When we’re young they curl up to guard our cribs. As we learn to walk, they herd us away from trouble. They run alongside our bikes and tirelessly chase the balls we throw in the park. When our children head off to college, they fill the empty nest with companionship and wagging tails. After hard days at the office, their smiles welcome us home.
When our pace slows and hearing fades, still they walk alongside, keeping us active, and providing help in ways that comfort and amaze. Over the years, we see their pace slow as well, and we see them pass into sunsets of their own. But always, a good dog is an unforgettable friend.
Scientific research has enumerated ways in which dogs benefit our health and ease the stress of life.
But the magic in the bond between us and our dogs is best understood in their stories. That’s why Boomer U invited readers to send in written tributes to dogs who changed their lives.
We received 42 stories, and had room for only 13, but our deepest thanks to everyone who wrote.
I hoped a new puppy would fill the void of my impending empty nest, but I never imagined our first golden retriever would affect my life the way he did.
My husband and I had cared for many dogs, but none like Cody. As if each day was a birthday party, Cody was euphoric over a simple walk, dog biscuit, dip in his wading pool, or even the sight of his brush. Endlessly fetching his red rubber ball put him over the moon. He’d often stuff his mouth with toys to hide his uncontrollable grin. We’d never seen such a happy dog.
At age 2, severe dysplasia led us to take Cody for a hip replacement at Washington State University. The long recovery period might have been devastating for another dog, but Cody remained completely joyful at just being alive. This dog couldn’t help himself – he was crazy with happiness.
Years later, the artificial hip failed him. On his last earthly day, Cody was in tremendous pain and unable to stand. And still, he wagged his tail at our veterinarian who arrived to end his suffering in the backyard.
That same morning, my doctor found a cancerous lump in my breast. The months following were challenging, yes, but happy and full of love as well. I’d learned to appreciate the beauty and joy in each moment, just as Cody had taught me. How could I feel anything else while picturing a smiling golden dog, tail and ears flying high, chasing his red ball?
Dalton Gardens, Idaho
Emma was the most aloof rescue Weimaraner we ever owned. Confined to a kennel for 10 hours a day, she became intensely reserved. It took us a year to break through her shield, after which she blossomed into the world’s sweetest dog. She had an unusual talent for easing human pain. During my father’s final days, Emma would park herself beside his lounge chair and prop her head on his knee. Dad would reach down and stroke her until the shake in his hand gradually disappeared.
Whenever we felt ill, depressed or stressed, Emma would join us on the couch and hop on the bed and keep us company. She was so good at detecting human suffering that we had to leash her in order to get her to leave my mother’s house after a visit.
Every evening, she met my husband with a beautiful “smile” when he came home from work. He called her his “smiley” dog, and repeatedly thanked her for easing his workday stress.
This last March, Emma succumbed to kidney disease complicated by a debilitating allergy that destroyed her hearing, exacerbated her arthritis, peppered her skin with painful lumps, and nearly crippled her with inflamed footpads. We miss her quirky, sometimes stubborn personality. But we also miss her ability to ease the pain of life, both for us and our family and friends. Emma was incredibly kind, amazingly sweet and wonderfully soothing. Her soft eyes will glow forever in our memories.
Bob and CeSanne Schwartz,
Winston Spencer Churchill McBride
Who-ee, go get ’em Wins! That began a long and wonderful relationship with the best hunting dog in the world. This big, yellow, happy-go-lucky Labrador retriever dove into the cold waters of Rock Lake in Whitman County to retrieve a duck. Unhesitant, he went head-first, like a PT boat, checked each decoy and grabbed his prize. Next, a downed goose. Low in the water, swimming mightily, exhausted, he shored and dropped the goose at my feet.
Since Winston’s first real experience, he has had many other hunts with his buddies, Hershey and Tucker. We are like a team. One puts ’em up and the others bring him in.
We have had some incredibly wonderful hunting experiences together.
Winston is the ideal companion. I scratch his ears, he sits at my wife’s feet while she quietly reads. Grandkids get big sloppy kisses. He sits when he is supposed to, and at feeding time he waits patiently. He is well liked, barks only when he needs and always finds the same place in the backyard for his “business.” Right now he detected my wife, Sandy, was going for a walk and gave one small bark to let her know that he was ready to go also.
We love our dog and he trained us well.
Jack W. McBride,
Molly is a red female Australian shepherd that came into my life in August 2006 as I was looking for a male tri-colored Australian shepherd puppy. She was 3 years old and was being given away. I decided to take a look at her. At the time I was about to lose my beloved Yorkie of 16 years due to declining health.
My mother, with whom I was very close, was in the beginning stages of dementia, so my heart was breaking. I saw Molly, and thought, “well, she seems nice, I’ll take her.”
Molly and I bonded instantly and she seemed to know just how to fix my broken heart with lots of love and never leaving me out of her sight. I often say I should have renamed her Rescue, since she rescued me as much as I rescued her.
