Gratitude in My Grief

A week ago I had to say goodbye to Denver, my Labrador Retriever. He was a special dog to me and my family. He and I had an amazing bond, forged over the nearly 13 years I had him. Some dogs are just like that. If you’re reading my blog, you probably already know these things and know exactly what it means to have a “heart dog.” In trying to work through my own grief over losing him, I thought it would help to write about some of the things I’m grateful for during Denver’s last days.

First and foremost, I’m grateful Denver could join my husband and me on our fall RV trip. Denver was diagnosed with a 10cm stomach tumor in June. We weren’t sure he would be strong enough to make our trip, which started in early August. But he not only made the trip, he was able to take walks, go on Jeep rides, get in the ocean, and smell lots of smells. He loved to travel in the RV and I am grateful he could come with us.

Denver waits for us to leave of our final RV trip together

Our tow vehicle on RV trips was our Jeep

Our tow vehicle on RV trips was our Jeep

I’m grateful that all the campgrounds we stay at love dogs. Denver was always welcomed with open arms. He was a wonderful conversation starter (especially when he was in his stroller) and the RV community is very dog friendly! I’m grateful Denver spent the past few months around people who loved dogs.

Hanging out at Boston Minuteman Campground in Massachusetts

I’m grateful we were able to spend the last 48 hours completely spoiling Denver. Denver’s last two days were designed especially for him. We found a wonderful dog-friendly beach where he could go in the water. We went there twice and both times Denver happily got in the water and lay down, letting the small waves splash against his fur. He loved the water. I’m grateful there was a quiet, dog friendly beach so close to us.

Denver loved to lay in the water

Denver loved to lay in the water

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Denver and Greg walk in the ocean

Denver takes a nap on the beach

Denver takes a nap on the beach

I’m grateful Denver wanted to play with his tennis ball one final time. For his whole life Denver has loved tennis balls. He would chase other things, but nothing surpassed the tennis ball as Denver’s favorite toy. He would often go on walks carrying his ball in his mouth. I had to get a Chuck-it when he was younger so that I could save my shoulder from getting sore throwing the ball to him so much. His pace was slower and he didn’t run as far, but he maintained his love for tennis balls. I’m grateful he could play on his last day.

Greg and Denver play with the tennis ball

Greg and Denver play with the tennis ball

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Denver ready to get it

Robin tosses the ball (and Denver chases it for the final time)

Robin tosses the ball (and Denver chases it for the final time)

I’m grateful for Jeep rides with Denver. We took him in the Jeep to the top of Cadillac Mountain. It’s the highest mountain along the North Atlantic seaboard (1530 feet). It’s also the first place to see the sunrise in the United States during summer. I’m grateful it was a clear, beautiful day when Denver was there. People laughed at his ears blowing in the wind. He loved the smells, he was greeted by children and adults, and he was content to lay on a mat on top of the highest peak in New England while his fur dried and he looked at the ocean with Greg and me. I’m grateful for the time we spent on that mountain. Time when I could kiss him, tell him how great he had been, and say goodbye.

Denver on top of Cadillac Mountain

Denver on top of Cadillac Mountain

Telling Denver how much I love him

Telling Denver how much I love him

Denver's ear blowing in the wind

Denver’s ear blowing in the wind

I’m grateful for finding a compassionate veterinarian close to our RV park. I’m grateful Denver is not dealing with arthritis or a stomach tumor anymore. I’m grateful for having nearly 13 years with an amazing best friend.

RIP my Rocky Mountain Legacy (aka Denver).

Sept 14, 2003-Aug 29, 2016

Our last photo together – at Hadley Point Beach in Bar Harbor, Maine

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

116 thoughts on “Gratitude in My Grief

  1. Thank you for sharing your heart touching story of thankfulness for the love and companionship your beloved Denver gave to you. I hope to give my 13 year Prince the same type of send off, as I am eternally grateful and thankful he came into my life when I lost my other heart Dutch at the tender age of 3 years old suddenly and unexpectedly. I have had many fur babies in my life, but there are those who touch and connect to our heart like none other. For me I was lucky to have 2, Dutch and Prince.

    Thank you for sharing your story in such a special way.

    • Thanks, Patricia. Prince and Dutch both sound like wonderful dogs. It’s amazing how dogs can connect so much to us. I’m glad you were able to have Prince enter your life at the right time.

