Flash Fiction Challenge: “A Good Dog”

I’ll warn you in advance that the post below is going to get all sappy and mushy and sad and for all I know it’s going to be hard to read because three hours ago we took my dog, who I’ve had for all 13 of his goofy insane years, to be put to sleep. Still, it’s Friday, and I think that storytelling offers us great power in terms of… well, if not understanding emotion, then at least sorting through it and getting a picture of how big it is and what it means. I hesitate to call writing “therapy” because, it certainly doesn’t ever need to be, but it can be, it can be a place where you take what’s going on in your head and your heart and dump it all out like a big shoebox of LEGO bricks. Then you build. And dismantle. And build some more.

So, if you want to read all the stuff below, go for it. If you’re here only for the flash challenge, then the challenge is this: I want you to write about a good dog. It can be any kind of story you want, but a good dog should be present somewhere in the tale (“tail”). Adhere to those three words (“a good dog”) and you’re good to go. A thousand words, if you please. One week to do it (by Friday, May 6th).

Think of this as a many-author tribute to my dog, your dog, and dogs in general.

EDIT: If you want a different (and lighter) flash fiction challenge, I’m hosting a challenge over at Flash Fiction Friday blog featuring the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, so click over and check that out. And, Dan O’Shea is running a Tornado Relief Challenge (“Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”). Onto the rest of the post.

Last night, my wife dreamed we had to take Yaga to the vet. A prescient vision, it seems.

I woke up on this bright-but-rainy morning and found our Belgian shepherd sleeping in my office, which was… odd, because normally he sleeps in the hall right by our door. Even though his hips were wobbly as a stack of teacups, every night he’d still struggle his way up the steps and sleep by our door while we dreamed. We tried to block him from doing this, but those with shepherd dogs know you don’t separate the shepherd from his flock. He’d bark all night. He’d manage to knock over baby gates that even I couldn’t knock down easily. He’d always find a way. But, again, he’d sleep by the door. Never once in my office.

So, I thought that was strange, but… hey, he’s old, and dogs are weird.

But then I smelled something. Smelled like he’d gone to the bathroom which wasn’t unusual in these last weeks — he’s had a few messes, for which we procured the mightiest cleaning tool in our arsenal, the SpotBot (which itself looks like a small terrier-vacuum hybrid). I went downstairs and didn’t see anything. I came back up, still smelled it.

His tail was wagging, but he wasn’t getting up.

Then I saw. He’d gone to the bathroom where he lay. (Take of this what you will, but we’d put a few tax-related documents on the floor by the closet to be filed, and he went to the bathroom all over the tax papers. I guess he did what we all feel like doing once in a while.) I tried to get him to stand but he couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. His breathing was real shallow and he wasn’t even lifting his head much. The old boy had cancer and hip dysplasia, so I already knew his days were subject to grim accounting, and at that moment I realized that today was it for him.

It took the air right out of me, that realization. You think, “Oh, god, this is it, isn’t it? This is the day I say goodbye to a constant companion, a bearer of unconditional love, a buddy, a family member, a good dog.”

So we started calling around. Vet didn’t open for a few hours but we had some emergency numbers and thought, okay, we’ve got farms around so clearly they can send vets out to euthanize at the house. You get a horse or a bull who gets sick you don’t load him up into your pickup — the vet comes to you. But no, nobody would come out. Then you think, and it’s a horrible thought but, “Maybe I can do it.” Right? That’s how we did it on the farm. Dog got sick, Dad shot the dog. And I’m thinking, okay, I can’t shoot my own dog. I don’t have the stones for that. But crazy shit goes through your head. “Okay, I can… suffocate him with my hands. No. A bag? Maybe if I scare him, he’ll just… die. Or what if I convince him? Like, I’ll whisper in his ear, I’ll coax him to sleep, and he’ll just drift off like an angel leaning back on a comfy cloud.”

Like I said, crazy thoughts.

We knew what we had to do and where we had to go, and the big thing was getting him downstairs. He’d lost a good bit of weight but he was still 70+ pounds, and I knew that me carrying him downstairs would either a) fuck up my back or b) suffocate him since it was hard for him to draw breath already. And I sure didn’t want to drop him down the steps. The wife — who has so far kept me sane today — had a great idea which was, shower curtains. We slid two shower curtains underneath him, forming a kind of gurney for him. We pinched the ends closed and were able to get him downstairs.

