A Farewell Letter To My Girl Who Was Never ‘Just A Dog’

Goon with Me B&W
Photo: Tony Nolley

Goonie Bug:

I thought it would be enough. All the snuggling and cuddling we did those last few days. Sleeping with you on the floor. Holding your paws. Singing to you and whispering in your ear how amazing you’ve been for so long.

I thought if I spent as much time as possible telling you how much I loved you that it would be enough. That after you’d gone I wouldn’t feel that urgent need to wrap you in my arms one more time. To whisper into your sweet, soft face how much you mean to me, to us. How desperately you will be missed.

I was wrong. Because I know now it’s never enough. We’re human, and we will always want one more time. One more kiss. One more snuggle. One more everything.

We tried, those last few days to give you everything that would make you happy. Peanut butter Kong. Steak. Visits from special friends. Walks – which you decided suddenly you couldn’t get enough of. That made me completely second guess our decision on the whole matter. But I’m told these things happen before…suddenly there’s an uptick in energy. An easing of the burden of sickness and old age.

I believe you knew. And part of me also believes you were relieved. Ready to go.

The day before we said goodbye you wanted to be everywhere and sniff everything with a fervor you haven’t had in months, maybe years. The energy in the house had changed and you needed to take advantage of every moment you had left. And you did. At the park. At home, giving smooches to everyone who came to visit you. When we sat in a circle around you on the floor and you moved from one to the next to the next of us, like the hands of a clock slowly ticking round and round, you went four or five times around our circle, giving and receiving love.

That’s what you did best, Gooner. Always the consummate love bug.

When you left, the house was a foreign, painful place for me. Every room held the memory of you, signs of you everywhere, but no you anywhere.

Your beds, one in the living room, one in the bedroom, empty and waiting for you to come lie down. Your tiny squeaky duck – the favorite toy you never played with anymore, lying alone on the living room floor. Your dishes, empty, in the kitchen. Your bags and leash hanging by the door, ready. Your shampoo and conditioner, open, in the tub, like they might be used again soon. Your blanket folded up on the couch. All little pieces of you, but not you. Heartbreaking reminders of what we’re missing now.

I miss your sounds. The life in your noise. I miss the delicate snicking of your nails across the tile and wood floors. I miss the snoring, always snoring. At the very least, the heavy breathing. That breath held so much life. I miss the squeaking in dreams and running to catch those pesky squirrels. I miss the panting, which accompanied every little step you took these last few months. I miss the sound your paws made rubbing against the corduroy on your bed when you circled round and round and round…and round for ten minutes before you decided to lie down. I miss every little bit of you.

I used to think I didn’t mind being alone, spending time by myself. Thing was, I was never alone. Not for the last fifteen years. You were always there with me. Thank you for being there for so long, even through your own pain.

I still look for you around corners. Still watch for you at the top of the stairs when we come home. Still imagine I’ll see you lying on your bed, dreaming with your little tongue sticking out. You are so very much still here with us, Gooner Bug.

I can feel the soft peach fuzz of your head and ears under my hands. Smell the corn chip scent of your paws. I think about how delicately you opened presents at Christmas and how you didn’t care if that wasn’t your present to open. They were all your presents. The way you would just drop on top of me when I was lying on the floor. How we’d snuggle and you would lie there with your chin burrowed into my chest breathing into me, without moving, like you owned me. Which, of course, you did.

In the last few months, you would come to me in the morning, still tired from waking. You’d stand at the top of the stairs and I’d pet you and comfort you before I had to give you your morning pill. And most days as I massaged under your chin, you would lean closer and closer to me and soon you were falling asleep into me, letting me hold you, lift you up.

That’s what you did for me all these years, Gooner Bug. You lifted me up. You made me better. And you always made me feel like I was the best mother ever, even when I was failing miserably. That was your purpose. To love and be loved. And like I said before, you did good, kid.

When you sat at my feet that day so many years ago, staring up at me with all your crazy puppy energy and your itty bitty bits of wild neuroses, did you know? Did you know the adventure we were about to embark upon together?

