Saying goodbye to a dog

My border-collie mix on Ocean Beach in Carmel at sunset.

Mia on Ocean Beach in Carmel at sunset.

My friend’s dog died the other day. He lived a long and happy life. He spent his 14 years in a yellow farm house on a big beautiful hillside in Petaluma. A huge character in a small, compact, scruffy Jack Russell Terrier body, Buck was cuddly, funny, brave, sweet and had one eye smaller than normal. He and my friend were inseparable and when he wasn’t in her lap, he was begging to be on her lap. They shared a silent, tactile bond born of their shared love of long walks, togetherness, adventure and food.

His death has left her bereft. I know her heartbreak. If you have ever loved a dog with utter and complete abandon, you too know her pain. There are no easy platitudes to make a dog’s loss any easier.

Bird and setting sun at Ocean Beach in Carmel

My friend emailed a poem I thought I’d share.

Setting sun in Carmel


by Holly Hughes

Only a beige sun
above the horizon, like
a shade pulled
not quite down. Otherwise,
clouds. Sea-rippled here
and there. Birds reluctant to fly.
The mind wants a shaft of sun to
stir the gray porridge of clouds,
an osprey to stitch sea to sky
with its barred wings; some
dramatic music, a symphony,
perhaps a Chinese gong.

But the mind always
wants more than it has.
One more bright day of sun,
one more clear night in bed
with the new moon,
one more hour
to get the words right,
one more chance for the heart
to emerge from its thicket
of dried grasses— as if this quiet day
with its tentative light was not enough,
as if joy weren’t strewn all

The sun is set at Ocean Beach in Carmel.

These photos of sunset and bonfires on the beach reminded me of this poem. Wanting the sunset to last, wanting to see another sunset tomorrow, extending the fading light by the heat of a bonfire. Wanting another day with your beloved dog. Just once more – the impossible softness of their ears, a shared gaze, the warmth of their body, the sound of their bark, the light in their eyes, a silent walk together, the feel of their presence in your home…

Bonfires on the Beach in Carmel.

Another girlfriend lost her dog of many years some time ago. Her vet said, “you did everything right with this little guy, how could you deprive another dog of your good stewardship.” My friend got another dog within the week. She said that she “needed another heartbeat in her apartment.”

I know my friend will get another dog someday. She visited my barn yesterday just to get a horse and doggie fix. She is thinking about getting some goats, and had just come from a goat farm. During her visit, one of the gals told her about a nice mare for sale in Sebastapol.

We are animal people and we are born to love and care for them. We are also doomed to grieve the pain of their loss. Right now, we are grieving Buck’s loss, and wishing we had one more day with him.

Farewell dear Buck. You were a magnificent one-of-a-kind little king. XOXO


A few links:

A beautiful take on living after loss.

An illustrated version of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.”

Life and Death planning. Yes, really.

How to talk about dying.

A little girl and her horse.  Sweetest thing ever.

Sending out a prayer and a warm hug to my friend who lost Buck, and anyone with a broken heart.

Tell me your stories.

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