He was… in and out of his oblivious kind of bliss, sometimes panting with bright-eyes and a floppy tongue, other times just sort of laying there with fast shallow breaths. Before we brought him down the wife had the idea to give him some ice, and we did that, which seemed to make him happy. He didn’t want any treats, though, refusing them. Still wouldn’t get up. Still couldn’t lift his head.

And then came this moment: his eyes rolled back in his head, and he seized up. Legs curling in. And he hitched a few times and I yelled for Michelle and I thought, okay, here it is. He’s dying. He’s dying right in front of our eyes and all we can do is be with him. And it called back to when I saw my father die because that’s how it happened there, too — he was sitting down and my uncle called for me and we were on either side of him and he just… died. And a part of me thought, “Shit, this is horrible to see and I don’t want him to suffer but this is good that it’s happening with us here and at home and…”

Then his eyes shot open, he gagged, and puked.

And then his body unclenched and his tail thumped a few times — like, “Whew, just had to do that, sorry!” — and he was slightly refreshed.

Still couldn’t get him to stand, but he was lifting his head more. And again the wife with the good idea, who sent me to the fridge to get last night’s leftover grilled chicken. He hadn’t been eating treats, but fuck, it’s grilled chicken, right? Not some bullshit Snausage made from, I dunno, polyurethane and squirrel bones. So I fed him a piece of chicken and he took it happily. Went and got more chicken, washed it, brought it to him. Again, he ate it all, relishing every bite.

It’s at this point we decided to try to get the littler dog, our chihuahua-terrier mix to, I dunno, give a shit. She has all the empathy of a tin bucket sometimes, or maybe she just didn’t know what’s going on — but those sad and precious stories of one dog lamenting another’s loss did not manifest itself so easily on this day. I had to coax her over with chicken so she’d kind of hang out near Yaga, but I don’t know that the situation really presented itself.

Then, the rain stopped and the morning cleared. The sky brightened with the sun so we moved the old dog outside and lay him on the front walkway and sat there for a while, petting him, giving him ice. Trying to shoo the ants away who apparently thought, “He’s old and slow, we can eat him!” Stupid creatures, ants.

Half-past the hour came and it was time to go. We put him in the car and he seemed happy, like, actually happy. I was pleased to have cultivated in him a love of riding in cars and even a love of going to the vet. (You know how most dogs hate getting on that metal scale? He thought it was some kind of ride.) (I’ll also note here I keep writing about him in the present tense and it’s killing me that I have to keep correcting myself and write about him in the past tense, I don’t even know why I’m writing about this right now except I just… I dunno, want to talk about it, want to write about it, is that fucked up? It’s a good thing you can’t see me right now, I look like a goddamn glazed donut.) Anyway. Him going on that last ride in the car was therefore not a fearful trip. Nor did he see the vet as anything but a beneficent place where occasionally a nice man would stick a cold thermometer up his pooper.

On the way over, 30 seconds into the drive the sun beat a hasty retreat and a few fat rain drops started to fall. Then, another two minutes into the trip, the heavens opened. It was apocalyptic, I haven’t driven in rain like that in years. Couldn’t see. Sounded like we were being hit by ball bearings. (We did not know this at the time, but we were under Tornado Warnings, which is very odd for this area. In our first house the wife and I rented, a tornado came along and sideswept our landlord’s house right next door, and twisted up a bunch of trees out back like corkscrews.) More crazy thoughts went through my head: for one, you think, okay, this is a sign, I’m not supposed to do this. I should just turn around and head home and when I open the door he’ll leap out of the car, reinvigorated as a young lamb, and all will be well. But then you think, okay, that’s nuts, but what’s totally not nuts is just how horribly perfect the weather is syncing up with the day, which further leads you to believe, okay, I’m actually the protagonist in this movie and everybody else is a weird simulacrum and this solipsistic imagining must be true because of how elegantly it all dovetails.