Today, I run a pet sitting business, and Molly is the one I trust to let me know if a dog is suitable to stay with us, as she is a great judge of character. She loves going to work with me to feed and walk the guest dogs as well as always making sure they have fun and feel at home.
Thank you, Molly, for being a great partner and my best friend.
Priest River, Idaho
My husband and I both grew up with dogs and after we got married, we found out we couldn’t have children. We poured our energy into teaching high school physical education, health, and history along with coaching various sports year round. Our students and athletes became our family and kids we couldn’t have. As teachers and coaches we traveled a lot coaching sports and taking students on field trips. We knew we couldn’t have a dog because we were gone so much.
In 2007 we retired here in Spokane and as soon as we got settled we decided to visit some rescue kennels to adopt a dog. We walked several dogs and fell in love with Josie, a 6-month-old chocolate Lab mix. She was the only dog who wasn’t barking and jumping up and down when we walked down the row of dogs in the kennel.
Josie became the child we didn’t have. My husband would walk or run with her in the mornings, three to five miles every day, and I would do the same with her in the afternoons.
Josie has become the light of our lives and is always happy to see us, wagging her tail and needing to be petted whenever we walk into the house. Our retirement would be very empty without her and we hope she lives a long life.
Ken and Teddie Bell,
I will be 59 this August. Since becoming an academic, my backside grew exponentially as writing demands increased. I went from being an energetic high school band director to a sedentary college faculty member. Last May I experienced a frightening, stress-induced heart episode. Mother died of a heart attack at 62 and her mother at 60 and I realized I could not continue to sit for hours at a computer.
My husband and I adopted a border collie/Lab puppy a year ago. We named him Victor.
Victor needs activity. I need activity, and there’s an app for that! I downloaded “Couch to 5K,” bought fancy running shoes, and Victor dragged me up and down the hills in downtown Moscow. Victor is true to his border collie roots: as long as he has a job to do, he’s not eating our house.
As Victor runs, he puts his head down, trots a steady 144 beats per minute, never wavering in his dedication to drag my butt around Moscow at the same speed. I am not complaining: I won my division in a recent fun run with Victor pulling me along the Lewiston levees.
I am no longer short of breath when I walk up the hill to the administration building. Stress remains but Victor’s efforts on my behalf should not go unrecognized. This crazy dog is saving my life.
If there was ever a special boomer dog, Washtucna Grizz was that dog. After losing a puppy, run over by a speeding dirt bike, a year went by before I started looking for another retirement companion. I answered an ad in The Spokesman-Review from the Ritzville Pet Rescue saying they had an Australian shepherd/yellow Lab mix puppy. His caretakers brought him up from Washtucna and then to Spokane.
I first met him in a store parking lot, where his caretakers released him from his crate and he bounded across the parking lot to me and licked my face. A very special bond was formed at that moment. He went everywhere with me, always at my heels. He grew into a 100-pound loving baby. The most gentle dog I have ever owned.
He camped, fished and hiked with me and spent a great deal of one-on-one time on my lap. He cuddled my grandchildren when they were toddlers and protected them. Everywhere he went people commented on his beautiful coat and color. He always knew when I needed comfort and reassurance when times were tough. A boomer dog he was.
His time on this earth was short, way too short. He crossed the rainbow bridge from a sudden illness at the young age of 6, while I was away from him for several weeks working a natural disaster. I had planned many more retirement years with him, however it wasn’t to be. I will never forget him or his loving nature.
Paul C. Schlosser,
Nine Mile Falls
The bond between a dog and its owner can never be undervalued. As a veterinary practice manager, I witnessed unconditional love from Pansy, a German shepherd, and her owner, Rene. Rene took impeccable care of Pansy. Pansy had surpassed her life expectancy by several years. Still, mourning comes in stages and Rene was not ready.
Pansy understood. Rene convinced our tender doctor to administer fluids and pain relief through the daytime, and she would continue her care at night. Morning time Pansy would sulk after Rene left her with us.
In the evening, Rene would return for her. Telepathically, Pansy sensed her arrival. Shaking off her lethargy, Pansy would rise up on all fours, wagging her tail enthusiastically to greet Rene. They had their own language and could sense one another’s needs. Our veterinary team could watch Pansy’s behavior and know when Rene was close by. It was amazing!
Rene explained, “My husband died a few years ago. He was an abusive alcoholic. Pansy understood. Every day she met me at the back door. If my husband was OK she would greet me enthusiastically. If he was in a drunken rage she would cower and whine. We would then drive around the block for 30 minutes until he passed out and it was safe to go inside. You may think I extended her life too long, but how could I give her less?”
Henry and Kali
In 2001 I was coming out of a divorce, living on my own. Even though the divorce was fairly amicable and the healthiest thing for me, I still felt a lot of grief and sadness. I felt such inertia, any activity was painful. Breathing was painful.
