I honestly started blogging so I could post house updates, and recipes, and projects. But it seems to be the heartfelt things I share that resonate the most with everyone.
So strap yourselves in,
We put Harley Davidson down last week.
She started coughing over the weekend, and when antibiotics didn’t help – she stopped eating and lost all her energy – the vet took some chest X-rays and discovered the worst; she had an enlarged heart pressing on her infected lungs…… Imagine that, her heart was too big.
There’s no cure. Not really any treatment. And the vet said that she probably only had days left. We didn’t want her to suffer any longer than she already had been. So we made the shittiest decision we had to make – and agreed that it was time to let her go.
I’m not sure if City Vet was expecting two big men sobbing and crying that much, but someone produced a fresh box of Kleenex about every 10 minutes.
I sat there on the floor with her, rubbed her behind the ears like she liked, and told her what a good girl she was and how much Daddy and I loved her. She closed her eyes, and our short time with her was all over.
She was loved so very, very much.
We found Harley almost exactly 8 years ago online through D.A.S.H. Dog Rescue, an Australian Shepard rescue society. They didn’t know much about her. She was about two or three years old, had been a breeding dog for a while, and lived in a cramped apartment with a few other dogs and a baby. That’s about it. She had a single tag that read “HARLEY” and directly under that, “baby girl”.
We drove to Addison to meet her on a brite October Saturday and fell in love at first sight. (That one floppy ear did it for me. Her “wabisabi” – the natural imperfection that made her perfect.) Well, Jamie and I fell in love…..Harley didn’t want anything to do with us. She’d already attached herself to her foster mother’s son and cried at the door when he left. I’m pretty sure we had to drag her into the car.
We needed to take her home and spoil her.
I bought her a dog collar engraved with her name and pearls to wear at Christmas that made her look like Lisa Simpson.
Jamie showered her with hard rubber chew toys, tennis balls, and noise-making stuffed animals – the fluffy polyester entrails of which were usually strewn all over the house.
Jamie spent every day – all day – with her. He works from home and his office is what we called “her room”. She lay under his desk farting through all of his conference calls. He walked her, he fed her, dealt her medications, took her to doggy daycare 3 days a week (she knew it as “school”), gave her treats and did most of the disciplining. And me? I’m the weekend Daddy ….. who happened to have a lot of rules; no barking, no “people food”, no dogs on the furniture, especially the bed – like I couldn’t tell there was a Doberman shaped impression on my side of the bed every time I returned from a trip.
I came home from work one day to an empty house and Harley met me at the door. When she saw it was me, and not the “good Daddy”, she let out a huge sigh and turned back to her room. I didn’t take it personally. I’d rather hang with the guy who feed me peanut butter and let me sleep on the sofa too.
People who tell you that dogs don’t understand what we say are so wrong. Anyone who has ever had a close relationship with one knows that they most certainly do. Harley understood everything we said to her. To the point where she was learning to spell. She even knew hand signals.
Harley, like all Dobermans, was smart as a whip. She quickly learned that she could open the doors at doggy daycare, but she wouldn’t dare pass through them. She’d just open the door for other dogs. Much like the way I used to write my brother’s name in the dust on the piano in the living room.
It only took me a weekend to teach her to ring a bell on the back door when she wanted to go outside. I though she would associate the noise with “needing to poop”. But she saw it as her opportunity to see what the neighbor dogs were doing, or the squirrels, or where those gunshots were coming from, or how close that fire engine was, or just to patrol her domain. Usually, around 2 am every morning she’d ring the bell. We’d both lay in bed, trying to ignore her continuous jingling, until one of us would give in and open the door for her…just so she could make sure our backyard was still there.
The picture of her lounging on her bed is from my pipe project book. Of all the pictures we took of her……it’s my favorite. Although it wasn’t much of a struggle to decide to put it on the cover, taking that photo was. I kept yelling at her to “LOOK AT ME!” ….. ”LOOK AT DADDY!” to the point where she just bowed her head in shame. I eventually got Jamie to stand behind me holding a fresh, stuffing-filled squeaky toy….and that did it.
