Tribute to a writer’s dog


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I’m not sure how to start this, so we’ll start with that. Our sweet Ramsay passed away at home over the weekend, just a few weeks shy of his 14th birthday.

hiking dog
Ramsay hiking in his younger days.

Somehow I composed myself in his final moments to read him a poem from DOG SONGS by Mary Oliver, “Little Dog’s Rhapsody in the Night.”

The somber poetry and personal memories will be saved for another time. Instead, I’d like to share how Ramsay influenced my writing.

Canine journalism


Ramsay inspired my first-ever magazine clip in DOG LIVING MAGAZINE (November 2009). This piece also became my first re-print less than a year later in FIDO FRIENDLY MAGAZINE. Due to this work, I made a connecting with DOG FANCY. And, this chain continues beyond canine magazines, because my DOG FANCY article on GPS systems for dogs led me to interview a GPS manufacturer who also made trackers for humans–specifically used for cognitively-impaired people prone to wander. I subsequently published an article on smart devices for smart seniors in the now-defunct GO60 market.

Poetry pup

Ramsay also accompanied me to uncountable poetry events. He enjoyed attention of passersby at local festival poetry on demand booths, year after year at poetrySPARK at SPARKcon, and you can hear the jingle of his collar in the background of some Living Poetry podcast episodes. He came with me to the mountains when I held workshops for Asheville Writers. (He spent time at nearby doggie daycares during the workshops.)

Dog co-worker

Ramsay kept me company while I worked, and spent breaks with me outside. While he wasn’t very active the past few years due to his arthritis, when he was young I walked him before breakfast, on my lunch break, and in the evenings–as long as weather allowed. He kept me balanced from working all the time.

We also had many snack breaks. It’s only been a few days since he’s been gone, but I already caught myself cutting up extra pieces of orange for him. And when I made a smoothie yesterday, I broke off banana pieces and started walking to where his food bowl used to be. Since I’ve known him I had never not shared a banana with him. It’s hard to work because the reward of having a break with him is gone.

A big trip

Unrelated to writing, since Ramsay had declined so much the past few years, we stopped taking trips without him unless it was just for one night. Given the pandemic and a lot of family health matters that have demanded our attention, we are overdue for a good vacation together. We had decided to take a road trip this summer so that Ramsay could come with us. Because he needed to get outside fast to relieve himself, we didn’t want to stay at hotels. We also couldn’t have stairs because of his bad legs. I researched SO MANY Airbnbs and, let me tell you, it is tough to find truly accessible Airbnbs. Although there’s a filter to find accessible properties, I found SO MANY that had stairs in the pictures. I finally found and booked nearly a dozen accessible properties for our summer road trip, and I finished making the reservations just a few weeks before Ramsay passed away. Now we have the trip ahead, which will be hard because we had expected to have him with us for this adventure.

I’ve been saying the past few years that once Ramsay passes we’ll need a big trip: Alaska. To help distract me from not having him around, I’m trying to get things on the calendar that we can look forward to. I haven’t reserved anything yet, but we’re targeting June or July 2022 for Alaska, and I’d love your suggestions if you’ve been. I’d also like to know how your pets have influenced your writing. And, if you were lucky enough to have met Ramsay, I’d love for you to share a memory of him in the comments.