You know the movie Good Will Hunting? There’s a scene where Matt Damon says to therapist Robin Williams that maybe he doesn’t want to call the woman with whom he had a great first date. Maybe, he doesn’t want the reality of her to overtake the perfection of her after their single date. Robin Williams tells him that perfection isn’t where you find the good stuff about a person. He shares that his own deceased wife farted in her sleep and never realized it. He never had the heart to tell her so he always told her it was the dog. It’s a great scene.
As they are laughing to tears about Robin Williams’ farting wife, the line I remember most comes next. Robin Williams says, “Ah, Will, that’s the good stuff.”
He didn’t miss all the ways his wife was perfect, but the wonderful nuanced ways she was imperfect. And individual. And uniquely herself.
I introduced my pup Solstice in a post when we first got on the road, but there I told the story of her adoption, her name and her personality. Today, it’s about what I’ll remember most. It’s about the good stuff.
“I Never Had to Call Someone So Fast”
When I adopted Solstice, she was my first dog as an adult. Like I do with most things I know nothing about, I did research. I bought a Dummies book about Labrador Retrievers and several training books. And I diligently read all the brochures and watched the DVD I got from animal control.
The information from animal control said that to help a pound pup bond, you should look into her eyes. Even though Solstice was a puppy—so not the typical pound animal who lost a known home—I took the instructions to heart. Every night before bed, I’d lay next to her and we’d look into each other’s eyes for one or two minutes.
To this day, I don’t know if that’s what caused her to over bond to me. Or if it was just her. But she did not like separation. To say the least.
Before my job allowed us to bring our dogs to work, I didn’t like leaving her at home all day while I worked so decided to try doggy daycare. I was on the wait-list about 10 months before they had an opening.
Before she could attend, I first had to take her in for the staff to evaluate, to see if she’d be a good fit for their facility. The assessment lasted about 30 minutes and, after, they said Solstice was a dog with instigator energy. She’d approach a group of dogs, stir them up. Then leave.
Later as I thought about it, I decided it was a fair assessment. She often riled groups of dogs at the dog park. A minute later, she’d be done and we’d continue on with our walk. She never stuck around for the chaos she created.
But doggy daycare was willing to give her a chance. And we scheduled a trial day.
I got up early that day to get her to the facility. I dropped her off and drove 10 minutes to work.
When I arrived at work, the message light on my phone was blinking. Yep, doggy daycare asking me to return to pick up my dog. I talked to the owner who said she’d been in business 10 years and never called an owner so fast.
And the problem wasn’t that her instigator energy caused problems among the other dogs. The problem was she tried to take down their door, to dig through their cinder block walls to get back to me. They tried to engage her with other dogs, toys and attention. But nothing worked. She would not be distracted in her laser-like determination to be with her person. Separation was not an option.
But if you look on the positive side, I never once worried about her running off, never lost her at the dog park or on any off-leash walk.
Doggy Daycare: FAIL. Stuck by Her Mama: SUCCESS.
My Favorite Solstice Story
Another common aspect of dog behavior, I learned from my reading, is “humping.” Most of the time, it has nothing to do with procreation. Young litter mates will do it to each other. It’s their way to establish dominance. Solstice did it throughout her life, but especially in her younger years. She did it to both dogs and people.
One time my sister and I were watching a friend’s four-year-old. The little girl was laying on my living room floor watching a movie when Solstice started up with her humping nonsense. I yelled at her to stop.
The little girl didn’t like Solstice getting scolded. How do you explain humping to a kid that age? After thinking about it for a second, I told her that people were the boss of dogs. Dogs can’t be the boss of people. And when Solstice did that behavior, she was trying to be the boss.
A few minutes later, Solstice started humping the girl again. So sterner still, I told Solstice to stop and took her by the scruff of her neck.
The little girl, distressed, turned to me and said, “It’s okay. Solstice can be the boss of me.”
Ah, Will, that’s the good stuff.
Solstice vomited on November 30, 2018. And, while I didn’t know it at the time, that was the first day on her path to the end. Six vet appointments in four different states, thousands of dollars in tests and medicine could not get her off that path. All the love I had to give could not get her off that path.
If saving her were possible, she be here now, head on my lap looking up with her big brown eyes asking if it’s time for another adventure.
In the past five months she had a lot of bad days but she would rally and have good ones. Every time we were in a stretch of good ones, I would tell myself she was better. I would tell myself we have a couple years left.
But I knew. I knew.
The truth is she never fully recovered. Despite the rallies, when things started going bad again two weeks ago, I knew there wasn’t going to be another rally. I don’t know how I knew. But I did.