She’s looking right at him; her good ear at attention, paws dangling delicately over the edge – Jamie photo shopped out her pink nail polish that one of the girls at daycare had given her – of the dog bed that I handcrafted for her.
It may look like it’s just her…..but I can see all three of us in that picture.
We repeated this modeling scenario at Christmas when I thought it would be “fun” to stick a wreath around her neck and use it for our Christmas card. Harley didn’t see the fun in it at all. But after about an hour of the three of us wrestling on the garage floor, even the promise of a squeaky toy didn’t help this time, she finally perked her head up and looked directly at the camera.
And with an expression that seems to say, “See what I have to put up with?”
I had my masterpiece; literally, that one shot in a thousand. Not only was it our Christmas card that year, but I also printed an 8 x 10 and framed it….
Harley had a great life. And we, without a doubt, had a better life with her in it.
It’s been a hard couple of days. Jamie and I have tried to keep ourselves busy, but it’s just so obvious that something is missing.
The three of us were so lucky to have found each other.
Now there’s a huge hole in our hearts without her.
She was, after all, our “baby girl”.
and we miss her so very much,
I’m so so sorry, James. We put one of our dogs down last May but it was much easier, as he was 18 and basically we had been hospice-ing him for some time. But this sudden loss has to be so difficult. Thinking of you and Jamie now. Love to you!
So very sorry for your loss & I do so understand the hole that is in your hearts. I have owned two American Eskimos , one for 15 years & the other for 16 years and both had to be put to sleep because of illnesses. I will share with you that as time goes on, you will be able to think of getting another pet who needs you as much as Harley did. I taught high school English & taught “A Tree Grows in Brookyn.” A quote from the book I always remember — “It’s a very small heart that can love but only one.” (A young girl resented her mother remarrying after her policeman father had been killed. ) The two of you have shown repeatedly that you have big hearts and can share your lives and home with someone who needs you, And when the time is right, another beautiful soul, wrapped in fur, will find you. Giving you hugs from Austin and know that you made her life an absolute paradise.
“ We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way.” Irving Townsend.
Hugs to you both
I love your tribute to your best friend Harley. What a special girl and what lucky guys to have found her.
Hard to write through my tears. It’s been my experience that our four-legged loved ones come around
after their passing just to say ‘I’m fine, don’t worry, all is well” not in a creepy way, but just to help you through your grieving. Thank you for sharing Harley with all of us. xxoo
I hope another dog will be so lucky when the time is right. “Another” really is what helps fill the hole in your heart. 💙
What an incredibly beautiful and moving tribute to your baby girl. Harley could have found no better parents than both of you. ❤
In tears. So sorry for your loss. xx
Oh, guys…I am so sorry for your loss. I have yet to discover the words to ease the pain of the loss of a pet, they seem to take a piece of our hearts with them when they leave, don’t they? Watch for your white feather, Harley will send one to let you know she’s alright and still with you. Thinking of the both of you…
I am so sorry for your loss. It’s so difficult losing a family member, especially when it’s so unexpected. Keep your memories close to your heart, and be comforted by the love of your family and friends. RIP, sweet Harley.
I am so sorry. I hate to admit I started following your blog because of Harley. I loved all your stories and seeing how much you adored her. God bless you for giving her the best life. I hope you save another dog in honor of Harley.
James, I’m so so sorry for y’alls loss. Harley is such a big part of your blog and always will be. I can’t imagine the weight on your heart. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories.
I’m so sorry. Your girl was so regal. Soon your only memories of Harley will be funny ones. My son got a lab/Weimaraner puppy in kindergarten. He had to go with us as a senior in high school to put her down. He and I did a road trip half way across the country to get another $50 black lab/Weimaraner puppy. She is also a joy and she gets to visit him in college occasionally. I’m glad we didn’t wait to get another puppy who needed a home.