We get there and it’s just — you know, it’s morose city, we’re like, the mood-killers. Everybody in the vet’s office knows why you’re there. Everything collapses in these little awkward moments: an old couple at the “you need to pay us” counter won’t look you in the eye, a young woman brings in her big dog and she tries to keep him from you like maybe the dog might catch some kind of communicable sadness, the woman behind the counter has a piss-poor bedside manner but so help me god she’s trying but she can’t help but ask if we want to go ahead and pay for this now, upfront, before we’re reduced to a blubbering jelly-like mess (“And do you want a group cremation or a private cremation?”), and you see the one attendant sneak over and steal away a box of tissues and take it into a room and you think, “Shit, I know what’s going to happen in that room, don’t I? I know who those tissues are for, too.”

The vet techs came out and helped get Yaga onto a gurney. He still seemed happy. Confused, but happy. A little brighter. Still wasn’t getting up. The one vet tech, a guy, kept calling Yaga “honey” and “sweetie,” and I knew right then what was happening — our boy dog was once more mistaken for a girl. Even at the end, a beautiful lady, was he. They wheeled him in.

Took him into the room where the tissues already waited. They lowered him down on a pile of colorful Christmassy blankets. Covered half of him with a sheet and told him we had as much time as we wanted. We petted him for a while. I’d brought ice from the car, so we gave him some more of that. The doc came in, told us what to expect — he’s a very awkward, curt vet, and you can tell he really wants to be sympathetic but that it doesn’t come precisely natural to him, but he’s still as nice as he can muster. He explained that they were going to give Yaga an overdose of anesthesia, and that when he died we could expect him to spasm even after death. Then he said something that set off klaxons in my head: “Oh, he’s not breathing as heavily as I would’ve figured,” and then suddenly I’m like, holy crap, let’s hit the brakes, maybe the dog’s okay? I even asked, well, maybe it’s just his hip? But the doc pointed out that the dog has lung cancer, and it’s bad, and hip or no hip this ride only goes in one direction — you can’t stop it, you can only slow it, and at this point, so you really want to slow it just to engage deeper suffering? Still, you think, “Jesus, this dog’s been through so much, through elk attacks and Lyme disease and a whole belly full of rat poison and maybe he can escape death one more time, maybe he’s some kind of immortal beast, some pup from Cerberus’ litter,” but that’s insane, it’s not true, that while legendary he’s not immortal, and that to stall this or halt this is for me more than it’s for him and do I really want this suffering to tumble endlessly forward?

I don’t. I didn’t. So the vet shaved a spot on Yaga’s leg, then whipped out a comically large (and comically bright blue) syringe and put it in Yaga’s leg. And he went fast. Very fast. Before the syringe was a quarter gone the vet whispered, surprised, “He’s already gone.” And he was. No spasms, no shaking, just a peaceful drift, like an angel leaning back on a comfy cloud.

And that’s that. He’s gone. Immortal not in body but in perhaps the tales we will tell of him. He was a good dog. Sweet as sugar and dumb as a box of driveway gravel. Goofy enough to be happy until the end. We should all be so lucky, I guess. I miss him terribly. The house feels emptier without him. I’m sad he’ll never meet my son because he would’ve been great with kids.

Like I said, he was a good dog.


That’s your task, if you care to share it. Tell me about a good dog.

59 responses to “Flash Fiction Challenge: “A Good Dog””

  1. I had the same experience this summer with Thia. Her end was sudden though, without warning. Like it came out of a bright blue sky. Friday she was playful and hanging out with the new puppy. Sunday night we were saying our goodbyes. Every experience you mentioned… from finding her laying in a puddle to the awkward moments at the emergency vet rang true. Thank you for helping me remember her tonight.

    Yaga was a good dog. I only met him a handful of times, but it always seemed that, despite the crazy stories and the close calls, he made your life better.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. I went through a similar situation about 6 months ago. The house still feels empty sometimes. Thanks for sharing, and caring enough for him to let him go.

  3. My condolences. Still at least Yaga had a good house to live in, and a chronicler to keep his tale.
    A grim compliment but once again your narrative was brilliant and moving.
    I shall endeavor to write a story worthy of such a dog’s memory.