    • Denver sounds like the most lovable and amazing dog. My heart dog is also a yellow Lab, her name is Daisy. She has survived an insulinoma (a tumor on her pancreas) and now will need surgery for her laryngeal paralysis. She is 12 1/2. I dread the day I lose her.

      I am so sorry for your loss. Heart dogs are special dogs that take a piece of your heart when they leave you. May all the happy memories bring you sweet smiles in the coming days.

      • Thanks so much for your note. I really appreciate it. Daisy sounds like a great dog too. I’m glad she survived her heath issues!

  2. this brought tears to my eyes…sad and happy tears..sad for you but happy for him that he was so loved and had a good life. We just lost our springer spaniel Woody this past May after 14 1/2 years. The love and loyalty they give us is amazing. We have loved all of our pets but I think he was our heart dog. We now how another springer puppy…6 months old now so I follow you on Facebook. I’m always looking for training tips for our crazy boy..we’re retired now so have the time to spend. He goes to obedience class and I’m trying to work with him. So hopefully he will grow up to be a good boy.
    I like to think there is a heaven for our pets and that Woody and your Denver are chasing balls together🐶💕

    • Thanks for your comment, Holly. I do hope that Woody and Denver are playing now. 🙂 Thanks for following my FB and blog and good luck working with Woody! I’m sure it’s a beg change going from a senior dog to a puppy. Enjoy all the times learning together with Woody.

  3. Love this post, Robin! Denver was such a great dog and I am so glad you were able to make his last days so special. Crying for yourent loss…

  4. What a beautiful tribute to Denver. He sounds like he was an amazing dog. Those last few days you got to spend with him will always be a treasure. My “heart dog” Quincy passed in 2000 and I have had quite a few dogs since but none quite like him( he was my first dog I adopted when I got into veterinary school!). I am sure I keep my heart protected a little unknowingly because of how difficult it was to lose him. He went unexpectedly in his sleep when he was 12 and although I was glad I never had to make that major decision to euthanize him I also never really had the chance to say goodbye either. I would have loved to have done what you were able to do with Denver. I still miss him like crazy especially because we moved 9 months ago from the house where he is buried and it was like losing him again. As a memorial I am actually going in two weeks to have his portrait tattooed on my arm so he is near my heart forever. It may seem strange to do that but I think we all have different ways we keep those special pets close to us forever. Those awesome pictures and last trip you had with Denver will be priceless! Know that you have many friends sharing in and understanding your grief.

    • Thanks, Colleen. I appreciate your story about Quincy and know how hard it must have been to lose such a special dog. I know several people who have gotten tattoos of dogs they have lost. What a wonderful tribute to Quincy. It’s amazing how strong those bonds are with our pets. I appreciate all you do as a veterinarian to help people when their dogs reach the end of their life. I know that probably is a hard part of your job, but it really does mean a lot to us when our dogs reach the end of their time here. So thank you for that!

  5. so touching, so much love and adventure shared. Our boy Zeke is that very special “heart ” dog I’d say. I tell others that he and I have lived in other prior lives together…our souls know each other. He is 7. He is our 5th canine. He is a chocolate labrador, the only one I’ve known who doesn’t care much for balls AT ALL!!! Anyway, I’m amazed by the incredible compassion between those of us who are lucky enough to know the magnitude, the importance of opening up ones heart to such amazing fellow beings as are dogs. They offer us amazing opportunities to learn what is important in our lives. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Dolly, thanks for your note. I did laugh at Zeke not wanting to play with balls. What a personality. Dogs really are amazing and we are lucky to have them in our lives, even though they never live long enough. :-0

  6. My thoughts are very much with you. My Labrador Poppy is now 14 and half years young and has started to struggle, she is my one in a million dog and despite having 7 other dogs I can’t imagine being with out her and am dreading that day. Deepest sympathy to you🐾
    Kate

    • Hi Kate, Thanks for taking the time to comment. Senior dogs are so wonderful. It it hard to see them get older, but it’s wonderful to have their companionship for so long too. I hope Poppy continues to be strong and has many more days ahead. Thanks again.

  7. Beautiful dog an beautiful story. Thank you for sharing even though I am crying so hard right now. I am on my third white lab and it just broke my heart to look at the pictures. I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Hi Laure, Thanks for your note. Labs are such wonderful dogs! They give us so much love and loyalty. Obviously you know since you have your third one. 🙂

  8. Thank you for sharing your last days with Denver. All dog lovers have that special heart dog and your message was so beautifully said that it made me cry and have graditude for all the dogs that have enriched my life.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Linda. Our dogs are so wonderful, aren’t they. We are so lucky they come into our lives.