I am so sorry to read about Harley and for the loss you are feeling. You gave her such a wonderful gift by rescuing her, and I know she enriched your lives. RIP Harley.
I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet girl Harley.
So, So sorry for your loss. I read this while my 6 year old Annie is curled up on bed with me. I dread the day when this happens to me. I hope I go first. Yes, I understand our dogs,our babies, as I prefer to call them, understand what we say, our moods, our movements. Hugs to you and Jamie and know you gave Harley the best life.
Sugar, I’m so very sorry. I know how much that hurts. Bless and hug.
They give you all the love they have and then some. It sounds corny but if we all followed their lead… good God, could you imagine the kind of world we’d have? Our pets remind us every day how loving we could be. That’s why it hurts so much when they’re gone. The loss is elevated by the guilt we feel that we are still here and they are not. The good news is they absolutely know how much they were loved by us. You guys gave Harley a wonderful life. She’s at peace now and I hope you will find it too.
So sorry for the loss of your fur baby. Hugs and lots of love to both of you.
I have been through the loss of a special “baby”. I’m so very sorry. She was a beautiful girl. Sending thoughts for healing to you both.
My heart is broken for both of you. I just had to put my baby boy Oliver down. I had never had my own dog before and he was so much more than a dog. I swear that we understood each other. Just by looking into his face I knew what he needed and if I was having a bad day he seemed to understand. I was so blessed to have had that kind of love for 16 years. His last day was July 3 and I miss him as much today as I did that awful day. I have two daughters that are the executive directors of no kill animal shelters so I understand that there are so many wonderful animals waiting for loving homes. I am so looking forward to meeting my next baby boy. I’m sending loving thoughts to you both.
I know that Tim met her at the bridge.
James and Jamie,I am very sorry to hear of the loss of Harley. I had to put down my cat Molly a few months ago. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made! Everyone told me to get a new
cat but I wasn’t ready. One day I decieded to make a donation to a cat rescue in her name every
month. It really helped to know that Molly mattered I really was not ready to for new cat. One day
I was on pet finder trying to choose a rescue to donate to that month. I found one in Avon Indiana
which was started two young girls. After I made the donation one of them called me. She asked if
I would like to come look at the shelter. So Mike and I jumped in the car and went. It was lovely
but the best surprise was a beautiful siamese snowshoe cat named Stella!!! She melted my heart
the minute I saw her. Someone had dumped her on the coldest day of the year! She latched on
to me as if to say “hi mom lets go home” Mike and I are so in love with her she is not Molly just Stella!
I know your hearts are broke. Grieving is a process but try to remember Harley and all the good times
you had with her. I am thinking of both of you with love. Dottie
I am so very sorry for your loss. We put our Harley down August 2, just two months ago, but it still feels like yesterday. He developed a fast growing mass in his throat and couldn’t eat or barely even breathe anymore. He was 5 days away from his 12th birthday. It was harder than what I could have even imagined, but somehow he knew and told me it was time to go. Thank you for sharing your sweet girl with all of us.
So heartbreaking to lose a precious family member like Harley. Thank you for writing about her and sharing with us all.
Thank you for sharing this. Our beloved, rescued 13 yr. old Boston Terrier is still with us but last year she spent a week at Texas A&M Veterinary hospital and they found a pituitary tumor. She had radiation in Dallas and is doing well but we know it is just a matter of time before the tumor grows too large again. We won’t put her through the trauma of treatment again. I already have crying jags just thinking about losing her. They are so precious. Sending you condolences and hugs. Harley will live on in your hearts. ❤️
Hoping you have peace knowing what a wonderful life you gave her. ❤️
So sorry for your loss, a beautiful tribute to your baby girl. In tears for you both.
Dear James and Jamie, I am so very sorry for your loss. We had to make that same horrible decision and final act of love for our beautiful boy Baxter in February. This is from a card I received “Perhaps the saddest loss of all is no longer being seen through such loving eyes”. Sending love to you both.