  4. I’m up obscenely early and didn’t sleep well last night but you’ve got me almost crying. I am so, so sorry Chuck. I know that Yaga loved you so much and that even at the end he was thinking of you. I remember when we put my dog down years ago and how hard it was for me. I remember my Mom had remained as stoic as possible then a few minute before the procedure she leaned in and told Cinnabun all the names of pets that had gone before and she broke down crying when she started talking about Cinnabun and her old dog Moose playing together.

    Ugh. There I go.

    Take care of yourself man.

  5. I’ve got two mini bull terriers, Sausage and Cookie. They’re absolute hoots and people say that bull terriers are as thick as two planks but, y’know…they may be right.

    Cookie is the baby. She’s fallen in the koi pond 27 times already in her eternal quest for fish food. She loves everybody and believes everybody loves her, including the cats. Unfortunately, she’s not always correct about this last supposition but she loves the cats anyway. She even loves the security guards who patrol our housing estate on a regular basis. She steals my bras and takes them to her crate to lie on. She also likes my pyjamas for some reason. She bounces like a lamb and is irrepressible.

    Sausage is a massive six months older, and it shows. She will NEVER show any security guard the slightest bit of regard, treating all of them with the contempt she believes they deserve. She is mostly quiet at meal-time, allowing the cats their time to chow in relative peace. She loves the human members of the family, tolerates the cats and ignores Cookie as best she can. Every one else is an enemy to be vanquished. She loves watching TV, especially cooking shows where she’ll sniff the air if she sees something frying. She also loves watching the interactive whiteboard while I homeschool, mesmerised by the moving cursor. She sleeps behind my desk as I write.

    The dogs are insistent beer-swilling, hucklebutting, poop-eating cuddle-bugs. And we wouldn’t have them any other way. Well, maybe except for the poop-eating….

    I’m truly sorry for your loss.

  6. Helped the sister in law with her visit to the vet with both of her German Sheppard dogs. Not the best day of my life by any stretch.
    Think we could learn a lot from dogs, live in the moment.
    Still miss our dog from when I was a kid. I swear I sometimes still see him lying at the bottom of the stairs in my mothers house. Still makes me smile to think of him though.

    All the best.

    • Thanks, all. I appreciate the thoughts — it’s always tricky writing a post like this because I don’t put it up here for sympathy, really — not that I don’t appreciate the sympathy, I do, I truly do. It’s just — stuff like this is hard and feels like the tough stuff is the stuff really worth writing about. Plus, I didn’t know how his day would go and what putting a dog to sleep was really like, and so it felt like… maybe that is something worth talking about, too.

      It further occurs to me that:

      a) This reads like it happened today, which it did not (it happened yesterday, and I wrote it yesterday for today)


      b) People shouldn’t feel obligated or anything to participate in the flash fiction part of this, but I thought, hey, maybe it’ll still be a prompt for people to write something. No obligation and further, I apologize if it seems somehow in bad taste (“Hey, my dog died, here, I’ve turned it into a blog post”). That’s certainly not my intention, just in case anybody feels like it is or was.

      — c.

  7. Oh gods babe. I am so, so sorry. I’m bawling too hard to write any stories. I wish I could have met him.

    Confused but basically happy is a great way to go. I’m going to go hug my dogs.

  8. If I could reach out and hug you right now, I goddamn would.

    I’ve read Hunter and Mage and Irregular Creatures and the Escapist bits and this blog for a long time. And honestly, I think this piece is some of your best writing. Since Jason was born, I’ve cried like a baby at the drop of a hat. You had me in tears at the LEGO blocks.

    Losing a family member… there are no words adequate enough to express how sorry I am.

  9. There isn’t much I can add to this, Chuck. My dog stories are from when I was way younger, and seems like a completely different person. All I can do is offer my heartfelt sympathies to you and Michelle.

    • I’ll also add that, if you want to participate in a less, erm, sad-faced flash fiction challenge —

      First you’ve got Dan O’Shea doing a Tornado Relief Challenge at Going Ballistic.

      And at Flash Fiction Friday, I have a prompt going up over there at 9:30 EST — the prompt will be about the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. So, a little, erm, lighter.

      Thanks again, all.

      — c.

  10. Oh Chuck.

    I’d like to say it gets easier, but it’s been seven years since I put down my beloved Kechara and reading this made me bawl like a baby. I remember that feeling of desperation and knowing what’s best but clinging to hope like a deflating life raft. I’m going to have to pull it together before I head to work and hope I don’t lose it at the vet appointment I have this afternoon.

