Listener Stories


I lost my Little Friend last August just 2 weeks after his 13th birthday, He was a Chinese Pug named Willy. He collapsed on a Saturday Afternoon while We were Camping with Friends on a Small 1 acre parcel of land  I purchased 3 years ago which i quickly named Willys Acre..After 2 trips to the Vet in the Following 5 days after his event I was advised to euthanize him, and regretably I made that gut wrenching decision on Aug 14th 2013, it litteraly sucked the life out of me and was the toughest call ive ever made in my life…Even Now I expect every morning for Willy to jump up and be at my feet when i wake up every morning.. Willy. was the only Democrat that I really ever admired , even though he expected to be fed daily and laid around and slept for hours , basicly he Did nothing (thats why i figured he was a democrat at heart lol), Willy had a purpose, he had a Job, and he was just great at being Willy, he was humorous, loyal, and provided 13 years of pure Joy in my life, I cherished him more than I do many People whom ive met in my life,and I can say that with  complete honesty…The way Ive dealt with my grief is I had a memorial sticker of my dog made up and it is on all my vehicles, plus ive got a Memorial tShirt made with several great willy shots on it.. This Spring I will bury his ashes on Willys Acre and make him a Small Memorial there, He spent a good part of the last 3 summers there where he was able to wander around with no worries what so ever, he had a great life..He went everywhere I went for the better part of his life. I could tell many many great stories about Willy but it would take far far to long, As for now I am refraining from getting another Pug, but I know eventually I will have to get another one, they are Great Dogs.. I miss my dog , but I know he can never be replaced.. As for Now I guess ill have to tend to Willys Acre with out him, but Someday I know Ill get a  chance to have another one.. Willy was the Best $275 i ever invested in my life, I wouldnt have sold him for a million dollars, seriously, he (Willy)had more to offer society then half of the Loons who are wandering the Globe now days.. People could lreally learn alot about life from Dogs if they really just sat back and observed them and interacted with them, Dogs Really are BETTER than Many human beings out there…thats just a fact plain and simple…

— Doug from Ellennsburg, WA


One day, I believe near Butterfly Beach, I spotted a couple of young ladies walking 2 or 3 Jack Russells and I jogged over to meet them. (Dena has her own compelling story about that.. read on)  As it happens, one of the ladies was Dena, and she asked  if I might be interested in adopting a 2 1/2 year old JRT that was available in Texas.  I agreed to consider it, and we made a date to meet at the Bath House in Santa Barbara to see the Jack when she got back from TX.   This seemed a bit ironic, as the Bath House was the last place Beau set paw before being euthanized at White Pet’s Hospital some 2+ years earlier.

When I first saw the dog, I was somewhat taken aback by his size and energy. I was expecting a somewhat smaller, more docile dog, but that wasn’t Tango. Dena said at the terminal, or on the flight, Tango escaped, and was walking around covered by his carrying sack. Definitely a born crowd pleaser.  She also warned to keep him away from cats, as he had allegedly killed one.  And it’s true… he would immediately go for any cat he saw.  I signed papers and paid Dena a small fee for the dog and we parted company. I immediately took Tango for a walk from the Bath House to State Street and a ways past the 101, where I turned back.  The entire journey was an endless struggle wrestling with this over-exuberant dog.  Tango pooped on the sidewalk several times in his excitement.  We ran into my friend Dave Schrader, who was quite amused by Tango’s repeated bouncing up to greet him.

I was told the dog liked to hump pillows or blankets, and sure enough, despite being neutered, to everyone’s amusement and/or embarrassment, that was something he practiced until very late in his life.  Grab that pillow bee-ach by the neck and hump. I was also told he liked taking showers, and though it seemed the first few showers I took, he was tempted to join me, he never actually made that a practice.  Though he always seemed to get excited when I took a shower.  Even at the last, he’d run back and forth, and watch excitedly as I stepped in.

When I first brought Tango home to my ranch at 1098 Toro Canyon Road in Santa Barbara, I didn’t trust him to stick around.  So for the first week I either kept him locked inside my mobile home or tied to my belt while I performed my ranch chores.  Finally, I decided a week was enough, and cut him loose.  Though he was free to roam, he stayed fairly close by (within 100 yards) and typically followed me around the ranch. However,  at least once I had to chase him down, running at top speed, a half mile from home with my motorcycle.  Like Underdog and Beau before him, Tango would run ahead of my truck, while commuting on the mile long private ranch driveway.  On one such occasion, unbeknownst to Tango, a coyote started chasing him. Just before the coyote was about to grab Tango’s neck, I honked my horn and the coyote veered off into the brush with Tango now in hot pursuit.

