Letter to My Dog

Dear Finn,

I have been wanting to write this for awhile. Writing down what you mean to me felt like an enormous weight of emotions to sort thru and about a million photos to go with it. But here goes.

Simply put, you are the best thing that ever happened to me. You have been my constant, loyal, up-for-anything companion for nearly 13 years. I cannot imagine life without you. But I know that day is coming. Our time together is running much shorter than it is long now but I know you lived, and are still living, your best life. It is always true when someone says they have the best dog, but you…you are simply extraordinary. You just want to do what I am doing, you go with the flow, your patience is incredible, you make me laugh and you’re just cool to have around.

I wanted you. I looked for you for a long time. And I found you the day you were born and knew it was meant to be. I always wanted to name you Finnegan, after the dog puppet who lived in a tree house on the Canadian children’s show, Mr. Dressup. I gave you the proper name Finnegan in the Sunshine after my black lab growing up, Sunny. You have lived up to your name. You are definitely my Sunshine.

baby Finn
February 11, 2007

It was one of the best days of my life meeting you for the first time and bringing you home. Our first road trip together.  For almost two days in the car I held your little eight pound, fuzzy body close to me and told you how precious you were. Our first night together was a sleepless night in a hotel somewhere in Nebraska where you cried your little head off. Everything was new. It was a sign of what was to come for us – the hotel and you having a lot to say. You made me slow down when I had spent many years working too much as an event planner. Meeting for the first timeAt the same time you made me speed up to keep up with you. You got me outside and kept me moving. You challenged me to tire you out every single day. You inspired me to move my furniture out of storage after six years of living like a gypsy. You made my house a home. You gave me a reason to come home.

That first year we spent getting to know one another. As a first time dog owner, there were many, many trips to the vet until I learned not to panic. A lot of time was spent learning commands and learning to communicate. I wanted you to be a dog I could take everywhere, that people wanted around, that I could let off leash. We worked at it with intent. But you were still a young dog, industrious, always working on projects. You dug up all of my landscaping liners excavating rocks from the yard. You jumped on people, pulled with great enthusiasm on the leash, knocked down a few kids, and escaped from the fenced yard a couple of times. flyingThere was no crate. You had free range of the house and I trusted you and you came thru for me. You grew so fast that first year, gaining 90 pounds from that first day I met you. You flew with me as a carry on a couple weeks after I got you and we took our first cross country trip together in a U-haul to move my furniture; a sign of what was to come.

A bad dogsitter experience when you were two years old made me vow to never leave you with anyone again. The sitter, who had also been a friend and a former colleague who’s dogs I had taken care of for weeks at times, sent me upsetting emails about letting you out unsupervised and losing you and how stupid you were and then informed me she was leaving you in my car at the airport in winter for when I returned. I knew this was happening before I started my 35 hour journey home from overseas and sobbed the whole way there at the thought of it. A friend went to get you but the sitter had kept your collar for some reason so my friend’s son sat in the car with you until I arrived. How long you were there I will never know. But it changed everything and became the reason you got to travel so much. Perhaps it set into motion your legacy. I began driving everywhere I went, no matter how far, and you happily came along for the ride.

You love road trips, and sniffing out new places. You can’t wait to move on to the next stop, the next hotel room, the next friend’s house, the next camp site, the next ocean, lake or river. But, despite your obsession with water, you really draw the line at riding on ferries. You hate them, but they have taken you to visit so many of your favorite places and people so I keep insisting on taking you.

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So many friends have welcomed you into their homes over the years. To sweeten the deal many even let you swim in their pools or had dogs for you to play with.

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It didn’t take long for friends and family to learn that if I was coming to visit it was just assumed that you were coming, too, even if they lived thousands of miles away. We have never not gone somewhere that I can remember because you were not welcome. And we thank all of those friends for their willingness to endure a little dog hair for us, and a few friends who got to witness your very loud dislike for going down wood stairs.

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Moving was what was the hardest on you. You took your time to adjust every time, wondering why your things got packed up and dropped in a new place. You took longer to adjust to those changes than you did a different place every night on a trip. From Colorado, California and Michigan, we both agree that Wyoming will always be home, as that is where our story began.