    I am transmitting you virtual internet hugs. I’m so sorry.

  11. We have an old Shepherd too Chuck. He’s going on 12 and he started having trouble with his back legs. Took him to the vet and turns out he’s got arthritis in his spine. It’s even in his tail! They put him on anit-inflammatory pills and it’s really helped. He’s more playful and happy. But still, it’s hard to see the old boy getting on. He’s got so much heart. A few years back we had root canals done on all four of his canine teeth. Can you believe that? Cost us 5 grand. But he’s worth it.

    Dog’s just don’t live long enough do they? I think 50 human years would be a good age for a dog to live. 🙂

  12. I am so. sorry. for your loss, Chuck. All those things you thought about him maybe being immortal and such, I think about my 15 yr old AussieX. I know it’s not true. I know the day is coming.

    My heart and thoughts go out to you and your family for this great loss today, my dear.


  13. So sorry to hear about Yaga. It’s the hardest thing deciding that one’s time is up, especially when you can find any glimmer of hope in the situation. Been there too many times with some very good dogs. You can expect I’ll have some flash fiction about a good dog, don’t worry.

  14. It was nice to see your softer side. Losing a good dog is losing an innocent family member. I’ve had many friends losing dogs lately. Lost mine 4 years ago. I’m not a scrapbooker, but I made one for Cody and it was definitely therapeutic. Don’t know if I could make it through 1000 words without shorting out my computer with tears…

  15. I saw something you posted to Twitter yesterday that might have been alluding to this, and I thought that something had happened, but hoped I was reading it wrong. I’m truly sorry for the loss of such a wonderful companion. I’ve been through similar. It hurts so much. I still feel it, sometimes, despite the fact that I did a silly thing and went out and “adopted” another dog to fill the empty spaces (meaning both physical & emotional). You gave him a wonderful life and he obviously lived it to the fullest. Some people go their whole lives not knowing the love of a good dog – you were both blessed by each other in the time you shared together.

  16. I’m sorry, Chuck. I think you captured Yaga’s nuances in this post well, along with all the weird random stuff that wouldn’t happen in a movie: pooping on the taxes! shower curtains, plague of ants, giant blue syringe. It’s always hard but I was compelled the write a similar ode when my rabbit died unexpectedly: I only had her for a year. When one of my own dogs goes, I’m going to be a wreck.

  17. I had to put a dog to sleep early thisyear – a six year old basset hound who went lame out of nowhere. Her leg swelled up, we brought her in, we thought it’d be LEG FIXING TIME. It was “diagnose with progressive cancer” time and we had to put her down right then and there. Every single one of the feelings you had in this? I had that day, and any other time I’ve had to put an animal to sleep. As such, I’m a snot-covered monstrosity at 9 am. Fortunately a cat just walked by so I have a fluffy snooger rag.

    Well fuck, man. I’m really sorry.

  18. Hey Chuck, I just wanted to let you know that I understand and share your anguish. Four years ago I had to put down both of my basset hounds within days of each other. We had Sherlock and Boo from babies and they were never apart from one another. They were my best friends and beloved by our family.

    My oldest son still wears their dog tags on a chain. I swore I would never get another dog, that I couldn’t ever go through that again (I’d always grown up with dogs). A few months later, for Father’s Day, my wife decided I needed, WE needed a dog in our lives. After very careful consideration and research, we found Willow, our Irish setter. She is incredibly awesome and part of our family. The kids are growing up with her and although she’ll never replace Boo and Sherlock (and was never intended to), she has made a new space in our hearts.

    Always remember and love. Look out on those spots where Yaga romped, and enjoy the memories you have. Eventually, a new friend will share the bed in your heart where Yaga nestled and somewhere Yaga will be wagging his tail, happy that you’ve found a furry friend to take care of you in his absence.