I think you did. You knew how much I needed you. So thank you, my sweet, silly, beautiful puppy, for choosing me. For not letting me walk away from you without taking you home to turn my whole world upside down in the best possible way.

I remember so much right now because I don’t want to forget. I’m afraid if I start forgetting one thing it’ll avalanche into a complete failure to remember anything at all after a while and I cannot bear the idea of that. So I hold on to all the details. All the moments and memories of our life together because I need to keep you close right now.

Maybe someday I’ll have to let some of that go, because senility, but right now, you’re safe with me, Little Monkey. Like I was with you. And you’re not going anywhere.

Love you always, Gooner Bug.

Goon paws B&WYour Mommy

Kelly Byrne
An award-winning writer in many a genre, I currently herd words into novels and short stories about wildly flawed, but lovable characters. I strive to uncover the extraordinary in the ordinary, for those who believe in the possibility of the impossible, and those who always believe in love. My fiction embraces the idea that extraordinary things can and do happen in the real world. These whisperings of supernatural elements give my work a strong emotional edge, lending surprise and wonder to every story. I live in Los Angeles with my desperately handsome boyfriend where I’m working on my next novel.


  1. Beautiful, Kelly. I loved your girl so much and never sing “Icarus” without thinking of her, because that was the song she loved most. I’d start playing it for her, and she’d immediately plop down in front of me, wildly wagging her tail, and looking as though she were smiling from ear to ear. What a love bug, indeed.

  2. I knew you before Goon and can attest that her effect on your life was HEALING among a long list of other things. Didn’t you get her when you were living in that 1BR apartment in Hollywood? I remember her visiting us in Colorado for Christmas a few years back. Our Huskies were so confused as to why Goon could stay inside… But they had each other and she had YOU. Always did. Always will.

    A BEAUTIFUL TRIBUTE to a spectacular dog!

    1. Thank you, Temp. And thank you for the photo. She was a spectacular dog, and boy was I freaked out when your friend had to chase after the plane on the runway when it was trying to take off with her in it…and me not. That was a crazy couple days. She was a healer, for sure. We miss her so much.

  3. Oh Kelly, I’ve read this over and over and cry each and every time…that’s why it’s taken me a while to comment. It’s just so beautifully written and captures the LOVE and PURE JOY we get and have with our furry babies. I have two Goldens and love them so deeply that just reading this makes my heart break at the thought of not having them in my life. You and your Goon share a bond and love that will never die. I send such love and hugs your way. I hope the outpouring of love and support brings you some measure of comfort. Love you my friend and thank you always for sharing your heart with us. xoxox

    1. Thank you so much for the love and support, Susan. It’s been a rough day for me here today. Two weeks exactly and FedEx just delivered her ashes. I can’t open the box right now. It’s like saying goodbye all over again. Squeeze your babies tight for me. Lots of love. xoxo

      1. Awww….the ashes. Take your time dear heart. Keep them, spread them in her favorite spot…whatever you want…just take it slow. Here is one of my favorite Rumi quotes that will be going in my book about sibling loss…I read it over and over again: “Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”

        Sending you more love today…xoxoxox

  4. A tough story to tell, but beautifully written. I am so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you.
    One of my labs is really getting old now and I cherish each moment I still have with him.

    I found your blog through my friend Susan Casey. And i just wanted to add that i love your writing. I read Chasing Kate and loved it. I hope the writing gives you some comfort in this difficult time.

    1. Hi, Yvon! Well, any friend of Susan’s is a friend of mine. She’s such a beautiful soul. Thank you, again, for your incredibly kind words. I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear that about my work today. Writing can be a rough road sometimes and encouragement is always appreciated. 🙂

      It’s been tough without The Goon. The house is too damn quiet, but we’re moving through the grief. I miss her every day and some days are better than others, but that’s just the process of losing loved ones. We carry on. And yes, cherish all the moments you have left. They’re precious.

