Listener Stories


“C’mon Duncan, bedtime,” I said to my Cairn Terrier as I opened the back door and turned on the light.  Then I turned and started to wash a few dishes.

Now if you don’t know what a Cairn Terrier is think Toto in the Wizard of Oz.

Originally bred in Scotland as a farm dog to kill vermin such as otters, badgers and foxes they generally are not vicious and are gentle and loving with people but as an old Scot who was judging a dog show said they’re, “A wee bunch of murderers”.  Not quick to pick a fight with another dog I’ve never seen one back away from a brawl.  Well terrier people will know what I mean.

Highly intelligent but very independent and headstrong little guys who will dominate a person if allowed.

I had just turned from the door when I heard snarling and growling such as I had never heard before.  I lived in a semi-rural area with a lot of wild animals around and I was afraid that Duncan had tangled with one.

I grabbed my cane and hobbled outside and saw Duncan fighting with..what?

All I could see was that he was on top of something that was silvery gray and I feared it was a cat.

The animals were jammed against the fence and fighting fiercely when I saw that Duncan was on top of a ‘possum and a big one at that.

There was no way to separate them as Duncan was in for the kill and paid no attention to me.

Finally he “killed” the ‘possum and oh! the strutting and swaggering but then the ‘possum moved and the fight started again.  Again Duncan killed it and was extremely proud of himself until again the ‘possum moved.

Well, Duncan “killed” the same ‘possum three times that night showing that he was a true terrier, a vicious and fearless fighter and killer of anything that came into HIS yard.

Now everyone knows that ‘possums won’t fight and everyone is wrong, they can be, and are, quite vicious with a huge mouth full of teeth but that night the ‘possum had met his match.

After the last “kill” I managed to get Duncan into the house, after a last sniff of the “dead” possum and a contemptuous sneeze.  Of course the ‘possum left during the night a bit the worse for wear but Duncan was one proud little guy.  Almost as proud as I was of him.

Now Duncan is no longer with me and I am too ancient and decrepit to get another dog but I’ll always remember the many Cairns and other dogs I shared my life with and their adventures.

I lived and loved dogs for many years and found that many people miss out on one of life’s greatest pleasures if they don’t have a dog to love.

— Tom from Solomons, MD


I think it was on highway 95 heading for Las Vegas.   It was late December and we stopped to rest at a country store.  I waited outside with Max, while my wife shopped,  and we enjoyed the warmth of the afternoon sun.   A biker in full regalia with an expensive bike parked nearby, sat on a nearby bench and, like us, took in the sun.  We spoke of dogs.  The biker was somewhat older than me but sometimes I forget how old I am.  He had white hair and a long white beard that probably made him look ancient.  Sunglasses and the red bandana on his head, the vest and leather pants, said biker.  He looked tough but not dirty.

The biker said he liked the look of Max and asked about his breed.   Max always had a puppy cut which is common for dogs not being shown.  I inquired if he had a dog and he said no.   He said he had a few or perhaps several in his life.  He freely remarked that he would not have another.  I foolishly asked him why and he said that the grief of losing them to death was too hard.  Max was my first dog and still young, so I could not fully understand the full depth of the man’s words.  A short few years later this would change.

My good friend and companion, Max, passed away on October 26th, 2013. Max, a Tibetan Terrier, was born in Woodland, California on October 30, 2000. He was raised from a puppy and every day of his life was a day of joy for us. His full name was Cavu’s Maxmillian Miyano, but Max, Maxman and often Maxboy were the only ones ever heard. He participated in most of my landscape photography trips including my last one to Arizona and Utah. I have rarely been in one of my own photographs but Max was in several. He appears in Max at White Pocket, which was shown at the Maryland Federation of Art this year at their American Landscapes event.

A dog is a photographer’s best asset. After spending long periods to achieve the correct aperture, shutter speed and composition, the button is pressed and he will magically appear in the field of view to give approval.

— Ronald from San Jose, CA



About ten years ago, shortly after my former wife, Rhonda, and I went in different directions we decided to get a dog for our son, Nick.  Nick has autism and is a differently-developing kid who we believed would really take to a little puppy.  And we were right.  Nick instantly fell in love with his new Shih Tzu puppy, Ziggy.  They quickly became “Best Buds” and while they have both grown older, their feelings for one and other never changed.