In the end, she’d lost 25 pounds. Her bones jutted out from beneath her skin and she hadn’t eaten a single morsel of food 10 days before her last day. Walks didn’t interest her, not even short ones.
Every time I woke up, I would look to see if she was still breathing. In the last days, when I looked over I felt torn about what I wanted to find. It’s so strange to wish to find her not breathing at the same time desperately hoping she still was.
We were in a lovely Tennessee State Park and Solstice spent her last days laying in the leaves and dirt outside, sniffing the air whenever she wasn’t sleeping. She loved it as much as a dog that sick can.
May 2, 2019
My sister flew into Nashville on May 1, and Solstice and I drove to pick her up. My sister hadn’t seen her since February and saw a drastic decline. Because I was with her every day, I knew she’d gone downhill but hadn’t noticed how drastic it was. How really terrible she looked. But ever faithful, Solstice wagged her tail when she saw my sister.
We talked about it that night and decided to make an appointment the next day to get the vet’s opinion. Even though I’d only been in the area a week, I’d already taken Solstice to that vet’s office plus had talked to him two other times over the phone.
I feel so lucky to have gotten such a fantastic caring vet (Greenview Veterinary in Hohenwald, Tennessee). Dr. Hensley took one look at Solstice and said she was completely dehydrated and that’s why her face was sunk in. He said in just a week, he could see a marked decline in her and her appearance.
So, one thing I’d been wrestling with since she got sick five months earlier was deciding when it was time. Would I know? On the one hand I didn’t want her to suffer but on the other I wanted every last minute I could have with her.
He said two thing that really helped…
- “To ask Solstice to stay for another two days, you have to be clear that you would not be asking for her sake, that would be for you.”
- “Solstice has done her job here for you and now it’s time for you to let me do my job for Solstice.”
That, along with everything else he said, made things easier. Well, easier for an impossibly hard situation.
I said, “Okay, we’re ready.”
The Final Irony
And in a final cosmic gotcha moment, May 2nd is also Kitty’s birthday. She turned 16 on the day Solstice took her last breath.
Those two never liked each other. They simply tolerated the other’s presence. Solstice treated the cat like a play toy to bite, torment and general keep as far away from me as possible.
Considering the cat was in my house first, from her point of view, she totally got shafted on the day that Solstice got adopted. And every day since.
So, I have to smile a little to think Solstice’s last act was to ruin Kitty’s birthday. One last gotcha.
My sister put it best. She said we had four thousand good days with Solstice, a million good moments and memories. Then we had one bad day. One excruciatingly painful sucky bad day.
At the end, as my tears fell on her face, I told her she was a good dog, that I loved her and that I’d miss her every day.
It’s supposed to get easier as the days go on. I know it will. I’m counting on it. I look forward to the day when I think about her with a smile on my face and not with tears in my eyes. It’s not today because today I am sad beyond words to express just how sad. And it won’t be tomorrow. But the day will come.
Solstice was found wandering at three months old on a busy street in Anchorage before she was taken to animal control. Except for those three months, she has been mine. We lived more than 10 years together in Alaska where her life was dog walks, birthday parties, sitting on the balcony watching the world go by, snow diving and summer swimming. We hiked, walked, camped and she came to work with me for a few years.
Then 18 months ago, she joined me for the journey of a lifetime and even bigger adventures. As a road dog, we traveled 25,000 miles together. On the road, Solstice got her first tick, met a litter of kittens, saw the Pacific Ocean, walked in the desert, visited National Monuments and State Parks, went nose-to-nose with a baby calf, walked up to a waterfall–twice, barked at thunderstorms and peed in 21 different states. It wasn’t long enough but it sure was a great life.
Happy Adventures and Farewell, my best good girl.
I am so sorry for your loss. She was a beautiful friend!
She really was. Thank you, Angela.
As I sit here this week cleaning out my stuff debating which direction to go in life, I think you just helped point me in A direction. Not sure of right or wrong. As my beagle just turned 10 I imagined us hitting the road one day. So sorry about your loss. As a pet owner all my life, I truly know how you feel. It is hard to lose our best friends. They’re there when nobody else is. I hope you take comfort in your memories. My hardest doggy loss was when we moved right after my daughter’s high school graduation. Army move. Forced fun again. I was done. Losing my friends again. My only child leaving soon. Dotty the dalmation had cancer. She too had lost weight. I debated about bringing her. I told her if she didn’t eat she’d have to stay here. Two DQ burgers and a bowl of food were downed. With a packed car with kid, two cats, one doggy and stuff, I left our other dog with vet. Made the trek. Well. We lost Dotty a few days later. But then Brownie. The vet called. He was deathly sick. He died the next day After Dottie. What a shocker! But. Found out he had two cancers we didn’t know about. Vet said just like people some go quickly. So. Devastation all the way around. I feel your pain. I know that doesn’t help. I guess you reminded me of how great those two friends were. Your best friends sounds so wonderful. What a journey you have had! She is in your heart forever. Right where best friends camp forever.
