One year ago we said goodbye to our Goldendoodle, Pilgrim. Just before his passing, he asked me to write this letter to the world.
Dear Friends — If you’re reading this, I am gone.
I was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease in 2018 and it’s been a steady slide down the grassy hill for this proud old Goldendoodle.
Despite everyone’s best efforts, I slipped into a heap of heart failure. I didn’t see it coming; like stepping in a pile of yesterday’s lunch in the backyard. The vet told us my heart was enlarged — go figure — and we were running out of time and good options.
Honestly? I think I knew before they did.
And before I forget, the doc and his team were wonderful. If it’s true that all dogs go to heaven, it better be true for veterinarians and their teams, too.
But back to me.
After the diagnosis, the gang gathered for something they call family council. These can be wildly entertaining — trust me — I’ve sat through a lot of them over the years. Sometimes I’ve tried interrupting by dragging over tattered, teeth-scarred toys fetched from my brass bucket. Other nights I’ve hunted for bare feet to smooch with some slick slobber.
Not this time. I just listened.
I was thankful they even called the two oldest kiddos at college. The folks put them on speakerphone and maybe I’m a softie, but I was reassured at the sound of their voices. The girls might not know it because I am — well, you know, a dog — but I’m sure proud of those two young ladies.
The fam talked through the options and there were tears. So. Many. Tears. But they also shared some laughs and memories they’ll never forget.
As they finished, Pops offered an emotional family prayer that he struggled mightily to get through. I hadn’t heard my entire squad cry like that in a long time.
Watching my teenage brothers fall apart was harder than I expected. I love those two rascals and I’ve cherished our hijinks. I’ve been so honored to watch them grow, and they’ve been so loving as they’ve watched me die.
I’ve relished every relationship. Though if I’m being candid, I’ve been a mama’s boy since I arrived in their home as a puppy on Christmas Eve, 2008. Mom was my nurse, my protector, my confidant, my chauffeur and my very best friend. I loved her. I still love her.
After the nicest night’s sleep I’ve had in ages, we all went for a drive and took some poignant pictures. The old man bought a bag of gummy bears. We shared.
Later, lying flat on a cool floor in a private room, we said goodbye. It only took a few seconds for my tired lungs to empty. You could almost see my last breath softly sail into the space around us. The family breathed it in and my soul watched them weep.
And, just like that, after 3,925 days of joyful living, I was gone.
I hope the long naps, river trips and the stolen snacks, the car rides, silly videos, the peanut butter treats, the tricks and licks will live on. I’ve loved it all.
Along the way I’ve seen family failures, victories, and a lot of days in between when we simply survived the worst the world could hurl at us. We did it together.
Like most of you, I know that God makes no mistakes, even when it comes to His furry creatures. I believe I was sent at the right time to the Wright family. (See what I did there? I still got it.)
Yes, indeed, it’s been an adventure.
As I say farewell, on behalf of dogs everywhere, I’d like to share some final lessons for a happier life. These worked for me. They just might work for you.
𝗟𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗲 — As the youngest in my family, I learned a lot about love. Just do it. Love those who are different. Love your family, even when they dress you up in weird costumes. Love them when they’re happy, but mostly when they’re sad. Like today. Love them when they want just one more selfie with you, because it just might be the last.
𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝘀𝗹𝗲𝗲𝗽 — Seriously y’all, don’t be afraid to nap. Take a break and remember that no one counts money in heaven. I’m here now and they don’t even inventory the dog treats. It’s an endless buffet. Get rest. Snuggle with your family. Snore. Sleep at the foot of a friend’s bed. Don’t run so fast that life starts living you.
𝗞𝗲𝗲𝗽 𝗮 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝗿𝘁 𝗺𝗲𝗺𝗼𝗿𝘆 — I think I’ve been happy because I forgot my mistakes so quickly. Stole a cheese stick from the trash can? Got sent to my crate by mom? Moved on. Got blamed for a smell that was most certainly my brothers? Let it go. Accidentally killed a baby bunny rabbit in the backyard? I licked mom’s face when I saw her crying, gave her space, and let the moment pass.
𝗦𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗳𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗹𝘆 — Admit that your crazy clan is sorta fun to be around. Look up from the phone, the iPad, or whatever device you’re hooked on. Put your family first. Your memories with them are the ones you’ll take to the other side.
𝗝𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝘀𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗲 — It works. A friend of mine used to say, “If you’re happy, tell your face.” He was right. Look people in the eye and smile. It’s a drug for the soul that soothes and has power to heal. Yes, smile at dogs, too. We just might smile back.
Thank you, world. For everything.
For the love, the laughs, the visits, and the prayers when I feared I might not make it another day.
I’ll see you on the other side.