Wherever Nick went also went Ziggy.  Whether it was my house or his Mom’s, Nick and Ziggy were a package deal.  As the years went on, both Nick’s Mom and I remarried to others.  Rhonda married Mike.  I married Val and we were blessed with our daughter, Natalie.  Natalie is now 3 ½ and needless to say, she loves her little Ziggy Dog!  “Isn’t he just the cutest little puppy?” was one of the first sentences she ever uttered.

In the past few years, like a lot of dogs, Ziggy became increasing afraid of loud noises, especially thunder.  Last Sunday, November 17th, played out like any other day until huge storms started to brew mid-afternoon.  About 4:00pm, as Nick and I, along with Ziggy, were lumbering around the house one of the loudest thunder-boomers we had ever heard shook the entire house.  Ziggy totally freaked out.  He began scrambling in every direction looking for a place to escape the dreaded thunderous noise.

Coming upstairs from the basement and without a sense of what was happening, Val inadvertently opened our front door at just that time and before I could say “don’t let the dog out,” Ziggy saw his opening and bolted out and down the steps in full sprint.  I knew instantly this was trouble.

I ran to put on my shoes and coat to go after him, but before I could get outside the dog had run like the devil and was nowhere to be seen.  Val joined me in the search as a hard rain started to fall and day began turning into night.  Val quickly got into the car with Natalie and they started driving around the area looking for Ziggy.  I walked throughout up and down the increasingly muddy dirt road calling his name and doing the whistle call that always worked to bring him home before.  But I had no luck this day.  Ziggy was nowhere to be found.

As I kept looking and decided I needed to call Rhonda to tell her what was happening.  Ziggy was her dog as much as anyone’s and she needed to know that this was getting serious.  At her suggestion, Val and little Natalie went up to the Police Station near our home to report the lost dog.  Natalie told the kind police officer “…her dog had a green collar.” With Rhonda and Mike having now joined us, we all kept up the search as it was getting darker and darker.

I went into the house with both kids for a moment as I was soaked to the bone and needed to find a dry coat to continue the search.  Just then I got a call from the police telling me they had just received a call from a woman who told them she believed she had just hit a small white dog with her car as she was driving over the highway overpass about a mile from our home.  My heart just sank.  I called Val and asked her to head in that direction.  I told Rhonda and Mike the same.  I sat the kids down and tried to figure out what to tell them to prepare them for the worst.

The three adults convened in the general vicinity of the overpass where we had been told there had been incident.  As the rain fell steadily, they began looking around in dark for something, anything. At first there was nothing.  Then they saw what – at one time –was a small furry animal crushed beyond recognition spread across the middle of the highway overpass.  Everyone just broke down.  Val quickly returned home and directed me to head to the spot with a shovel and a bag.  I was going to need it she said.  And she was right.

When I got there Mike and Rhonda led me to the along the overpass and there it was…a scene of complete devastation.  I was crushed to see this scene.  It was impossible to completely identify what was there, but what else could be other than our little puppy?  I wasn’t about to start picking through to see if I could see his green collar.  I just didn’t have it in me. With the rain pouring and the night as dark as it could be, we picked up the earthly remains of what was left strewn across the road as we dodged other cars to make sure we didn’t have two tragedies this night.

We all headed back to my house.  Rhonda to pick-up Nick and tell him the terrible news.  Me to try to explain it my little girl all the while with the remains of what had been our beloved dog in the back of the car.  It was a very difficult time.

I had no desire to do anything that night except mourn and try to comfort others, but the truth was I was taking it as hard as anyone.  I had loved that little dog like no other and I felt guilty and upset that I had not been able to avert the tragedy.  The next morning we got up and did what had to be done.  Nick began making a headstone and I dug a grave for our beautiful ten-year old puppy in our backyard to give him a proper burial.  I did it best I could through the tears.

The next two days were a blur.  All of us, even little Natalie, were in a complete funk. I read exerts of Mark’s book “Rescuing Sprite” and tried to find some meaning in this tragic episode. However, little comfort came our way.  All of us were in mourning.

On Wednesday, three days after that dark Sunday afternoon, I got a late morning voicemail message.  I didn’t recognize the number so I was in no hurry to check it.  Later, as I was driving to a lunch appointment I saw what looked to be an animal carcass on the side of the road.  It made me wonder…what if?  Well, I put that out of my mind and decided to check my messages the first of which was from the number I didn’t recognize.  On the other end of the line was a woman named “Kathy” who works with a group called “For the Love of Louie *Michigan Lost Pet Lookers* who said she had been contacted by a woman who told her she had found a dog in our general vicinity on Sunday night.  Kathy had got my phone number by having called the Farmington Hills Police (who, by the way, have been just fantastic through all of this) in her regular routine of follow-up in a situation like this.  Kathy explained to me why she was calling even though the police had told her they thought our “situation had been resolved.”  She began to ask me questions about Ziggy and what had happened on Sunday.  Then she blurted out “I think I know who might have your dog.”