Thank you, Gena. Oh my gosh, losing two pets so close together. You must’ve been devastated to lose two so quickly together. I’m glad my post and tribute to Solstice helped to point you in a direction. I’ll look forward to hearing more as you move forward.
Sorry for long post. But had to add. By the way. YOU gave her the time of her life the last 18 months. She had you right where she wanted you. What a treasure for her! To go on this adventure with you. So don’t forget that. You squeezed an entire lifetime into 18 months! Take care of yourself. This is a hard loss.
Thank you for your kindness. We did squeeze a lot of life and adventures into our 18 months on the road. It is a hard loss and I am working on taking care of myself. I am grateful for the time your took to write your comments. Thanks, Gena.
I sat here crying as I read your post. I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved dog— but what adventures you and Solstice have had! Genuine treasures.
Debbie, this is a beautiful eulogy for sweet Solstice. All of us dog lovers know the excruciating pain in your heart & the incredible void in your life. I know there isn’t anything I can say to ease your pain, it does get better, but it’s always under the surface ready to well up at the spark of a special memory.
Before my two crazy Doodles, there was Woody my yellow Lab, who, like Solstice, was everything I despised in a man. He was needy, jealous, & hated for me to leave him. Totally devoted, he stuck by my side – no leash ever needed, only required by law. To this day, I miss him welcoming me at the gate yet there is comfort in knowing one day I will be reunited with him and all my fur babies. Solstice is now your guardian angel, always with you, the memories you made can never be taken away. ♡
My most sincere sympathies,
Hi Chris. Thank you. The void is huge. Still, I have a micro-second every morning where I expect to hear her tail wagging and hitting the side of the trailer when she sees me wake up. I love that–what you loved in your dog is everything you hate in a man. It made me laugh. I count myself lucky in that we had so so many great experiences together which are now treasured memories for me.
Thank you, Dee Dee. She was beloved and we had some pretty great adventures. They ended way too soon but, you’re right, they will be treasured.
Dearest Debbie, I am sitting here crying like a baby. Bless your heart. Losing a pet is so difficult. I’ve had to put 2 labs down and I just don’t have it in me to get another. Losing them hurts too much. Perhaps one day, I’ll get another. This is a most beautiful post to Solstice. What a wonderful, dedicated, loving companion. Wishing you happy thoughts and comfort. You will see her again. My deepest sympathy, Kim
Thank you, Kim. I appreciate your words. I knew when her time came it would be hard, but I had no idea it was going to be as hard as it was. I can see how, knowing you’d go through it again, could keep someone from adopting a new pet.
My very deepest condolences — Solstice took you on your first adult journey in so many different ways and I trust that the sweetest memories will come forth in sudden bursts as you remember her. But, first there will be tears and loss and mourning. That is as it should be …she was special and she had most of your heart. You made the right decision for her at the right time and with the right people present. That is a gift. Blessings to you …. Cindy P.
Solstice definitely took me on a journey. Because of her I learned to hike without another human being. She made me exercise way more than I would’ve otherwise. After all, who wants to go for a walk in the cold dark snow of an Alaska winter? Well, she did. And she drug me along with her. It was an amazing 12 year journey. Thank you for your words.
So sorry for your loss. My heart aches for you as you deal with your loss. Prayers for peace and acceptance.
Thank you, Kathy.
Solstice was an exceptional friend and companion. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful tribute. Yup, there is a tear in my coffee and on my iPad as I read your loving story of the “Good Stuff” with Solstice.
Aww, thanks for your words Dean. It helps me process things when I write about them. I’m glad you enjoyed (not sure that’s the right word) the tribute.
What s beautiful tribute to a beautiful friend.
A beautiful friend, indeed Thanks, April.
I am so sorry. Sat here reading your post and crying. Never easy losing a beloved pet.
Take comfort in knowing that some day we’ll be reunited with our best friends.
Thank you, Gerri. She was my first pet so I had nothing to prepare me for losing her. I do take comfort in reuniting with her someday.
Lovely post Debbie. What a wonderful friend she was.
Thank you, Joy.
