Tuesday, November 20, 2007


It’s been a week since we lost our dog Heidi, a big friendly black Lab. My wife and I are inconsolable, shattered, heartbroken. Our house is empty; echoes hollowly resound.

She was a retriever’s retriever, and would never think of coming to the door without something in her mouth to greet us, a shoe, a stuffed animal, and on one memorable occasion when she was trying to rouse us for an early morning walk, a dollar bill.

She was a gentle soul, who unlike most dogs had no need to hear her own voice. She was generally happy in silent contemplation, and one could go months without hearing her bark.

But don’t get the wrong idea about Heidi. There was nothing effete about her. I suspect the greatest regret in her life is that, of the hundreds of squirrels she chased and frightened, we always held her leash and never let capture her prize. But she would have been a great hunting dog. She was fast, strong, and clever, and in her early days, could run like the wind.

The void she leaves is hard to fill. A dog organizes your life, from the time you get up in the morning to the time you go to bed at night. She becomes the basis of your daily routine, your companion, sharing your meals, your music, your books, and your bed. For those of us who work at home, the loss is even greater. It was always a comfort to know that that while I was working away upstairs, there was always someone else downstairs, guarding the house, or taking a nap. A dog is like a child who never grows up, and never gets restless or seeks to make new friends outside of the house. Heidi became, in an unassuming way, a central part of my life.

Heidi’s last illness was swift, terrifying, and irreversible, as she rapidly lost the ability to use your legs, and she spent her last days in considerable pain and fear over the changes to her body. Jane compared it to the illness in Tolstoy’s story The Death of Ivan Illich. She faced her last days with dignity and pride.

Our pets always show us how to die.

Heidi was deeply loved and will be profoundly missed. Our hearts are broken. I just want my doggie back.

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