Wyoming running free
Running free in Jackson Hole

Your boundless energy only continued to blossom from a young age, and I knew early on that you needed to do something. running free in wyomingI looked into Search and Rescue for you because you were the fastest, strongest swimmer I had ever seen but it was a huge commitment and a potential sacrifice in you I was unwilling to make. I took you to agility classes. You made my hands raw pulling on the leash in that Beginner class by trying to socialize too much and were named the Class Clown. I took you back for Intermediate class anyway and you rocked it but you were kind of big and way too social. Classes stimulated you. Having a purpose stimulated you. But that wasn’t your calling. work badgeYour calling would come when, after an emergency evacuation during a wildfire in our neighborhood, you comforted me. You slept so close to me those first couple of nights we were evacuated. As I watched the exhausted fire fighters come back to their stations each night after a day out fighting the fire I thought I just wanted to bring you in and distract and comfort them for a few minutes after their day but you weren’t certified to do such a visit. It was because of that experience that I knew what I had to do with you. I tested you and got you certified as a Therapy Dog. You passed the first time without any proper training.

Eventually you found your place as The Office Dog. You were a great co-worker despite your noisy relationship with the Mailman and the UPS guy that almost got you banned more than once.

Sleeping on the job LA
sleeping on the job in LA

You brought joy to everyone every day making the rounds, greeting them on your own, and joining the same person for lunch every day with high hopes she would share her food. event staffYou were part of the team as we prepared for events, sat under the table during meetings, made yourself comfortable, greeted all of our visitors, including sharing your tennis ball with a pair of wolves who came to visit one day.

wolves 2
wolf encounter, Colorado office

You even had your own following in the company newsletter with a column about your adventures. When I traveled and met people all over the world they asked about you. It made my life easier to have you there with the hours I kept at times working late into the night for events. It meant you got fed on time, got some exercise, weren’t lonely and were tired at the end of the day like I was. Having you in the office was a game changer for me. And I loved having you around.

office dog CO 2
piles of linen bags after a big event, Colorado office

I call you my little “event orphan” as you have endured my long hours for many years, and weeks of staying home without me while I travel for work. As I made career choices and life decisions over the years, thru good ones and bad ones, you were always there, by my side, going along with some of the uncertainty I brought into our lives.

Some of our hardest days was the frustrating year and a half of vet visits trying to diagnose the unrelenting sore that had formed under your tail. Luckily you were in the office with me for this period of your life as it was all consuming at times. soft collar lifeThree vets and over twenty five visits later, several rounds of antibiotics and many months in a soft collar, you were diagnosed with a rare perianal fistula that was draining under your tail. We learned it would mean being on an immune suppressant for life and one that would control your life going forward as it came with many, many drug interactions and a carefully balanced diet change. Compounding pharmacies, special order food and extensive conversations with vets would become our new normal. The first four months of treatment was an exhausting struggle to get it all under control. But we got thru to the other side and you handled it like a champ. After that it meant hanging in a delicate balance and that meant you had only carefully selected sitters when I had to travel for work who were entrusted to administer your medicine – and there were many. And you loved them all.

By far the most memorable day bringing you to the office, though, was the time you tried to chase a rabbit while I was getting things out of the car and not looking to know what was about to happen….and the leash was wrapped around my hand. It was also memorable for everyone who had to witness my hand afterwards. The entire office jumped in to help as I had never felt pain like that before and the sight of my now deformed, very broken hand was sending me into shock.x-ray marked up At the ER I had to carefully explain that my loving dog had done this to me. A couple days later I had surgery to repair it with medical hardware and we didn’t talk about rabbits again for a long, long time.post surgery Broken in half at the knuckle, my ring finger would never be the same again. I will never be able to wear a ring on it, which only seems appropriate that you would make sure that never happened, as you are my true love and I know I am yours. You literally ripped my ring finger off my hand.

claw hand
Roadtripping with the claw hand.

My worst day, but I also know it was an accident and never blamed you for it. It just seemed symbolic, maybe the way you wanted it. It was a setback but we still went on a three week road trip soon after my surgery and every photo is a reminder as my hand looks like a big claw in the splint as it healed. But not much keeps us from a good road trip, that is for sure.

Having you in the office made it possible to get you your own job as a Therapy Dog so I could get you dressed in your uniform and slip out each week to take you to the hospital and watch you work your magic on patients, families and staff.  You were so good, and brought so much joy with your infectious smile. therapy dog 3Those days, especially on the hardest of days, were the moments when I was most proud of you. You didn’t care if someone was sick or having a bad day, you rubbed up against them and gave them the attention and love they needed at that moment. hospital dog calendarTo think you did it all without treats, too. You just loved your job. You were Mr. February in the hospital dog calendar and everyone collected your trading card. We couldn’t walk thru the hospital lobby without someone calling out your name wanting to meet you. All the hospital dogs were rock stars. But you didn’t let it go to your head. You had a job to do. therapy dog 4