With sympathy, in the loss of your pet
They will not go quietly,
the pets who’ve shared our lives.
In subtle ways they let us know
their spirit still survives.
Old habits still can make us
think we hear them at the door
or step back when we drop
a tasty morsel on the floor.
Our feet still go around the place
the food dish use to be
and sometimes coming home at night
we miss them terribly.
And although time may bring new friends
and a new food dish to fill,
that one place in our hearts belongs to
them…and always will.
I am so truly sorry for your loss. You were a family; she was loved, you were loved by her. I always find I am the one that is for the better for having that special soul in my life. The sweet memories will always live in your heart. You just have to look there to find them. May you be at peace. Christine.
I’m so sorry for your loss. My little 8 year old Havanese has developed a autoimmune disease which affects her muscles that control grabbing and chewing her food. She’s on steroids now and is doing OK. But I’m a basket case. I can’t let her go but I can’t let her suffer. It’s so difficult. She’s brought us so much joy and is the sweetest most obiedent little dog. I share your pain and sadness as I know it won’t be long and my heart is breaking at the thought.
It’s so hard, cause pets are people too…
I had to read this post in two parts, it made me weepy half way through. I have three adult children and it sometimes annoys me when people compare their pets to children. Love is love. I know the loss of a pet and if someone told me I would always out live my children…. We do it anyways, we pick them out ( or they pick us) knowing that we only have them for a time. I know your loss! Thinking of you both. Thank you for such a sweet post!!
I’m so sorry for your loss. Dobermans Dobermans are just super – energetic clubbed with tremendous strength and stamina. Loyal, Tolerant and affectionate are the adjectives goes perfectly well with them. They are the outstanding guard dog but also a gentle family companion.
((James)) I’m so sorry you’ve lost your precious girl! How sad!
I am so very sorry.
I’m bawling 😦 So sorry for the loss of your beautiful, beloved Harley. I lost my 15 year old pointer last December, my 13 year old setter two months ago, and my remaining two chihuahuas are both 12 years old. It is so hard! You did the right thing for Harley, and he knew he was well-loved…
Oh dear ones…..I am so late getting back here to read this and extend my deepest sympathies! I wish I was not so familiar with this soul-crushing pain you are living with. My husband and I were active animal rescuers here in Dallas for 15 years. We finally “retired” from it (sort of) and now just donate money to other rescues. At our highest point, we had 11 sweet dogs that were not adoptable. That number has now dwindled down to 4, as they passed away from old age, terrible cancers and/or other old-age maladies that made their lives too miserable to keep going. I miss each one of them every single day. Two of the last 4 are definitely “circling the drain” as we speak but they are still strong and happy and have not let us know it is time. I am so so sorry that Harley has left you. When I read your beautiful tribute to her, I wept as though she was mine. She was truly magnificent and you guys were exceptional pet parents. Your loving kindness to her very last breath was what all dogs deserve. And these wonderful comments from your readers also moved me deeply. Your little blog has touched the hearts and lives of so many of us, and we are better for it. Thank you for sharing Harley with us, as well as the ins and outs of your weekly lives. You are all very loved. And we are grieving with you. Hugs!
Thank you Vickie, it’s been about a month now and we’re adjusting. As much as we love this house, and we certainly do, I would have no problem selling it next week and moving. There’s something missing here…..and it feels emptier day by day. Jamie is out of town this week and I’ll be here alone for the first time since……We’ve both lost dear pets before and we know how slowly the healing comes. I know that one day we’ll be ready to start over, probably next year. We’ll rescue a couple. Don’t worry about that. We still have so much love to give. I’m seriously blown away by everyone’s comments. Yours is actually the first I’ve responded to. I just haven’t had the words. But we’re truly grateful to everyone who felt compelled to reach out with their condolences. I never imagined that so many people would feel connected to us and our Harley. And it’s very humbling……
Most beautiful, y’all are amazing with most beautiful family . All love to you to infinity!❤️❤️❤️ I will save this forever. ❤️❤️