As it happens, I had a mental breakdown in February of 2001, that lasted for 3 or 4 years.  OCD the shrinks said it was, and it was genuinely tormenting.  I acted out suicide by revolver on a few occasions.  I can’t say Tango stopped me.. in fact he seemed indifferent, if not avoiding me. I can’t say, either, responsibility for Tango or thoughts of my family stopped me from following through, though they may have been a mild deterrent.  The truth was, I didn’t want to die and I wasn’t going to kill myself.

My mental state continued to deteriorate after I got Tango in May 2001. He was likely helpful, but not enough to stop the decline.   I tried therapy and anti depressant drugs.  They didn’t seem to work, and on 9-9-2001, I decided to try alcohol after being sober since March 18, 1983, 18 + years.   Of course that didn’t work either and by Christmas 2002, I was ready for rehab.  I spent 4 days there (priceless experience/amazing/brilliant “classmates”), while ranch resident and friend Todd Hasting took care of Tango. My niece Laura Harner and her husband Mark drove all the way from Phoenix AZ, to clean and organize my disheveled trailer. Sister Ginny and her Husband Harvey Ruffin  also on hand, as well as good friend Corey Welles.  I only mention my breakdown to say, through it all, Tango was loyal and tolerant and provided me vital companionship, if not a cure.

A near tragedy occurred just a few month after I got Tango. A good friend, Ken Kalb, tried to interest me in golf.  He loaned me clubs and we went to Tee Time in Carpinteria a few times to practice.  On one occasion it was quite warm, so I left Tango in the car with the windows open and the hatchback ajar.  I tied Tango to the steering wheel, so he wouldn’t escape.  I considered the possibility of a hanging accident, but I’d done this before without incident, and it didn’t seem at all likely, or even possible, he’d try to wiggle out the hatchback. We were only driving balls for about 10 minutes when I needed to pee. We were about half way between the restrooms and the bushes.  I considered both and opted for the restroom in a close decision.  As I walked towards the restrooms, to my horror, I saw Tango dangling on the side of the car.  I sprinted towards him, looking for movement; any sign of life. There was none. It happens at the time I was taking Lifesaving at the YMCA and  practicing CPR.   I also knew a woman, Debbie, who once told me she revived her Beagle, by giving it mouth to snout respiration.  With these thoughts in mind, I quickly unleashed Tango and laid him on his side in the back of the trunk. He was not breathing at all. A man happened to be watching, when I first gave Tango a couple chest pumps, then began mouth to snout.  I could see his chest rise and fall with each breath. Then, hark, he kicked a bit and vomited.  I began to have hope.  I pumped his chest again and breathed into his snout. Soon, more hope and relief, as Tango began panting rapidly.  More pumps and breaths, and damn, if he wasn’t coming around.  His breathing became slower and deeper, his eyes began to focus. In less than 10 minutes, he was on his feet, tugging at his leash, looking for something to kill, like nothing happened at all.  (Note here… never leash your dog unattended if there’s the remotest chance he might hang himself.  A harness rather than a collar might be substituted, though I don’t think they like wearing them all the time.)  Being already in a state of despair, losing Tango through my own negligence, might have been the end for me.  The fact I walked back to the car when I did, if not an outright miracle, was one damn coincidence.  I’ll be thankful for that blessed reprieve to my dying day.

A funny thing happened a day or two after I revived him from the accidental hanging. Tango was in such a deep afternoon sleep, I had difficulty arousing him, so, panicked and having a hanging flashback, I started mouth to snout again.  When he abruptly awoke, bleary eyed, and not knowing what was happening, he snapped at my face.  I was startled, but greatly relieved.