What a beautiful tribute of Solstice and your lives together. My heart is breaking for you right now and yes, there are tears. But, at the same time, your lives together, adventures and all the good stuff you shared make me joyful. I am so glad Missy could be there with you. Sending you love and a huge hug, I am so sad for your loss. What a blessing and wonderful best friend you had in her. RIP sweet Solstice♥️????
Thanks, Vicki. Yeah, I’m glad it worked out to have Missy here too. It was good for Solstice and also for Missy to be able to say goodbye. Even though the goodbye is just torture. Yep, lots of tears but also lots more happy loving memories.
There are no words, but your post is a beautiful tribute to a wonderful dog.
Maggie and I send our love.
There are no words, I completely agree. I came up with a few but they felt entire inadequate to express how I felt about her and about losing her. Give Maggie an extra tight hug today!
Debbie, I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t help envisioning Solstice on the other side telling all his new friends “You would not believe the wonderful life I had”! Sending you a hug!
Aww, thanks for that. Such a sweet sentiment. Made me cry.
So sorry for your loss Debbie. She was a great dog. Always happy when she was with you. I don’t think we ever quite get over losing our pets. It gets less painful as time goes by, but we always miss them. Happy Trails to you and Kitty. I’m sure even she misses Solstice – just a bit.
Thanks, Caren. She truly was a good dog. Kitty very quickly took over the entire bed that the two of them shared. I’m still waiting for a sign she ever know Solstice is gone. They had an odd relationship considering they knew each other for nearly 12 years.
Debbie, I’m in tears after reading this. I’m so sorry for your profound loss. I only knew Solstice for one month, but I miss her now along with you. You gave her such an incredible life, and this beautiful tribute is your last gift to her. You were an unstoppable duo, and I know how much this loss hurts, but know this – some day it won’t hurt to remember. The memories you made with Solstice will be her legacy, and you will carry them with you as you continue your adventures. Hoping to cross paths with you again, my friend. Love and hugs,
Thank you, Rhonda. I look forward to the day where I can remember without the pain (and tears). Even though it’s been a short time still, I know I will think of her on my many future adventures because she loved adventures. You are right–it is a profound loss. I’m so glad you got to meet her, and that we both got to get to know you and your fur babies. I certainly hope our paths cross again too, I count you among my good friends.
Such sad and devastating news. I have such fond memories of Solstice in the office as she totally freaked out if you were gone more than a few minutes; nothing able to soothe her, except your return and Darlena’s treats!! I know how hard this is. I can only imagine how cavernous Oliver must feel without her in it. My thoughts are with you and am sending you healing energy. Know that she brought a lot of joy to lots of people’s lives. She’ll be missed. I am glad she got to share your adventure for a while at least. Much love, Hilary.
Thank you, Hilary, for sharing your memories of Solstice. She loved coming into work and greeting everyone. Of course, she loved seeing Darlena with her treats.
I’m so sorry for your loss, my friend. Heartbreaking. ????
Thanks, Liz. It is heartbreaking, as you well know.
I’m sorry for your loss. Hugs to you.
Thank you, Laura. Hugs back to you.
I am so sorry you have lost your Solstice pup. Years ago now a dear companion of mine, a Maine Coon cat named Phoebe, became terminally ill. How many buckets of tears I cried I cannot say. So glad your sister was with you when you had to say goodbye to such an important part of your world.
A lifetime later it seemed, I brought a new kitten home. I cried holding her, missing Phoebe still.
Molly very gently put her baby kitten paw on my cheek and soaked up a tear or two.
“We’ll get through this you and I” was what I imagined that sweet touch to mean.
I hope you will one day share your life with another lucky dog.
A good human is hard to find. 🙂
Your story is so touching, Alex. Thank you. I loved that Molly and you are getting through it together. It has helped me so much hearing how others have experience the same loss. I find comfort in knowing it’s perfectly normal to miss them and mourn them years later. I have the same hope, maybe someday there will be another dog that comes into my life. I’d love another adventure companion.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Debbie. I can imagine how hard it had to be. May she rest in peace.
Thank you, Laura. It’s so hard but everyone’s kind words have provided a great deal of comfort. I appreciate you taking the time (especially with what you are going through with your Dad at the same time) and I appreciate your 3.5 decades of friendship.
Beautiful Solstice you were so incredibly special. Debbie I am so so so sorry. I’m so glad Solstice got to travel with you and grateful we were able to share that experience. She was and is the most special pup. The most people like I think I have ever seen. I will miss her screams in excitement, her talking, her love of frosting cookies and so much more. RIP beautiful girl. You were and are so loved.
