners.
Q: Tell us about how your journey first began. What made you decide to reach out to other dog owners who are grieving their pets?
A: My inspiration came from the painful loss of my own two dogs, George and Monte. Losing them was my greatest heartbreak. I decided that I wanted to give people a platform to share their experiences of dog loss. I never wanted to be a counsellor or a therapist, but I’m drawn to conversations and stories. Hosting a podcast seemed the perfect way to connect with people and just chat as friends on the microphone.
Q: Tell us about your motorbike trip. What did you set out to do?
A: At the beginning of 2020 I decided to travel around Australia on my bike, talking about dog loss. It took 6 months of planning and the more I shared the idea on Facebook and Instagram, the more momentum it gained. People started coming forward during the motorbike trip, particularly from the U.S. and now I’ve started to build quite a following from all over the world.
Q: How did the impact of COVID affect your plans?
A: When the pandemic hit I had to double back and return to Perth, so I started delving into podcasts and then set up a studio at home. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Podcast is the perfect medium for my mission as it involves storytelling, communications and conversations. The love of dogs is universal. It brings people together, and I’m so amazed at the response. After COVID restrictions have been lifted, I’ve been invited to come and talk to radio stations and professional dog groups on the east coast of America.
Q: Do people have different expectations of your grief because you are a man?
A: Men communicate differently with each other about grief. If the other guy has had the same experience, they feel safer to share without judgement. It could be as simple as starting a conversation with “Hey Mate – how’ve you been managing?” There’s no need to dig deeper – they will share if they want to. Sometimes it’s enough for them to know that there is somebody out there raising awareness. All I can do is share my experiences.
Q: What’s next for John?
A: I want to produce more content for the podcast, but I prefer quality over quantity. I’m guided by audience feedback and requests. I enjoy hosting guests and creating something out of loss and love and spreading it to the rest of the world. I’m learning so much and sharing the stories is a humbling experience, so I’m in this for the long haul.
To listen to John’s podcast Never Just A Dog, visit www.johnlittlefair.com.au