After rehab, I quit drinking and slowly began to recover.  Mid 2004 I sold my ranch and moved to Rancho Granada Mobile Home Park in Carpinteria. I knew I would have to make up for Tango’s free range at the ranch with at least one or two long walks a day.  Within a couple weeks I realized I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him on foot, so I bought a bicycle to keep up with him.  Typically I’d take him for a 2-3 mile walk in the morning and 5-6 mile walk in the evening.  Morning loop might be around Carpinteria Middle school, while the evening walk might be around the soccer field at the bluffs across the railroad tracks, past the Seal Sanctuary, RV park, sometimes Linden and further, back. C. 2010, there was loud noise near the park entrance as we were leaving for a walk, and it frightened Tango so badly, he refused to walk past that spot to exit the park. So, I began walking him out the back way, by Carpinteria Creek in the AM, and in the afternoon, I began to drive him to Rincon Beach for walks. Dogs are supposed to be on leash there, but most are not.  Up to this point in his life, Tango would sometimes be confrontational with other dogs. Especially big Labs, Goldens, and German Shepherds, no matter how friendly they might be. However, eventually at Rincon, he made peace with almost every dog he met.  The one very worrisome thing he did at Rincon, was bark at, and chase the horses. Fortunately, they were always well-behaved horses, who paid Tango no mind, or galloped away in a blink.  Eventually he overcame his fear at RG,  and we stopped going to Rincon after a year or so, to resume walking through the park.  But Rincon Beach was a special era in our lives.  We met many nice people and dogs there, and had many splendid runs along the shore.

Back at  RG, over time Tango’s walks got shorter and shorter.  The last few weeks, I didn’t need the bike, because he was done “sprinting” even for a short distance. Though a time or two, near the end, he’d push himself surprisingly far, as though he wanted to take a last look where he used to roam.  I nearly always encouraged these last adventures for Tango.  Still, though he might not go as far, I noticed he spent more time studying his territory with his nose.  That was interesting, because as a senior, I found myself doing the same thing. There’s more time for close study as raw ambition and strength fade.

Even near the last, as before and always, Tango would descend stairs or dismount couches/beds, like Superman.  He’d launch himself, up, up and away, with forelegs extended.. and fly though the air with greatest of ease,.. until landing nimbly on all fours.

Tango was the last dog my parents saw and touched before they passed in 2002. On her deathbed, 9-18-2001 in Henderson, Nevada, Mom reached up and petted Tango shortly before she died. Though she was embraced and caressed by her family, the only one she made the effort to caress in return was Tango.   He remained a living link to them for me.. now he’s with them awaiting me.

If there’s anything good about losing a loved one, it often changes one’s perspective, values, priorities and routines, in a beneficial way.  Temporal things become less important; time with family, friends and nature, become paramount. A more serene, spiritual side may emerge.

I reconnected with a place I haven’t been in a long time: dread, powerlessness, inevitability, surrender, acceptance.

The end of domestic tranquility: Morning’s are the worst after a loved one passes.  You dread waking up and facing another day without your friend.  But you must…and face the day bravely.  Things will get better, day by day.

— Steve from Carpinteria, CA


Tara & Dixie

Where do I start to describe just how precious life is with all God’s creatures?  Having no family or children, I have always had yorkies in my life (so that I knew at least my life was not without love).  When Katie passed unexpectedly, Tara was still young (2 years) and was not used to being alone.  I had decided that Tara would be my last baby due to my age.  However, I work a minimum of 45 hrs. per week and after running errands, etc., some days  I am gone for 12 hours or more.  Tara was getting more depressed as time passed.  I decided to go thru the “puppy” thing again and started searching for a perfect playmate for Tara.  I found Dixie.  Dixie was a 1 pound ½ yorkie / ½ pomeranian ball of fur.  Most thought she was a kitten as she was such a tiny ball of fur.  Tara accepted her immediately into the family.  As she was so little, she wore a cat collar with a bell so that I could find her.  Of course the house had to be puppy proof to a greater degree as she could crawl under anything.  What a prize she was!!  She overflowed with personality and love.  She was the shining star at the vet’s office.  Every time we went for puppy shots, etc., the staff would fight on who was going to love on her first.  The neighbors around my home volunteered to keep an eye out for her and Tara during the day when I wasn’t home.  My friends would come on their day off to love on her.  She was a magnet for people.  When she turned 6 months old, I started noticing an occasional stumble in her walk. Then one day a friend stopped by and found her very listless.  As she perked up after eating, we thought it was because Tara had made a pig of herself and eaten her breakfast.  The following week I came home and found her not even able to sit up.  I fed her by hand, but she still was weak, so the next morning I took her to my vet.  They did tests and called me saying she was in critical condition and to rush her to the emergency vet clinic.  Further tests showed she had a liver shunt issue.  However, that may be fixable with surgery and meds.  However, after two days in ICU the vet still felt she was not responding properly.  More tests determined that she had several water spots on the brain.  This explained her occasional stumbling.  This complication was not fixable.  I picked her up from the vet on Thursday.  That night and Friday, her extended family all came to care and love her.  I made the last appointment for the day on Saturday so that I could spend as much time as I could before I sent her to visit and play at Rainbow Bridge.  I left the vet heavy hearted but knew I had made the right decision for that precious baby.  I could have been selfish and kept her with me and Tara for a while longer, but Dixie needed her peace, and finally she could rest.  I never had an animal that affected me or my friends the way this tiny baby did.  She may have only been with us on earth for a short while, but she left a lasting impression.  I often wonder what today would be like were she still here, but then I have to realize that is my being selfish.  Thank you for allowing me to share my brief time with this amazing little dog with such a big heart.