  19. I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is like losing a family member. We had our first dog (Rommel, a German Shepherd) the whole time I was growing up, and for months after he was put down, I kept ‘seeing’ him in his favourite places.
    Our current dog, Rex – also a German Shepherd – is another one of those seemingly indestructible animals; he’s eaten rat poison, toadstools, whole blocks of chocolate and he’s gone through a glass window and had a potentially fatal illness (luckily his treatment worked, we’re just hoping it doesn’t come back). But he’s getting on now; he’s started showing bad signs of arthritis, so his days are probably numbered.
    But yes, while Rex certainly isn’t an intelligent dog by any stretch of the word, he is the most loving creature I have ever met. Whenever anyone gets home from work or uni he just about wags his tail off, while making this high pitched yowl as if to say “OMG OMG OMG YOU GUYS! SOMEONE’S HOME!” Plus he loves watching Inspector Rex on TV. And since he has a ‘pretty’ face, he often gets mistaken for a girl as well…
    Perhaps all the dogs from our past are playing together in the afterlife, waiting for the day their human friends come to meet them. I just wish there was some physical being or entity I could blame for good dogs getting sick. Just so I could go and punch the living fuck out of them.

  20. I’m sitting on the love seat in the den reading this and I’m not, like, WEEPING or anything, ’cause, you know, I’ve got a man card. Hell, I’ve got a man card hewn from the flesh of my vanquished foes. So no weeping. But maybe I wiped away a tear or six. And Dante is sprawled over on the other couch – the pooch does like his room — and he pops his head up out of his blissful dog slumber with his ears perked up, his canine loyalty radar on, and he sense that the master is distressed about something, so he jumps down off the big couch, climbs up on the love seat next to me, curls up in a dogball and starts licking my elbow. He’s a good damn dog. I’m betting Dante and Yaga would have liked each other.

    Shit man, I’m sorry. It sucks and there is no way to unsuck it. But I know Yaga will live on, and I bet he especially will live on in the tales you tell your son. By the time the kid is ten, Yaga will be a part of his psyche – the flying, dragon-killing dog of yore.


  21. I am going to check out the other ones this time around. I just wanted leave my condolences. I’ve lost more pets than I care to count.

    My wife worked in an animal shelter for about a year, so she had the displeasure of having to put down other people’s pets along with strays and abandoned animals.

    I’m glad you had so many great years with your dog. They are amazing animals.

    Go take care of yourself and we’ll see you next post.

  22. Saying goodbye is one of the hardest things we ever have to do and words are never consolation enough.

    I’ve never been quite sure why, but there’s a passage from Swinburne’s The Garden of Proserpine that’s always made me feel, not better exactly. Helps me keep the larger picture in mind, perhaps? The one where suffering is eased, that sometimes the ending is a good and merciful thing. That on the other side maybe there’s some peace.

    From too much love of living,
    From hope and fear set free,
    We thank with brief thanksgiving
    Whatever gods may be
    That no life lives for ever ;
    That dead men rise up never ;
    That even the weariest river
    Winds somewhere safe to sea

    I hope that you and your wife are as well as it is possible to be at this time.

  23. When my sister and I went to the humane society at the ages of 8 and 10, my father said we would know which dog belonged with our family. All of the dogs seemed heathy and happy from behind cold gray cells.

    There was a small dog, no more than three or four months old. She was a border collie. Black with white feet, peppered with dots. We chose her to take outside and play with.

    My sister and I were never prim and proper girls. We were rough, we were tomboys, and my father wanted to make sure the dog we brought home could handle us pulling on her tail and trying to ride her without turning all Kujo.

    This dog turned out to be smarter than all of the members of my family combined. It may not say much for my family, but this dog was bloody brilliant. We named her Pepper because of her feet.

    Throughout the years she put up with us tying her to our skateboard and reindeering her down the street. We even taught her how to ‘attack’ on command with towels tied around our arms like they did on cop shows.

    She never needed a leash and the only thing she hated about life was bathtime. The water terrified her.

    She was six years old when we noticed she couldn’t hold down food anymore. Everything came up. We took her from vet to vet, then to a specialist three hours away.

    Stomach cancer.

    It was a few months later when she started to slow down and seemed tired.

    My mom used to set her on her lap in the living room and brush her unruly hair for hours. Pepper loved it. My mom used to get enough hair off of her to make another dog.

    It was then when we realized how thin she was.

    We didn’t wait for her to starve to death or for the cancer to cause her too much pain. She was tired, she didn’t want to play, that was enough for us.