I agonized over retiring you because you loved it so much but I knew it was time. Your mobility was starting to be a challenge on some days and I didn’t want to put undo stress on you physically and emotionally. beach dog 3In exchange for all the years you practiced the discipline needed to be an animal who was allowed in a hospital I wanted to let you just be a dog; to run free at the beach, go on hikes, nap on the couch, eat as many cookies as you wanted and take roadtrips without missing work. Now your hearing is almost gone, and sitting and standing is a little harder, you have lots of lumps and bumps as you’ve aged, your eyes are a little cloudier, and it all brings on some anxiety from time to time, so I know the time was right. beach dog 2And while I hate that you can’t hear my voice as well as you used to but I know I can just look at you and you know what I am saying to you. We are that connected. You have enjoyed many days at the beach and countless, and sometimes unforgettable, hikes with me, taking us to magical places you can only get to on foot, and that will be time I will never regret spending with you. What we have seen together and shared together has been the highlight of my life.

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Seattle, Washington, State #48

In retirement you finished going to all the Lower 48 States and continued to travel and be the perfect subject in all of our travel photos. 

book coverYou use steps to get in and out of the car now after too many flying leaps. But its certainly allowed you to continue going places. 48 States, 27 National Parks, 10+ trips across the country, and a couple of Canadian provinces, to name a few. My intention is to put it into a book but the quantity of material seems daunting to sort thru. Someday I will tackle all of it. When you are no longer with me literally every corner of this country will remind me of you. I already cherish my time spent with you but that time spent on the road experiencing new places together will always make my heart full.

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You have touched countless lives over your 13 years. I always loved sharing you with so many people. I love that they love you. I hope we have inspired some of them to make sure they, along with their dogs, live their best life, as you certainly have. Watching your face turn white and sugary has been a privilege as I know many people don’t get to see their dog reach their senior years. I feel very fortunate and wonder how I got so lucky sometimes. 241b2ef7-8436-4d1f-9543-119c0871aca3Caring for a senior is an emotional roller coaster with hard days and sleepless nights complemented by so many great, wonderful days spent with you. Once again you have forced me to slow down while also challenging me to still somehow carefully wear you out each day. I look forward to many, many more days and months of adventures with you. I truly cherish every day I spend with you. The life and lessons you have given me have been my greatest pleasure.

My sweet Finn, you will always be my heart dog, my once in forever dog, my pure joy.

To me you are perfect.

Your Human

I knew that I loved you

Categories Dog Friendly, Hiking, UncategorizedTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 thoughts on “Letter to My Dog

  1. This is wonderful, Sam! A fitting Valentine for your best friend…



  2. Thank you for such a beautiful post. It’s truly amazing how a dog can come along and change your life for the better. So grateful you have shared Finn with us, he truly is a beautiful soul.


  3. What a beautiful tribute to a special Finn…we love following Finn’s adventures on Instagram..thank you for sharing your special guy with all of us…
    Tammy and Duke@dukeybeee


  4. Such a very special boy. Thank you for sharing him with us.


  5. Get the Kleenex!! My “once in a lifetime” dog, Cody, was also a black Lab and this brought back SO many memories that the flood-gates have opened and I can’t stop crying. Although we didn’t have as many adventures, we had our fair share. Riding a ferry to Natucket and touring the island, hiking in the Grand Tetons where Cody swam with other Labs in mountain lakes, running the Youghiogheny River Trail (and taking occasional dips in the river) as I biked along, going to camp Gone to the Dogs in Vermont, which, btw, is a dog-lover’s HEAVEN!! It was at dog camp that Cody earned his therapy dog certification. I was teaching kindergarten at the time and although it wasn’t easy, I got permission from my principal (who was a cat person!) to occasionally bring him to school. I don’t know who was happier, my class or my dog!! We made so many wonderful memories together. Cody, I will ALWAYS love you and NEVER forget you.


  6. My goodness, this made me cry!
    For the love you have for Finn, and for the love I feel for my Sass (9 month old Great Dane) – who I already know is my heart dog, my once in forever dog and my pure joy.
    Such wonderful words for a once in a lifetime love.


  7. Like your boy Finn, my boy Luca was also a part of my soul and of my being. He showed me what unconditional love was all about. Saying goodbye to the source of that love was one of the most difficult choices l had to make. I wanted to be selfish in order to have more time with my boy – but my boy needed me to make the right decision for him as his body was being ravaged by an aggressive and untreatable mast cell cancer. He was hoping my unconditional love for him would allow me to say goodbye so he could be free. Luca was always by my side when l needed him and l was by his side when he needed me. He took a piece of my heart when he left ♥️


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