Last Wednesday I was getting ready for an early bedtime.  I had just kissed Max and tucked him in, had slipped into my pjs and was looking for my book.  My cell phone rang.  There was something about the ring, something that sounded more urgent than normal.  I normally let my cell phone go at night.  But this time I ran to pick it up.

My dear friend Cathy was on the other end.  What she said was unthinkable.  I needed to ask her to repeat herself over and over again.  But through her sobs I understood.  The greatest dog I ever knew was about to live his final chapter.

Yoshi was a German Shepherd mix–a Fluffy Shepherd I liked to call him.  He was the gentlest and kindest soul I ever met. 

Last February, on one of the saddest days of my life, the day Juan and I negotiated our separation agreement, I drove to my friend Cathy’s house to pick up Max.  Max was thankfully asleep for the minute Cathy opened the door, tears started, tears that wouldn’t stop for almost 24 hours.  While Cathy made me a cup of tea, Yoshi herded me to a sofa and put his head in my lap.  For almost two hours we sat there, me with my tea, stroking his fur, he with his big beautiful eyes looking up at me.  He was Compassion embodied. 

Yoshi was a free spirit and smart as a whip to boot.  He knew how to open the gate and frequently let himself out, trotting down the street, wagging his tail, as if to wave at all the passers by.  He always came home though.  Always.  He smiled as he let himself back up on the porch.  Smug.  Content.   This happend everytime I was in charge of feeding him when Cathy and family were away.  I always panicked.  But then I would see him trotting homeward and as he leapt up the steps I would wrap my arms around his big old neck, bury my head in his fluffy fur and whisper “Thank you Yoshi.  Good Dog”.

Everyday when I came to pick up Max after school at Cathys house, Yoshi would greet me–a big doggie smile.  If I was in a rush, if I didn’t give him a proper greeting he would nudge me with his gigantic head until I stroked him, scratched him, gave him his due.   He reminded me that love was not something that we should never shortchange, no matter how busy life was.  If I was in a cranky mood coming up the steps to her house, I always walked down them a little lighter.  I would kiss his wet nose and pat him on the head, knowing it was his persistent snuggles that had changed my mood.  “Thank you Yoshi.” I would say “Good Dog”.

All our kids grew up knowing Yoshi.  He was gentle and patient with each of them.  He endured endless ear pulls, tail pulls and eye pokes.  He never once nipped or even growled.  When it got to be too much he would simply give himself a time out.  Sit alone until he was ready to throw himself back in the fray.  He would then head out again for another game of chase, soccer or fetch.  He loved our children almost as much as we did.  He was Patience embodied.

When I got to the animal hospital, Cathy was shaking.  She was not ready to make this choice.  She was not ready to say goodbye.  But it was time.  As I watched her and her sweet pup, in so much sudden pain both of them–it was clear.  They both knew their time together had come to an end after 13 sweet years.   After 13 years of nothing but health, it was as though he was pleading with her to let him go.  He was chosing this time, this place, even though she wasn’t ready.

Yoshi lived as though he knew each day was a precious gift.  He treated each of us, child and adult alike, as though we were precious gifts too.  

In that last hour of Yoshi’s life, Cathy was as brave as anyone I have ever met.  Deciding to let go of someone so dear is never easy, but her’s was the right choice.  I held her as she held him as he let his last breath go, as he gave in to sweet sleep after such excrutiating pain.  I felt privledged to witness a life so brilliant, to witness a passing so noble.

Tonight many families gathered at Cathy’s house to write love letters in a book, light candles on a little altar, and speak our memories of a dog so kind.  He touched so many lives-each of us cared for him deeply.  The kids told their stories, sweet and funny.  Then we adults lingered.  We said this ceremony was for the children but long after they had gone to play, we continued.  There was so much to say about a light so bright.

But now, we are all silent.  The tears have been shed.  Yoshi has opened the latch to the gate this one last time.  He is running free, his tail wagging.  There is nothing to do but call after him one last time. 

Thank you Yoshi.  Good Dog. 

10 Responses to “Good Dog”

  1. Kelly G Says:

    This was really beautiful. Thank you for writing and posting it.

  2. Cathy Sarri Says:

    Meg – thank you for your beautiful account of Yoshi and his life. I hope lots of people have a chance to have
    “Yoshi’s” in their lives. Cathy

  3. bella Says:

    This is sad and made me ache.
    What love Yoshi brought to you, to life, to this world.
    The ceremony sounds like a lovely and worthy ritual to honor who he was for so many.
    thinking of you

  4. Jena Says:

    This is such a beautiful tribute. May Yoshi’s memory be a blessing! I am picturing him and Juke together, bounding and free.

  5. Lucille Says:

    I am tearing up. I know the pain of losing a fluffy one…they are truly angels in our lives aren’t they?
    Thank you for sharing.

  6. rebecca Says:

    oh, this was so beautiful. thank you so much for sharing that. i love to read stories of animals and their unconditional love. when i put my dog down three years ago, i couldn’t stop crying for days. every year on his anniversary of his death, i still cry. he was such a part of our family as yoshi was to your friend. they come into your heart and never let go.

    thank you again for that beautiful remembrance….and xoxoxo to yoshi.

  7. Jen Ballantyne Says:

    Meg, this is so beautiful and so sad. I am so glad you answered that phone call and that you were able to be there for your friend through this. xxx

  8. Karen Says:

    Sweet. But I promise you, it’s not the last time.

  9. Meg Says:

    Thanks everyone for your kind comments which I have also shared with my friend Cathy. We both thank you from the bottoms of our Yoshi-loving hearts!

  10. Rosemary Says:

    Meg, that was a beautiful tribute. I knew Yoshi and agree with all that you said. It is so true that dogs brin joy, peace and caring into our lives but ask almost nothing in return.