    I went with my mom to the vet and held our once fifty pound dog on my lap with ease.

    She was 19 pounds when she died. Her weight loss was virtually undetectable under her massive amount of fur.

    My family never got another dog. The empty paw prints she left behind were simply too big to fill.

  24. When you can go an hour without thinking about him, you’ll know you’re “on the mend.” I’ve been through this as well. Pet the other little dog extra so she knows it isn’t her fault.

  25. Just over a week ago we brought our sweet boy, Ranger to the vet. We knew it was coming, and had made the appointment that morning. He was 15 years old and had arthritis, but had begun losing weight. The diagnosis was cancer, and within three days of that news, he was gone. We have a great vet, and were just the best during this whole ordeal. Ranger was surrounded by our whole family, and went peacefully. I haven’t really talked about it to anybody outside of the family because the emotions are just too close to the surface, and I find it difficult to explain the emotions to people that aren’t dog lovers. The reason I’m telling it here is because as soon as I opened your post, I saw a Ranger look-a-like. Your Yaga is almost a twin to our Ranger! Ranger’s mom was a German Shepherd, and nobody knows what breed dad was, he slipped into the backyard one night and ‘presto!’ a large litter that all resemble Belgian Shepherds.

    Anyway, that last act of love that pet owners all too often have to decide on is tough, but I find that the memories of the last vet visit are replaced with the memories of years of unconditional love, goofiness, and devotion in time. If you have a few minutes, visit my blog, and you’ll see our Ranger after about half an hour of playing in the first snow storm of this past winter.

    We are all luckier to have had these wonderful dogs as pets and friends, and know that your family is richer for it.

  26. Oh, man. Chuck, I’m really am very sorry. You have my sincere condolences.

    And I am afraid I’m going to cheat on this one a little bit because my family went through some similar circumtances just last week. Our dog (really my parent’s dog, though he was mine as much as anybody) Jake died. I am — no better word for it, I’m afraid — recycling the post I wrote in tribute to Jake last week from my political blog.

    I know, a lot to take in — politics? parent’s dog? wha…? — but check it out. It’s under 650 words, if that helps.

    At any rate, I just don’t think I have it in me to conjure some fiction about him or even a fictional good dog. It’s all still a little… close.


    Thanks for the opportunity as always, Chuck. Our thoughts are with you guys.

  27. I’m very sorry to hear about Yaga. I’ve been following your updates on him. I’m usually a lurker, but I wanted to reach out and offer my condolences.

  28. Stuff like this is always difficult beyond measure. It’s the absolute worst thing about owning a pet — because it’s losing a furry little family memeber. Needless to say, this had me in tears.

    It’s so hard to process stuff like this. When I had to put my dog (Zeus) down in October, I wrote a poem about it. Because I didn’t know what else to do. That’s how I handle things, sometimes — put it into writing, fictional or otherwise. It’s like…trying to get it out, or make it solid, or something.

    Your dog was a good dog — a handsome, loyal, awesome dog. It’s lucky to find a pet like that, because there are some that just stick with you. Yaga’s one. My very first dog, Hanz, was one, too. When I was a baby, and crying, he tried to take me out of my crib to cuddle me. My mom found him pulling so very gently on my onesie.

    Now *I’m* rambling. I’m sending you and your wife heaps of good, soothing thoughts.

  29. [hug] Damn, Chuck. My heart hurts for you, and for Der Wendigfamily. Yaga was toasted most solemnly at my house, and then we started talking about the various pets we’ve loved and lost along the way. Yaga had a full-on wake. Wherever he is in doggie heaven, that dog is plastered with spiritual booze vibes.

    And so we direct said vibes to you. Hang in there, my friend. The house will start to fill up again, seem a little less hollow. The spot by your office desk will stop surprising you when it’s empty. But it’ll take time. And in the meantime, hell, stop being so apologetic for the words you have to say. We get it.

    Love to you and Michelle and taco terrier.

    • Thanks, all. Again, I don’t mean to put pressure on, “YOU MUST WRITE SOMETHING ABOUT DOGS,” I just meant, hey, I’ve been doing these Friday challenges and if you want to write something about any good dog, then please do.

      @Karina: I boozed a bit last night, but then had to end up at a breastfeeding class. That was not ideal, but so it goes.

