Dog Gone

Why do they say “man’s best friend?”  Surely, women and children  are also succeptible to a dog’s unconditional love and bountiful affection.  For me, Hickory, a golden retriever, was truly one of my dearest friends and companions for almost 15 years.

Hickory helped me raise my children.  Hickory taught me the meaning of unconditional love.  Hickory was so cherished that he was subject to the rules of ‘joint custody’ after my divorce, shuttling between my home and my ex’s.  Hickory loved peanut butter and was afraid of thunder storms . . . that is, until he became deaf and no longer could hear them.

This kind being taught me about elder care.  For the last 2 years, he lived solely at my house, always by my side.  I lifted him when his frail legs could not support him.  I supported him up and down the ramp that enabled him to navigate stairs.  I guided him to food when he couldn’t find it anymore, not even with his sense of smell.

And I held him, whispering in his ear when the vet gave him the injection that led him to the Rainbow Bridge.  Though his absence pains me, I remember with love his steady example of patience, joy, and presence.  I hold Hickory, always, in my heart with gratitude. 

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34 thoughts on “Dog Gone

  1. Mary Friedel-Hunt

    I am so sorry for the loss of your Hickory. My husband Bill and I lost a 14 year old Golden back in 2000, then I lost Bill in 2010 and now Bentley and I (Golden Retriever age 10.5) cherish each other’s presence in his senior years as you did Hickory’s. There is nothing quite like a dog and a Golden Retriever only longs to be at our side preferably in physical contact with us. I reach out to you in yet another loss in your life. I know loss too well, and losing a pet is losing a family member.

  2. Bill Campbell

    Very sorry to hear about your dog. But they are more, they are family members. We, too, had to have our 15 year old Lab\Chow put to sleep two weeks ago. She was a stray that was hanging around the fire station I worked. We would come back from a run in the middle of the night and there would be two green glowing eyes in the field next to the station to meet us. It took several weeks and a lot of chicken fried steak before she would come up to us. I knew I had to take her home. She was never a lap dog, but never left your side.
    We raised our granddaughter from infancy and Maggie was always protective of her. I was struck as to how similar the emotions were on losing her compared to losing my daughter, who also lived with us. She was killed in a car wreck 12 years ago. One does not compare with the other in severity but the love and companionship Maggie provided during that time made it more difficult than any other dog I have lost.
    Bless you.

  3. Susan Kepner

    I can feel your pain, as I lost a Rosie, Heinz 47 variety many years ago, but still think of her. She was by my side during a very painful relationship. Had it not been for her, I would have sunken into a deep depression.
    She was loving, funny, and faithful till Cancer took over her at age 15.
    Now I have Daisy, a sweet terrier /mix; stubborn, sweet,full of energy and smart! Pets are magical in our lives; every child should grow up with some link of pet.
    Love, light, and peace surround you,


  4. Ashley

    Hi Bill, Yes . . . I understand. Loss cannot be compared for each relationship (with person or pet) is so unique and specific. Love is boundless. Thanks for sharing, Ashley

  5. Laurie Brunson Altieri

    Goodness, how my heart goes out to you… My “nanny” from the time I was born was a big, beautiful mixed boxer who watched over me and subsequently my younger brothers. She was always wherever we were in the house, and she would immediately warn our mother when something was wrong or we were doing something we should not have been doing. Dogs were an integral part of our family–we learned so much through them. Love, comfort, and peace to you, dear Ashley.

  6. Peg Duffin

    Dear Ashley,
    Yes, your loss is felt by many, and I grieve with you, as we had to put our black Lab down 3 years ago, Kodiak came to us when he was 6, because his family had split up, and he needed a home. He sniffed out my ovarian cancer 9 years ago, and stayed by my bedside constantly, and sometimes on the bed to be near me. He loved me doing Reiki on him, in the end, when he had his cancer.
    He was such a sweet dog. He hated the water, but when my 2 year old granddaughter went in fearlessly, he jumped in right next to her. He was my hero, and I still miss his presence. We have not replaced him. “yet”
    So know that Kody met your Hickory at Rainbow Bridge and welcomed him home.
    My Sympathy

  7. grayce erickson

    Dear Ashley,
    I am deeply sorry for your loss. Your posts and book have comforted me in the loss of my two senior girls last year. They were also my best friends and constant companions through so much as was your friend. They are irreplaceable. Theirotion, tunconditional love , Icould gn and on. There is nothing like the love of an old dog. They are as significant to us as a human loss. My sympathy and gratitude

  8. carol messer

    Dear Ashley: My profound sympathy at the loss of your dear sweet Hickory — i hear and feel your pain at his passing — your loving care of this sweet being was i am sure a great comfort to Hickory —- i too have felt this painful loss 10 yrs ago when our sweet Jackie — a beautiful orange tabby cat who was more dog-like than cat-like passed away at 18 and a half — we were so devestated as my husband Paul was dying and he too passed 3 months later — a terrible time. I now have my Jennie — shes an 11 year old grey tabby who i love very much — she has added so much to my life — i got both my pets through the Kingston Humane Society — again Ashley i am so sorry and hope you in time will heal from this loss — healing thoughts to you carol xx

  9. Cindy Smith

    Oh Ashley, how I feel your loss. I am an Airedale Terrier person. I have my 4th one who is 6 months old. His name is Riley. I bought him from a breeder in Connecticut. Airedales are hard to come by in New England. He fills a huge void when I had my last Airedale, Cody, put to sleep on 1/5/12. It took me a while to get through the grieving process. I’m not one to just go out and get another dog. It’s not fair to the dog you lost, yourself, or the new dog. You have to be ready.

