This is going to be sad.

In July, our beautiful Shady passed away at home. It’s very difficult to think about, and I try not to.

Shady Closeup

The story of Shady joining our family is a big part of what defines our family. I wrote about it before. This, I think about all the time.

Shady Asleep on a Blanket

She always kept her skepticism of the world that she rightfully earned before us, but she also knew how to be silly, to run and play and jump on someone’s head, then run away. If dogs giggled, she would have had the best giggle of them all.

She also had the most amazing big eyes that could see right into you. When people wonder if dogs have a soul, those people have never met a dog like Shady.

But then, I have met a lot of dogs, and I’ve never met a dog just like Shady either. She was special in a way that is hard to describe. It’s more about the way she was than things she did, but she did sweet Permanent Puppy things all the time.

When Shady went for a walk, she would sniff and snort with an intensity that made her sound a bit like a pig, and we would call her Truffle.  She had a beagle’s nose and curiosity. She also had a beagle’s love for eating more than she should, and wandering, and chasing small things, and laying in the sun.

If you’re twenty pounds and a little scared of the world, you use what you have. She had a bark that could be heard for a mile, and she used it. No tolerance for funny business in our front yard. If you came in the house for a visit, she would bark, even if she knew you, but once you gave her a treat, suddenly you were Just Fine.

Shady Closeup

Shady the speed beagle! When she was younger, she would run around the backyard at top speed, darting left and right, but generally in a big circle. Then she would dive into the forest of ferns near the patio. The last thing you could see were her back feet, stretched way out as she disappeared. The tops of the ferns would shake violently, then stop for a moment. Then they’d start up again, but six feet away from the last place. After a while, a magnificent blur of brown and white would eject from the ferns, three feet in the air, with huge googly eyes. She would seem to hang in the air for a few seconds, but as soon as her feet hit the ground, she would take off in a random direction, running even faster than before.

Shady Snuggle

As she got older, she still did this from time to time, but she really came to appreciate just laying on someone. Usually Tess, the basenji mix whom Shady loved more than anything.

Shady and Tess

I have hundreds of photos over the years of the two of them just laying around on a couch, almost always touching. And often in these photos, Shady’s eyes are closed, asleep and at peace with a world that is still scary sometimes, but not so bad as long as we love each other and have each other’s back.

Here’s one of my last photos of Shady.

Shady and Tess Booty Up

I love this photo, and I love everything this dog brought to my life.



This is going to be sad.

Pearl has been gone for two months, just before her thirteenth birthday.

I’ve been putting off writing about this because it hurts, and because it feels like it just happened. When I get up in the middle of the night, like I did an hour ago, I’m still taking care not to step on her in the dark, even though she’s not there. This house is unbelievably quiet, and I miss her terribly.

Pearl ran this place, even when her arthritis and hearing loss meant she stopped meeting us at the door. She pawed at the refrigerator and stared a hole in me as a reminder that I hadn’t given her an after-breakfast treat. Pearl loved her leather couch, and chest divot rubs, and licking chins. She had a switchblade back right leg.

She wanted to know where everyone was, including the little dogs whom she tolerated but secretly loved. When she couldn’t make it out to the yard, she watched us from the patio, or from a patch of cool grass. Pearl was 100% Momma Dog.

She snorted and snored and farted and panted all the time, and as the invisible tumor made it hard for her to breathe, she only got louder. This is why our house is so quiet now, and I remember that the quiet is actually a good thing.

Before her last trip to the vet, Simon gave her a hug and a kiss and said “Bye, Pearl!” And at the vet, I rubbed her ears and held her head for her last breath and said the same thing.

My mother told me that when I was going through a rough time, she knew that Pearl was taking care of me. This is absolutely true, and a wonderful tribute to a truly unique soul.

“Why do I call you Peach? Because you’re round and fuzzy on the outside and sweet on the inside!”


This is going to be sad.

Maggie is gone.

She had been sick for the last several months with nearly every horrible thing that can happen to a Boxer dog, and finally it just became too much. We took her to the emergency vet on Sunday and she didn’t come home. She’s better off, the pain is gone, she has found peace, and so on. All the standard things people always say absolutely apply here, and as usual, none of them help very much.

Maggie knew how to press the top of her head right into my chest when I needed it. Maggie smelled like maple syrup. Maggie loved having her belly rubbed, and cheese, and her big pillow on the couch. Maggie hated thunderstorms and wanted to hide under my office desk until they were over. Maggie limped out on arthritic hips and a bum leg to hop around in the yard under the giant oak tree with me because no matter how old she got or how much it hurt, she was still a puppy on the inside and she wanted to play.

Maggie was the first dog to notice Simon in his crib as we brought him home, and I will never forget the amazing look on her face when she saw him.

For eleven years, this beautiful, soulful dog loved me and I loved her. I have a 77 pound hole in my chest, and it hurts. I hope it always does a little bit; in that way, she’s still here.

Shady Might Be Four

Yesterday was the day we decided to call Shady’s birthday. She’s considered four, though she’s really a Permanent Puppy, and those are ageless.

Shady has a sweet face

One year ago yesterday, we miraculously got her back after this sequence of events:

  • Horrible life with previous owner (she lived under a bed for a year)
  • Return to the Humane Society
  • A couple of months alone in a visiting room with little attention (the main kennel was too stressful)
  • Nine days as a foster dog with Molly and Tess
  • Twelve hours placed with a potential adoptive home
  • One stupid decision by that potential adoptive home to put a special needs dog alone in a backyard with a crappy fence
  • Three weeks on the street in and around Cooper-Young in below-freezing temperatures, apparently including a few trips to some truly scary neighborhoods
  • A heart-stopping moment where we followed up a great tip from someone who saw one of our 200 signs and we actually laid eyes on her
  • A frustrating couple of hours of being chased by us and neighborhood kids around train tracks and abandoned scrap yards (she was too scared and freaked out to come to us)
  • Three days of being actively hunted by us around the clock
  • A full-on canvassing effort by several generous Humane Society dog-walking colleagues to locate and help catch her
  • Me seeing her cornered in a mess of scrap metal, climbing down in there, picking her up, and handing her to Molly

And now, she’s a wonderful, happy, well-adjusted snugglepuppy.  Her meds certainly help, as does being part of a pack in a protective and loving environment. She sleeps between the pillows in her puppy pocket, she snores and grunts and yawns like a beagle, she chases Tess around a huge (and extremely secure) backyard, and most of all, she truly seems to enjoy her life.

A life that started all over, one year ago yesterday.

Photos: Steven Bryant