  9. Such a special goodbye for your beloved Denver. May all the happy memories you have of him bring you peace.

  10. What a lovely journey. As we say in Irish-May the shamrocks fall softly on your heart and your memories sustain you. We are so blessed to have these loving beings walk with us on our journey. They depend on us to provide their care and for that they give us undying love. Thank you for allowing us to experience how much you loved Denver. Sending hugs as well Robin.
    Debra

  11. I am so very sorry for your loss. Denver must have felt so loved and I admire you for making his last few weeks so special. I think he will be part of your heart forever.

    • Thanks, Anne. I truly do hope he felt all the love we had for him. Dogs are so wonderful. Thanks for your note.

    • Hi Asha, Thanks for sharing your poem. I loved the words! Such wonderful things to remember. Thank you so much.

  12. robin
    so sorry to hear of denvers passing. What a beatiful heartfelt tribute you gave us of your best pal.Our dogs teach us so much about ourselves and how to be better people.

  13. Robin, your comments brought tears to my eyes. The photos, too. What a beautiful relationship you all had with him. It reminded me so much of my Shylah, my heart dog. I’ve been running all kinds of thoughts thru my mind, but have not yet committed any to “paper.” I know I will. Heart dogs are the best. The most special of all. I’m sorry for your loss. We know exactly where he is, awaiting his humans. One day we’ll see our beloved fur-babies again. For now, they are in God’s care. Hugs to you.

    • Thanks Sherry. I know you understand the loss of a wonderful dog. It’s so hard but they give us so much. And yes, I agree that we will see them again! I look forward to that time. Thanks for your note.

  14. That was a beautiful memorial of your dog. I’m so sorry for your loss. I know the feeling of loosing a dog way more than I want to. I’ve had several dogs and each one was special to me in their own unique way. May all your wonderful memories of Denver help to console your grief. Please know that I’m sending positive thoughts and prayers your way to help you get through this painful time.

    Fran

    • Thanks Fran. It is so hard to say goodbye be wonderful to know we’ve had the love of such special animals. Thanks for your comments.

  15. What a wonderful story about a beautiful life shared. A piece of Denver will always remain in your heart.

    I’m sad to hear that Denver passed. May your happy and fun memories be a comfort to you during this difficult time!

  16. Robin I’m so sorry for Denver’s passing but it was such a blessing to be able to make his last days with you so special for you both.

  17. So very sorry about the passing of Denver. It’s always so painful to loss a member of your “fur” family. Wishing you many happy memories and know he had a wonderful life with you.

  18. Hey Robin, So sorry for your loss. Denver was a heck of a guy and absolutely gorgeous.
    I’m sure your hearts are filled with his love and memories. You are a lucky companion to have had such a fine boy. <3 Our thought and prayers are with you and your family.

  19. Robin, I have tears running down my face right now. You brought back memories of our Angel, a black lab that was with us for 17 years, who loved her tennis balls and the water. Thank you for sharing. And that IS NOT an RV… it is a MOTOR MANSION! Good thoughts and all the love you and Greg deserve are coming your way!

    • Thanks so much, Al. I really appreciate your thoughts and know that Angel must have been an amazing companion for you too. And yes…we are definitely “glamping” in this RV. I did enough tent camping in the Marine corps though…so this is what happens as a result. LOL See you soon.

  20. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories. So sorry for your loss. Denver was a lucky pup to have such a loving family.

  21. I cried all the way through. Some happy tears. Some sad. All knowing that Denver had such a wonderful life. I understand fully well your “heart” dog. I grieve with you Robin. Godspeed Denver. Godspeed. Healing hugs Robin and Greg ❤️🐾

  22. Robin (and Greg),

    I was so sorry to hear about Denver’s passing! Your post was so very special and really honored the time you had with him. Having family in Maine, it especially pulled at my heartstrings, as I really had a sense of what it was like for you spending your last days with Denver there.

    Prayers for your both as you go through this difficult time!

    And Denver, please look for my Harry & Sally (I hope he likes cats) over the Rainbow Bridge. I just know they’d love to show you around.

    Sincerely,
    Heidi

    • Thanks, Heidi. Maine is truly beautiful so I was glad to be here. I love the thought of Harry and Sally showing him around too. Thanks for your note.

  23. Dear Robin & Family,

    Denver was not only well loved but lucky (if he could have talked he’d say grateful) to have you as family. Bless you all as you grieve his loss.