    Someone once told me when Ben, my second Airedale before Cody died that even if I didn’t have the wonderful opportunity of owning Ben, Ben still would have lived, but with someone else. You were the lucky one to have had him in your life. Who knows what kind of life he would have had with someone else. I was so devastated after losing all my dogs. So I look at it this way. I was lucky to have had them in my life and they were lucky to have had me in their lives. Me. Not someone else. Yes. We love them, sometimes more than family members, cherish them and we are beyond devastated when we have to put them to sleep. I was lucky to always be there with them. I wanted to be the last person they saw and heard b/4 going to the Rainbow Bridge. And then what do we do? When we are ready, we do it all over again, knowing that down the road some day there will be yet another devastating loss. But I do it because I can’t imagine not having a dog in my life.

    Riley fills the huge void Cody left. He is a wonderful puppy He also has some of Cody’s pedigree in him. Even though I had pick of the males, Riley picked me out and we have a special connection. I know Cody was with me from the time Riley’s litter was born, to visiting them, to the aptitude test at 7 weeks, Cody knew which one was for me and he told Riley to follow me. That’s how I knew we were meant for each other.

    I love Riley with all my heart and will always love and miss the ones who have passed on. Riley has big paws to fill and he’s already doing a great job.

    Just take it one day at a time and let the tears fall. My sincere condolences.


  10. Janet Sanborn

    I too have found unconditional love with my 5 dogs since childhood. I used to go to the field and release my heavy heart to my dog Taffy. She always seemed to understand-even licked my tears. Peace to you and take good care of yourself. Janet

  11. Theresa Kowalczyk

    I am sorry at the Loss of Hickory. I don’t have pets but Loss is Loss no matter if it is animal or human. I have experienced Loss in my life so I know the pain involved. Be consoled that he is no longer in pain.

  12. Ashley

    Dear Laurie, Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like the ‘nana’ dog in Peter Pan. They are so special to us! Peace, Ashley

  13. Ashley

    Thank you Cindy. Yes, we keep loving because life without the love is quite empty. Blessings to you and your sweet dog and all the wonderful memories, Ashley

  14. Ashley

    Thank you Theresa . . . yes, love and loss are such universal feelings, regardless of the nature of the relationship (animal or human). My love for Hickory was very deep. Peace to you, Ashley

  15. Maria Montanaro

    My heartfelt condolences on the passing of Hickory.
    Sometimes we miss them as much and sometimes more then the humans that have passed through our lives.
    They give us unconditional love in good times and the not so good. The world would be a very sad place without our animal companions.
    How fortunate we are that they grace us with their prescence.

  16. KittyHicks

    Dear Ashley,
    I was so sorry to hear about Hickory.
    I remember seeing him when I would come to see you. Sounds like you both were lucky to have each other all those years.
    May your happy memories ease your loss,

  17. Irmina

    Sorry to hear about your dog. I hear you. They are the most unconditional and loving souls anyone can ever have. I’m sure you have plenty of beautiful memories with Hickory. I have two dogs, and after loosing my son, I do not hesitate to say that they have been the best theraphy and source of love I have had.
    Thanks for sharing

  18. Gloria Maturi

    My sincere condolences on the passing of Hickory. Our four-legged best friends are God’s gifts to us. They are filled with unconditional love and give us so much joy. I like to think that Hickory met my little Lucy, a Westipoo, on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge and are now running around having fun together. I still grieve over Lucy who crossed over in May at age 11. She was the light of my life.

    May your memories of Hickory always bring a smile to your face.

  19. Irene Mansour

    Oh I’m so sorry. Dogs are such lovely animals. Many years ago we had a dog that used to play cricket with my sons and their friends. He got tick bite fever and after he died my son kept his collar and still has it today and he is almost 42.
    He loved that dog so much, we all did, he was an amazing little dog.

  20. Ashley

    Thanks so much Gloria. I appreciate your thoughtful words. I know that Lucy is forever in your heart, just as Hickory is forever in mine. Peace, Ashley

  21. Ashley

    Hi Irene, Yes, it is amazing what a profound connection we can have with our fur family members. The connection can be deep and full of joyful love. Thanks for sharing your story. Peace, Ashley