      @Ali: You should link to that poem if you feel comfortable doing so.

      @Ben: Thanks for that link.

      @Naomi: Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry to hear. And 15 years! What an age. Do you have a pic of Ranger?

      @Stephen: Those words are… well, I don’t know what the response is — not encouraging, exactly. But reassuring, I suppose. Thanks.

      — c.

  30. I’m sorry, Chuck. If it’s any consolation–and it may not be–at least you got to be with him. I found out about losing our golden retriever Clifford while I was out of town at Love is Murder. Thank God for good friends who wouldn’t let me mope in my room and who listened patiently over dinner to my spasmodic talking jags about what a good dog he was. But I still carry some of that guilt that I wasn’t there when he needed me.

  31. “I boozed a bit last night, but then had to end up at a breastfeeding class. That was not ideal, but so it goes.”

    That is exactly how it goes, and that is the ideal.

  32. I glanced at this post in my blog feed this morning and immediately clicked away. Cowardly, I know, but I had to go to work and I’ve never been able to apply mascara while sobbing.

    We lost our first dog, a black lab, at age five in the middle of the night to something called gastric torsion. Something we’d never even heard of until after the autopsy. Yes, autopsy. The double-edged anguish of guilt and love demanded a scientific explanation of that 3 AM horror.

    The second lab we lost at age 15 to inoperable cancer of the spine. And it was everything you describe here. Except for the two kids with their little hearts breaking, one crying and one stoically refusing to do so, both giving us looks of bewildered betrayal for our failure to fix this awful thing called death.

    I don’t think I’ll be writing about my experience with good dogs beyond this comment. I commend you for the ability to write this post.

    This is a quote my mom gave to my sisters and me when my dad died. I realize it wasn’t intended to refer to pets and I mean no disrespect, but I find it comforting at times of loss and sorrow.

    In one sense there is no death.
    The life of a soul on earth lasts
    beyond his departure. You will
    always feel that life touching
    yours, that voice speaking to
    you, that spirit looking out of
    other eyes, talking to you in
    the familiar things he touched,
    worked with, loved as familiar
    friends. He lives on in your
    life and in the lives of all
    others that knew him.

    Hugs and love to both of you. May the weight your grief and the empty ache of your loss soon give way to the enduring strength of fond memory.

    And if all those empty spaces continue to haunt you, as they did me, there are many many dogs out there who are desperately in need of someone to love. For however long they live.

  33. Lived this experience–twice. The grief is overwhelming. I weep for you, your wife, and your canine friend. RIP

    (I was laughing through my tears. Brilliant post. Yaga would be pleased.)

  34. Oh, Chuck, I cannot tell you how sorry I am. I think I will go look up all the Twitter posts from the #virtualdogpark. Every morning when it’s hard to wake Kate up because she’s old and she can’t hear us and we don’t want to scare her too badly by touching her when she’s asleep, we spend a good couple minutes just trying to be sure she’s breathing.

    I wish there were something I could say to make this better, but there isn’t. Hang in there, and hug the Taco dog extra hard.

  35. I’m so sorry for your loss. We put our cat Bailey to sleep almost 6 years ago. I had him before I married my husband. He was a cat and not a dog but he was an awesome cat. Whenever I was sick or sad, he’d lay next to me and just purr on me. He’d give me a little lick every once in awhile as if to say, “Hey, I’m here for you.” He never really took to anybody else…except for the little tuxedo kitten hubby and I adopted when we got married. We still have the tuxedo kitty. He’s getting on in years too and I don’t even want to think about him getting old…even though he is a grandpa in cat years. It amazes me that animals love us humans so much. They seek out our attention and affection and they’re always so willing to attend to us. What a blessing it is to have a good animal companion…be it cat or dog.

    My heart goes out to you, Chuck. And I think the blog post was beautiful. Sad and real and beautiful. Even the sad, terrible things in life can be an inspiration for our art.

  36. Chuck,

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I wish there was anything I could say or do that would make it easier…but this isn’t my first time at this rodeo, and I know that some pain can’t be eased by platitudes from others.

    I’m so sorry, and I hope that you and your beloved take solace in each other while dealing with your loss.

    Big hugs from the intarwebs,


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