      Now to a bit of business. I hate asking, but I must because it’s part of the job, so I hope you understand. I’m thrilled you loved Chasing Kate and I would be ever grateful if you could leave a short (or long, whatever your pleasure) review on Amazon & Goodreads. (Or just Amazon if you’re not on Goodreads)

      Here’s the link to the review page: http://amzn.to/1l2kIhZ

      And here’s a link to the Goodreads page (you can just copy and paste): http://bit.ly/1MNml9f

      If you don’t have time or don’t want to, I totally understand. No worries. But I have to ask. It’s part of our job description as writers. 😉 If you do write one, I want to thank you in advance for your support. It means a lot.

      I look forward to many more conversations with you, Yvon. Thanks again for stopping by the blog. 🙂

      1. Hi again. What a warm welcome, I already love it here.

        I just popped back in to say that I left a review on both Amazon and Goodreads. You can find it under Yvon Stokkink (Amazon has my maiden name Kerkdijk).

        I wish you strength as you move through your grief and hope you can find ease in the writing and sharing of your story.

        1. Thank you so much, Yvon. It’s been hard for me to write for the last few months. Well, for longer than that if I’m totally honest, but the writing hasn’t been coming easily to me lately because I’ve been living in that grief for so long watching her decline. I’m not one of those who generally uses the pain to write. It tends to sideswipe me and I’m down for the count. But I’d like to become that writer. I think there’s a lot of power in that pain. Just need to figure out how to get it all out in a constructive way.

          And thank you so much for your beautiful review! I love the reasoning behind your rating too. Thanks for sharing that. Gives me something to strive for. 🙂

          1. Hi again Kelly,
            I wanted to come back here and explain how this post has been given a deeper meaning in my life. One week after posting my reply on your blog, we lost our own love bug, our 10 year old Phobos. He was getting noticably older, but we thought we would still have time, the way we will always want to believe there is more time. Then last Wednesday he had had an internal bleed and we had to say goodbye to him mere hours later.

            I have read this post several times since and I wanted you to know that it has given me comfort. It has made me smile.
            I too will remember our crazy Mr Wigglemunch, our Goon.

            Thanks to his little brother (not really, but we call him that) the house is not painfully empty. Thanks to him there is still someone to bring our many hugs to. But still…it will take time. And I intend to honor that time. For Phobos.

            So thanks again for this post. It has comforted me and will be a source of comfort to many more. I am sure of it.

            1. Oh Yvon, I’m so very sorry to hear about Phobos. No wonder this touched you so deeply. I’m so glad my words could help you in this time of grieving and loss. I know nothing will take that pain away – we both know – but it helps to be able to share in the pain sometimes with those who are going through the same things. I’m glad you have his little brother to snuggle and love, but there will always be the pain of losing him. Each one makes a unique imprint on our hearts, and some deeper than others. Know I’m thinking about you and sending you love and light in your time of grief.

  5. Hi Kelly. I’m the other Kelly’s mom. The beautiful girl that came to visit you. I came across your story of Goon and my heart goes out to you. It’s been 5 years since we lost our darling basset hound Abby and she is still in our hearts. Talk about her weekly and know she will never leave our memories. So, don’t worry if it takes you longer than you think to have your memories not hurt like they do now.
    Since our Abby is gone I started pet sitting in peoples homes with their beloved fur babies and that has helped me fill the whole in my heart to a degree. I’m like a grandmother to all of them cause I can love them, spoil them, and let the owners suffer. Not really, I feel they are all better off kowing me. Anyway, my thoughts are with you & thank you for showing our Kelly a great time while she was there. Mimi

    1. Hi Donna! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. And thank you for your kind words. I’m really sorry about your Abby. It truly does stink that they don’t stick around longer.

      I actually was considering doing doggy AirBnB through Dogvacay or Rover.com – even signed up and created an account. But I’m not sure I’m up for it just yet. Definitely something I’ll look into at some point. I was considering dog walking and pet sitting as well. We’ll see what the new year brings. Right now I think my heart just needs to heal a little more. But I’m so happy that pet sitting has brought you and the munchkins you sit for great joy. I look forward to that. 🙂

      It was my pleasure to have your Kelly visit us. It’s such a wonderful thing to meet someone online and have that instant connection. Rare and beautiful. And then to be able to extend it to Real Life? Well, that truly is a blessing. She’s a blessing and I’m so happy to have her in my life.

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