Enter my dog Henry, a 2-month-old fuzzy red collie mix puppy someone dumped into my friends’ yard. I adopted him and he became my “rescue dog.” He required walks at least twice daily. He got me outside, to breathe, move and engage in the wonderful conversations dog owners can have on walks.
I continued to transition through this life process, much happier and healthier. Henry got me back into community. I was lucky enough to have him until a brain tumor took him at 10 years of age.
Six months after his death Henry sent me a new puppy to take care of – Kali, a 6-month-old shepherd mix. We rescued each other too. Now a year old, she needs even more exercise than Henry did, keeping me fit and healthy as I transition into sixty-dom.
“It takes a village.”
We’ve all heard that as it applies to our children, but in thinking back over the last 42 years, we have had 11 dogs, two to three at a time, and for one in particular, this phrase applies.
Levi was a handsome tri-color basset hound. He lost his left eye to a porcupine quill, thus making him very recognizable. Being very friendly he decided to explore the land down below our house north of Hangman Hills.
He split his time between us and lots of nice people who watched out for him. One lady was finally able to convince him to enter her home where she spoiled him. She would call to let us know that she was keeping him for the night due to inclement weather. Another gentleman would admonish Levi for going down the middle of Baltimore Road and tell him to at least get over to the side of the road. I heard about one man who stopped his car to scare away some coyotes who were too close to Levi in a nearby field.
All the children in the neighborhood played with Levi.
Unfortunately Levi met his demise traveling down Baltimore Road at age 13. I put an obituary in the paper thanking all of those kind people in the Hangman area who had taken care of Levi, from his loving family “two hills and a wheat field away.” So it really does take a village after all.
In the 1960s, people often left unwanted animals in the Spokane Valley where we lived. That’s how we obtained a forlorn pup.
Our son was delighted with him, so we gave him a home and named him Fritz. He grew to be a handsome 70-pound dog.
One day a car pulled up in front of our house. Fritz would not let the driver out of his car! Fritz hadn’t acted this way before.
I yelled out the front door asking what he wanted. He said he was selling TV cable hookups.
This was strange. If he was from the cable company, why didn’t he know we already had cable? I kept watching.
He continued down the street a few houses, then stopped at a house that he could see had somebody home. The lady was home alone, and I saw the man go into her house.
Fritz saw this too. Down the street he tore and clawed at her screen door. The so-called salesman then left in a hurry with the lady holding Fritz by his collar.
The neighbor lady later told me she could not get this man to leave until Fritz hit the screen door. She said she was scared to death and felt Fritz had rescued her.
The cable company told me they knew nothing about this man.
Fritz never again displayed aggression. To this day I wonder what caused his behavior.
At a young age our rescue dog had marked his account “paid in full.”
“Have I got a deal for you! This is going to change your life.” The call came from my lifelong buddy Jack McBride, whose friend was moving to Texas and needed a home for a 14-month-old chocolate Lab. Good timing. I was through working and Karen had retired from Bloomsday. Hershey turned out to be a gentle giant, overfed and weighing 106 pounds, and Jack was right. Hershey changed our lives. He goes everywhere with us, claims two-thirds of the sofa and king-size bed and is a bird-hunting fool.
Karen’s running ended after three marathons and chronic Achilles tendonitis. She still walked, two to three miles, two to three times per week. Research suggests owning a dog leads to a longer life, which could be due to cross-species social effects (e.g., companionship), but increased activity levels due to walking the dog likely play a part.
In the last seven years, Karen has averaged four to five miles per day, five to six days per week, year-round. She’s healthier and Hershey is a trim and fit 90 pounds.
I often go for my run on the Centennial Trail just as she is finishing her walk, so she hands Hershey off for an additional three to five miles. Whether it’s his reddish-brown coat, tall stature, placid demeanor or regal bearing, he is a favorite, especially with the women. As we pass, they call out, “Hi Hershey,” and eagerly talk to a gray-bearded old guy whom they otherwise would ignore. I should have had such a “chick magnet” when I was much younger.
We have a three-pound, 12-year-old Yorkie. Her tongue hangs out because she has no teeth to hold it in. She has seizures, a neurological issue and no control over bowels (but tries to get out the doggie door). She walks like a model strutting down the aisle because her back legs cross.
We adopted her last December after she was found in the Mission area, with dog bites all over her body, hair missing, and weighing a little over a pound.
She is the most adorable, loving, feisty little gal, rules the house, and doesn’t take any crap from the other two little ones we have.
You can have a bad day at work, not feel good, be depressed, or just anything going wrong – and when you get home and see her jumping up and down because she is so happy to see you, all those feelings go away, especially when you think about what she had to go through to survive in this world.
I could go on and on with great stories about this little angel, that you would be crying and laughing at the same time. She will melt your heart. Her name is Angel. Her friends, a blond Chihuahua named Paco and a Boston named Buddy, watch after her like a little sister.
Mike and Sharon Peluso,