— Alice from Houston, TX


Jester is my almost 14 y/o staffoerdshire terrier that was put to sleep in march of 2013.

I do not believe it to be a loss. Please don’t get me wrong, I miss him more than I could ever say. I believe that if I never had him, That would be a loss.

We both learned a lot from each other. I learned the true meaning of “unconditional love” and he learned the true meaning of “trust”.

He was and always will be my best friend. I had the fortune to be able to take him to work with me everyday, we were almost never apart. He was nice enough to allow me to sleep on his bed.

It is so nice to find a forum in which there are so many TRUE animal lovers. There are too many animals in this world that are treated as a novelty.

— Robert from San Rafael, CA


Maxine & Peanut

Just finished your book Rescuing Sprite and it brought back painful memories of having to put my 13+ year-old collie, Maxine, to sleep.  I didn’t have the luxury of the vet coming to my home so I had to take her to the vets office.  While up on the table when they gave her the sedative, she licked my hand and I took that as her “thank you” for taking her out of her misery.  When I adopted her she was a 30 lb. emaciated full grown dog who had been abused and neglected.  While walking her in Ann Arbor, I passed a college couple who said “that’s a sheltie” – she was that small.  At first she didn’t want to ride in a car because she thought she’d be dumped somewhere again.  She got kicked out of her 1st foster home because there was a cat and she didn’t like cats.  When I walked out of the vets office that day, I cried so hard – it dawned on my I hadn’t really cried since my mom died in 1987.  In the process, I lost my glasses in the parking lot as well as losing my best friend.  That was 10 years ago.  I wasn’t going to get another dog and then a friend came by who had rescued a pit bull mix puppy who was being groomed to fight.  She (Peanut) would never have lasted as she’s a lover and she will be 8 next spring.  Although I see ‘old age’ creeping up, I don’t want to think ahead to the inevitable, hopefully several years away.  I wasn’t allowed to have a dog as a child because of allergies, some of which I’ve grown out of.  I know Maxine’s collie hair was problematic but Peanut’s not short hair so less shedding.  So your book brought back the love and the pain that comes with falling in love with a pet.  I agree with whoever said “all dogs go to heaven” – what would heaven be like without them?

— Grace from Lake Orion, MI


i am a cat lover, don’t really care for dogs at all… actually i own six cats. one day my wife brought home a young lost bull mastiff female. needless to say this caused the biggest fight of our young marriage. i was so mad that i walked out of the house. i truly felt that something horrible had been allowed into our home. i felt absolutely hopeless and that our cats would not live the week… now here is the interesting part, one year later. all of the kitties are still alive. Mali our bull mastiff female has slowly brought me around. slowly tearing down my preconceived notions of this breed. to me she is now my best friend never have i seen a more noble loyal and loving animal. just to share a small part of our life, we now fight over who she will sleep with for the night… she is so large that only one of us fits in the bed with her… lol.

just the simple fact that she holds me in bed and lays her head on my shoulders until she is sure i am asleep amazes me…and now i do not have to worry about my wife at home alone. i know she would protect my wife with her life…

she is a truly amazing dog and amazing breed.

maybe we are just lucky and have a unusually intelligent and loving animal companion in our lives? it is profound the way she has changed the way i consider large dog breeds. and needless to say even the kitties sleep with her now.

i hope that by sharing this with you it shows deep changes it has brought to my family life.

— Robert in Baton Rouge, LA