Yeah, she liked sniffing other dogs but she LOVED people. I’ve been watching some videos of her “talking” and they make me smile. Thanks for all your comments here, on social media and for the texts. I do appreciate it and appreciate how much you also loved her. She very much loved you too.
To my beloved friends and family,
Death is nothing at all…. I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I and you are you….Whatever we were to each other…THAT, we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name. Speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no false airs of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play- Smile- Think of me. Pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effect, without a ghost of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever was. It is the same as ever. There is absolutely unbroken continuity- Why should I be out of mind because I’m out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval- somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well.
Thank you Tom for your beautiful words. I got choked up reading the message from Solstice. I appreciate you taking the time to write the heartfelt message. I treasure it.
Such a sad time. Be kind to yourself.
Very sad, indeed. In the last few days, I’ve gone on walks by myself. I thought it was going to be hard because I hadn’t taken a walk in the last 12 years without her. But it was actually quite nice, healing and a time for reflection. Thanks, Kit.
Oh Debbie, I am so sorry to hear this news about Solstice !!! I am so glad we got to meet this special girl at the rally last year!! It is beyond hard to let our fur babies go. They are a part of us….our family!!! I cried through the blog but it was such a beautiful tribute to Solstice!!! Sending hugs and hugs and hugs your way!!! ❤️❤️
I’m glad you two got to meet her too. I sure do wish she’d be with me at the rally this year, but it wasn’t meant to be. I’m sending hugs back to Mike for his surgery. I’ll look forward to your blog posts on his progress.
What an amazing journey you two had. ???? Our furry friends are never here long enough ????????????. Thinking of you at this difficult time.
We did have a pretty amazing journey. Yeah, it was not long enough, not nearly long enough. Thank you, Robin.
When you have been blessed by the companionship and loyalty of a dog … life’s most treasured gift has been bestowed upon you … I am so very sorry for your great loss. Love, Marie
She was my treasured gift. Thank you, Marie.
Teresa and I are so sorry for your loss. We loved spending time with both of you at Lake Guntersville.
Thank you, Brian. I’m so glad Teresa told me to bring Solstice that night we had dinner together. She ate 3 of the bully sticks out of the package you gave me. Then I passed the bag on to someone else with a dog.
Big, big HUGS dearest Debbie! Such a touching and heartfelt post. Words cannot express my thoughts, just tears. Thank you for sharing. I love you and wish I were there with you to give you hugs. May His peace always be with you. Always, love, Lucy
Thank you, Lucy. I appreciate your comment. I know…words just cannot express the grief. I feel your virtual hugs, my friend.
Beautiful eulogy. Absolutely beautiful. I can watch ‘Good Will Hunting” for the 20th time, and still weep at that moment he talks about loving the imperfections.
You know you gave your sweet pup a wonderful life. Focus on that.
We only have them for a short time, but they make permanent paw prints on our souls. Solstice knew you loved her.
I wish I could hug you right now.
Thank you, Christy. I got a little teary reading your comment. They do leave paw prints on y=our hearts and souls and lives. I’m a big crier at movies and books. And even though I know a certain scene is coming, it doesn’t stop the tears from flowing. It’s the frustrating and absolute beautiful thing about them.
It’s been 2 months & 2 weeks & just now could I bring myself back to re-read your live post & all of the very kind comments. I thought I was ready…clearly I was not, spent more than half of the day back in tears! I miss her sweet soul dearly!
I sure can resonate with Alex’s post ….as Chikis does the same & licks my tears away as to tell me…”Mama, I’m gonna lick away your pains”
Tom’s message is unique & lovely ????❤️
Each message here is beautiful!
One of the most impressionable moments I remember was when you planned to go to Homer for a writing convention and auntie here was all set to have the slumber party weekend with Solstice. Well it definitely started out with a bang within the first 5 minutes of you departing and turning onto N. Lights Street in heavy traffic. Solstice and I were playing in the yard as all was good, but no no no she didn’t like The Mama leaving and off she darted towards that busy street running after your car! Between nearly having a heart attack from panic and running to chase her I thought I’d be calling you from a nearby hospital bed. Then that Solstice just jumped and turned around full kisses with a complete demeanor of innocence ❤️
I had said many times that I will take the bite for my dog. That girl taught me the faith to our words and our fur babies the day the neighbors pit bull ran toward her. I thought it was the best idea to intercept that potential bite. I’d do it all over again for her! Oh my goodness the stories and memories are endless as she gave us 12 years of pure love and stories in the book!
All so very very true. I remember all that too!