As the Good Lord is my witness, I almost drove off the road right then and there!

Kathy immediately sent me a text photo of the dog and there he was…it had to be Ziggy!

Still not positive and feeling overwhelmed, Kathy connected me with Kayla (a gift from God) who had contacted her and had actually found the dog.  Seems Kayla had just pulled off the highway on Sunday evening and looked up to see a cold, wet and confused little dog that was very vulnerable and everyone else was driving right past.  In the true definition of a Good Samaritan, Kayla got out of her car, picked up the lost dog and began driving around the area looking for someone who might identify him.  Of course she had no luck there so she took him home, cleaned him up and started to do what she could to reunite this beautiful little Shih Tzu with his worried owners.  And that is exactly what she did.

Kayla and I exchanged calls and texts.  She said the dog had been waiting by her door for the past two days as if he was just hoping for someone to come over and pick him up.  The lady at the Humane Society told her to get solid proof that whoever claimed him was the rightful owner, but she was convinced the dog was ours when I told her his name and he came running right to her.

Though my schedule called for me to attend another political event, last Wednesday night, after three full days of grieving over the loss of our dog, I was thrilled to instead do what just hours before had been unimaginable.  Meet my new angel, Kayla, in a fast-food restaurant parking lot on the west side of Detroit to pick up our little Ziggy.  Needless to say, I brought him home to a happy, happy bunch of kids and adults, friends and family.  Natalie’s cute little puppy was back and Nick’s best friend was back at his side where he belonged.   Ziggy is back…safe and sound!  Our family was whole once again.

Like many of us, I often find myself so wrapped up in the hustle-and-bustle of life that I forget what is really important.  Too often, I don’t stop to recognize the people and creatures that make life special and give it meaning.  A little dog did that for us and without very special people like Kathy and Kayla it would not have been possible.  This Thanksgiving remember the little things we should all be thankful for.  Because, in truth, the little things are really not so little after all.

— Paul from Farmington Hills, MI


I am a USMC Veteran suffering from PTSD.  I live alone and until recently I owned a Chocolate Lab I had named Gunner.  My Psychologist at the VA had suggested I write a letter to Gunner as it might be of some help to me in my grief.

There is much to be said of the relationship between veterans and their pets. Gunner was not a certified “Service Dog,” but he was a major stabilizing factor in my life.  He was a very special dog.

This is our story.

I got Gunner when he was 3 months old.  He was my  first dog.  I spent a lot of time, effort and love in training him and by the time he was 6 years old he was as good a dog as anyone could hope for.  I was looking forward to many more years with him. He understood when I was upset and would interrupt me to play or get a brushing or a belly-rub or fetch his red “Kong” ball.

If I had a nightmare during the night he would stretch himself out next to me, or wake me up. Everyone loved him.  He was good with other dogs and he was kind, young, and tough.  He was beautiful.

But Gunner was an adventurous “country dog” and  with a road in close proximity I had to take precautions.  I tried an electronic fence but he would just go through it while it continued to shock him.  So I got a training collar and hand-held transmitter which worked well.  But I dreaded the possibility of an accident and always had an eye on his whereabouts.  Letting him out after sunset worried me the most.  Gunner was frequently slow to come when called at that time and seemed energized by the cooler temps as winter came.

So at around 8pm on Sunday November 10th (the USMC birthday) I let him out and after 10 minutes or so began pressing the beeper to call him in. No Gunner.  So I went outside and called for him. I saw no lights of any vehicles approaching on the road but if I had, I knew that I would have about 30 seconds before they reached my house.

Shortly after, I heard the sound of an impact and a car had stopped.  Despite my fear, I put on my coveralls and set out with my flashlight.  It was very cold and windy and I was expecting to find the worst.  My neighbors had also heard the impact and were out also.  They thought it may have been a deer, but I told them Gunner was missing so we began to search.  Someone thought they had heard a dog whine near the creek.