  24. What a beautiful tribute to Denver. My beautiful girl turns 12 tomorrow. it’s sad to think she won’t be there one day. She is my mate.

  25. Thank you for sharing your story of Denver. It brought tears to my eyes as I read it, thinking of my heart dog Sam, who was also a yellow lab who lived to be just short of 13 years old.

  26. Well thanks for sharing. I know how difficult it is to lose great dogs. If people were only as wonderful as dogs. What a world that would be.
    I foster puppies and train military working dogs for the DoD. We lose some every year to violence or cancer. It’s just so hard saying good bye. Enjoy the eternal memories.

    • Thanks Flip. I love that you foster puppies and trains military working dogs, but know it must be hard to loose them. Thanks for your service and for your note.

  27. Thank you for sharing your precious Denver with us. I have always taken comfort in something Reverend Billy Graham said, “God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in Heaven and if it takes my dog being there I believe he’ll be there”! Such a comforting thought. I hope each passing day brings a little more healing to your hurting heart. Sharing your gratitude for what you had with Denver and especially his last days was so moving, thank you.

    • Thanks so much, Keri. I do believe Billy Graham is correct and expect to see my dogs in Heaven. I appreciate your note.

  28. Robin, my tears are shed with yours. What a loving tribute to Denver, and how wonderful of you to share it with the rest of us. When I lost my first dog more than 60 years ago, the pain was so bad I thought I would die from a broken heart, but I kept thinking that it would get easier as I got older. The problem is…it hasn’t…and it doesn’t. The pain was just as bad when I held my last dog through her final 24 hours. Being in my 70’s and having held a number of other dogs as they went to the Bridge hasn’t made it any easier.

  29. Such a lucky dog was Denver — lucky for his family and the love shared with generosity. This is a beautiful tribute and record of a wonderful journey. I hope you find comfort to ease your grief, and thank you for sharing this record of your journey.

  30. I think I read most of this with tears in my eyes. Your love for Denver is so palpable! I am happy for all of the years you had your furbaby with you, getting to enjoy life together. And, I am saddened for his remarkable loss in your lives. You, Greg and your family have been, and will continue to be, in our thoughts and prayers.

  31. Heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. I’ve said that the hardest time in my life is not the loss of a dog, but the preparing for the loss. You want to make sure that you have packed as much love into the final days to match the limitless love they have given you. It’s a very precious time that you never forget.

    • Hi Steve, thanks for your note. You are so correct about trying to pack as much love as you can into those days. That is a great way of explaining it. Thanks for your note

  32. Robin,
    What a beautiful journal of your baby’s last weeks with you. Thank you so much for sharing and reminding us that we need to be grateful every day of who we have in our lives that makes life oh so wonderful! It is very painful, I know, too, to feel that loss. We who have and love the animals in our lives, most especially dogs, are so very fortunate because of what they teach and give to us every day. They bless us with their antics, love, sharing kisses, teaching us kindness and compassion…we are indeed the ones who need their rescuing.
    Blessings and happy memories of Denver to you and your husband,

    • Thanks, Cyndi. It is times like this when I am so thankful to be in the pet industry surrounded by so many people who understand the grief. I appreciate your kind words.

  33. What a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to Denver, I am so sorry for your loss but also so happy that when it was his time to leave this world he was able to experience his favorite things one final time wrapped in the love and care of his family.

  34. Dear Robin & Greg,
    As I sit here and wipe the tears, that are now running down my chest, I can’t thank you enough for sharing these wonderful photos and your last special days with Denver. I know you talked about him a lot and how much he was a major part of your life.
    We all know this great pain of loss, but are also so grateful for the gift God has given us for having them in our lives. No matter how short their lives are, it is truly a gift and blessing.
    I’d like to share with you one of my favorite quotes…
    Dogs never die, they are sleeping in our hearts, alive in our dreams. Loved by a dog is one of the best relation we can cherish in our lifetime.
    When you feel that tugging in your heart, it’s only Denver’s tail wagging to let you know he is there with you, he has never left you, he’s right there in your heart.
    Sending thoughts, prayers & hugs for comfort.

    • Hi Barbara, Thanks so much for your wonderful words. I love the thought of Denver sleeping in my heart! I do believe that is true but you put it so nicely. Thanks for your post.

  35. My heart and prayers go out to you. Saying goodbye is never easy. I’m so glad you were able to have the time to share your trip with Denver is so many memorable ways. God bless you and your family with His comfort and peace.

