A Letter of Gratitude to My Dog

This post was originally published on May 18, 2015, the day before Buster’s eighth birthday.

He’s been gone for two weeks now and I’ve often tried to put into words what he meant to me. But I keep coming back to this post. That day our hearts were light and words fell easily. We smiled and laughed and played with squeaky balls. On that day I wrote this tribute to a dog that had completely changed my life. And it says everything I still feel today.


dear busters,

Tomorrow it’s been seven years since I found you behind the dumpster in our cul-de-sac in Philadelphia. I don’t know how much you remember, but I can still picture the builder running to warn us about the “big black dog”. After bringing Ty and Rod in, I grabbed a leash and came over to see if I could help you. you were so scared It broke my heart to see you trying to hunker down, shaking and not daring to look at me with those big brown eyes.

I sat with my back to you and spoke softly. I told you I wouldn’t hurt you… that I just wanted to help you get home. Slowly, slowly you moved a little closer. And I kept talking, not looking your way, just reassuring you that everything would be fine.

You seemed to understand, and finally you got close enough to sniff me. Holding my breath, I slowly reached over and attached the leash to the chain around your neck. And that’s when I promised you that I would make sure you were safe.

Together we went through the back gate onto the terrace and got my first real look at you. You’re beautiful! You sniffed everywhere and then came over and sat down and gave me that deep look that communicated your loss, your confusion and your hope all at once.

A thank you note to my dog ​​for his birthday

I was trying desperately not to fall in love with you, sure someone was looking for such a gorgeous boy! So I called you “dog” and acted like not naming you would keep my feelings in check.

Finding your people was a team effort. Your posters were all over the neighborhood. We’ve called shelters and shelters to let them know where you’ve been, sent blasts of email to our dog park members, and put your story online.

While we were waiting for the phone to ring we got rid of that horrible necklace and bought you an actual collar. You met the vet so he could check for a microchip and make sure you weren’t injured. And you spent a morning with the barber who gave you a nice bath. It was a hurricane and you took everything calmly.

Buster is watching me

What I remember most is that you loved to be in the car. One day you and I were out for a walk and a neighbor who had heard about you stopped to say hello. She left her car door open and you almost knocked me over jumping in the front seat! What a sight we must have been – two grown women laughing so hard we had tears running down our cheeks – trying to get you back out of that car!

Now I know that was a sign. In the past seven years we have traveled well over 100,000 miles together.

As you know, whoever raised you in your first year of life never got in touch with us. Sometimes I imagine there’s no one else – this heaven has brought you right to our doorstep to brighten our lives, and so you could lead us on a journey beyond our wildest imagination.

But there was turbulence in those first few months. Rod didn’t want to keep you. He saw that you had no manners and you peed every time he leaned in to pet you. But Ty was even more against it. He wanted to be an “only dog” and for the first few weeks it was Ty and Rod against you and me.

Buster's birthday

When it came time to take you back to the vet to be spayed, you were also microchipped so you’ll never be lost again. After recovering from the surgery, you were completely consumed. Trainers, trips to the dog park, you and I walked miles every day because you were a German Shepherd puppy who lived in a townhouse.

Ty tried to bite you when you got too close and Rod kept his distance. We were a house divided – literally and figuratively – and I have to admit I almost gave up. I didn’t think I could handle you. And I wasn’t sure I could give you what you need.

Finally, you and I managed to win Ty and Rod over and neither of us can imagine life without you now. We all owe you so much – you have completely changed our lives.

Ty and Buster with their seat belts

A few months later we left for our first family vacation. There was no question it was going to be a road trip and what a riot it was! She, a 1 year old German Shepherd puppy, locked in the back seat of our car for three and a half weeks. At the time, there wasn’t an easy way to find dog parks or know if you were driving right by a pet-friendly beach. It was on this trip that ours real adventure began.

Like a diamond being shaped, the pressures of being trapped in the car together for 3,500 miles gave birth to the idea for GoPetFriendly.com – a website that would make it easy for anyone to travel with their pets!

And then life started to get interesting. A year later we launched the website. Six months later we sold the house and bought our first RV. We left everything behind… and really started to live.

I have learned so much from you in the last seven years. You taught me that the most important thing we can do is love one another – we can learn the rest together. You have shown me that I am stronger than I think and that fear should never stop me from following my heart. I’ve learned a lot about patience—for you and for myself—and that gentleness is always the right answer. And you made me so happy. If you go through our photos, you’ll find yourself smiling in almost all of them.

We’ve seen so many places together and I’ll be eternally grateful for that. But what’s even more valuable is that you’ve helped me become a better person. With no pressure or demands, you changed me from the inside out just by being you.

So tomorrow we celebrate your “birthday”. Not the day you were born, but the day you came into our lives and started working your magic. You won’t understand the excitement or why we’ll be having special treats – but we will. We remember all the fun we had, all the wonderful experiences we shared and look forward to the many places we will visit together. And we express our gratitude that one day, seven years ago, the stars aligned and you were among us.

A dog changes everything

The eleven and a half years we spent with Buster and the fifteen we had with his brother Ty are among the most precious of my life. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude in words. But I think the boys felt our love for them all their lives, and especially at the time of their passing. You will always be a part of me. And I hope our adventures together have inspired you to create memories with your own pets.

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