My flashlight caught the reflection of Gunners eyes.  He was upright and I ran to him. “Its ok Gunner, I’m right here.” I said.  Gunner rolled onto his side and I checked him over.  He was stunned and scared but with few visible signs of injury other than to his right leg.  I wrapped my arms around him to keep him warm and comforted him.

We got him into a wheelbarrow and into the house and onto his bed.  I called the vet and left a message.  Gunner tried to walk a couple of times but couldn’t.  The vet called and after trying to assess his condition by phone, agreed he was somewhat stable.  I arranged to bring him in the following morning.

I treated his superficial wounds and gave him crushed aspirin.  I stayed up all night with him…monitoring his breathing which was somewhat labored between 35-45 breaths. About 7 am he seemed quite a bit better and I lay down next to him and fell asleep.  The neighbor came first thing and by then Gunner was upright and alert.  He even tried to bark at the knock on the door and wagged his tail.  He drank quite a bit of water and I gave him more crushed aspirin.

So on Veterans Day I got him in the truck and took him the 25 miles to the vet.  As I left I noticed his red “Kong” ball in the neighbors yard.  He must have had it in his mouth when he was hit.  I arrived at the vet and went inside.  “My name is Cole and I have Gunner here, I need a stretcher.”   X rays showed no broken bones, but there was a pneumo thorax issue.  And he had radial nerve paralysis to his right leg. I was hoping he would live, even if he lost the limb.

Gunner was still alert and through it all he never once cried, or whimpered.  I reluctantly hugged him and told him I was leaving him there for a couple of days. I was barely holding myself together.

The next morning Nov 12 at 9 am they called and said he had turned critical and was possibly dying.  15 min later they called again to say he did not make it. He had collapsed on the exam table and died at 0915 on 11/12/13.

They wanted to do an autopsy for free so I agreed.  But I specifically asked them not to give me the results for a few days.  I was heartbroken and exhausted. I spent the day at a neighbor veterans house.  When I returned I had 2 messages on my answering machine describing the autopsy report.  I lost it and left them a message accusing them of mis-diagnosing and killing him.

I called the VA the next morning and spoke with my doctor (Jim)….I had an appointment with him the following day but I cancelled, telling him I was exhausted and barely able to talk. He re scheduled me.  I arranged for Gunners body to be cremated and settled up with vet for the bill.

The past couple weeks have been more difficult than I ever imagined.  I feel stunned, heart-broken and alone.  Despite much support I am just “muddling” through.

Two days ago I got the call and drove 50 miles through a snowstorm  to get Gunners ashes from the vet.  A tin about 6x4x4 weighing about 5 pounds (Gunner was 80 pounds).  Gunner is home but I miss him terribly.  My story, although tragic, is one of love and companionship with a very special dog. Writing this down is one way I can say good-by and I want people to know how special he was.

— Richard from Prattsburgh, NY



Princess was a llassa apsa that belonged to my son who died. I have known Princess since she was 3 weeks old. As she grew older, she got Cushings Disease, we became like two damaged souls for I ruptured several discs in my back. She was happy to stay watchfully with me 24/7 and always sensed when I was in pain to comfort me. We did everything we could to keep her alive but she passed on May 30, 2012. She died in my arms at the Vets ICU. I cannot begin to tell you the Grief and Void I felt after she died. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would have survived losing my husband pf 40 years, eight months before my 35 year old son died too. I miss her more than I could ever explain to anyone and she could never be replaced.  She was a member of my family. Dogs are God’s gift to man. If you spell the word DOG backwards, it spells God. Dogs are God’s Champions on Earth for man’s comfort. Dogs never give up on people give up on people but people give up on dogs!  A dog’s love for its owner can never be destroyed because it’s not a love they earn but a love that is given freely. Dogs are man’s best friend. They lead us to God by example because Dogs give us true UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, the way God does.

Our entire world could learn a lot from a Dogs like Loyalty and Love that Never Dies.

— Lucille from Ocean, NJ



On January 10 our beloved 8 year old heeler died very suddenly.  She seemed to be having trouble breathing and standing and shortly after my husband got her to the vet that morning she died.  Our wonderful vet performed a necropsy and found that she bled to death internally.  We have no idea why.  My husband and I are heartbroken.  She was such a good dog (I used to refer to her as my “dang good dog”).  She loved it when I said that to her.  I read Rescuing Sprite when it was first published but I intend to re-read it in hopes of finding comfort.  Thanks for all you do for shelter animals.  We have two more shelter dogs at home and that makes losing our adorable Gypsy bearable.

— Valerie from Ft. Worth, TX