  36. OMG!!! I’m choking back tears (as I sit getting my hair done at a salon). What a lovely way for Denver to spend his last days – enjoying his favourite things with his mom and dad. I remember also being grateful for my 15-year-old Golden Retriever’s last days, except I had no inkling that they were his last. Had I known, I would have done more special things for him and fed him the greatest meal of his life. I am grateful that he didn’t suffer, and that I didn’t have to decide when was the “right time” to say goodbye. The burst tumour in him made it the only choice when the time came. Right afterwards, I started a list of all the funny, sweet, endearing, sometimes naughty things he did so I could keep those memories alive. My heartfelt condolences for your loss.

    • hi Alison, I love the you started a list about your dog. What a great idea. It is fun to remember all the funny (and sometimes naughty) things that made them so special. I appreciate your note.

  37. Dear Robin,

    What a beautiful dog was Denver with an amazing and beautiful story of the final days. Be a puppy in heaven now with perfect health and making the angels laugh!

    My sincere sympathy,
    Jerry Hinn

  38. So sorry about your loss!
    I am scared of this because I adopted a mixed breed that was my mom-in-law’s dog ans she is now 15. Then I had a stroke and my daughter got a puppy as a gift and dear Bella [11]was my crutch to get back to where I was. Needless to say, Jacqui could not take Bella along when she moved out! Two more of her pups came to stay with me when they moved oversees!

    Love, Hugs and Prayers for you. Denver is going to be a happy chappy across the Rainbow bridge!

    • Thanks Marietta. Hope things are all going well with your dogs. They are such wonderful companions for us!

  39. I know Acadia has always been one of our dogs favorite places (and ours). We too have made last trip to Acadia with our elderly dogs for which I too am forever grateful

  40. Hi Robin,
    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful tribute to Denver. I am in the process of going through some end of life issues with my beloved friend Shasta, a little terrier mutt that picked me to be his pet parent at a rescue shelter 14 years ago. Your blog helped me to remember and be grateful for the happier and healthier times we had with him. Losing our precious companions can be very hard for so many reasons……thank you for helping me to remember all the very good times. RIP Denver and hope you find many tennis balls to chase in heaven!

    • Awww, thanks so much, Cindy. I hope you and Shasta have many more days ahead of you. Thanks for your thoughts and kind words.

  41. What a wonderful journey you have had with an exceptional companion, Denver. I am so very sorry for your loss and hope that the memories you have of him will be the comfort you need as you heal from his passing.
    You are an inspiration to us all.
    Nan Kleb
    Stuebner Airline Pet Resort and Spa

  42. Robin, I am so deeply sorry that I am at the point where words fail me. You are a wonderful human being and a terrific dog mom and I know what I wonderful life you gave your baby. It’s never enough time and deepest condolences

  43. Our pets lives end, but rarely are they the type of endings we would like or expect. It sounds like “Denver” had as close to a perfect ending as any pet owner could hope for. Thank-you for sharing Denver’s final days…..filled with “endless” love!

  44. Oh Robin and Greg,
    Although we have never met I felt like I “knew” Denver from all your pics and postings of him having fun! I am so sorry for your loss. He was such a great dog….you were so lucky to have had him, and vice versa. Thinking of you.
    Mickey

  45. I’m sorry that his time had to end, but glad for you that you had so much love from him.
    Best wishes.

  46. Robin, this was an awesome tribute. I never met Denver, but totally understand your close bond with him. I loved you mentioning his ears blowing in the wind!! On my Ridgeback, Kama’s, last day – we did popcorn toss – cause she loved to catch each piece. She reminded me of the TV dog puppet from the Nestle chocolate commercial in the 60’s that said “Choc……..late” and snapped his mouth shut! That was Kama. The other thing I loved about her was her ears…..and 10 years later, I still run to greet each Ridgeback that comes in to ABC so I can touch their ears. Soft, soft. Anyway, friend, thanks for your beautiful words. Love ya! Suzanne

    • Thanks so much, Suzanne. I love your story about mama’s last day and her wonderful ears too! Dogs are so wonderful, aren’t they? See you SOON!

  47. Beautiful tribute, Robin.
    We had to say goodbye to our beautiful English Cocker, Eliot, several years ago, and it is a very hard thing to do. Our Eliot is buried at a lovely pet cemetery with an inscription on his memorial stone (by Will Rogers) “If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

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