Three uneaten ears of corn

Prelude: Sunday, June 22, 2008

Only three weeks ago. All seems well.

Prelude II: Thursday, July 3, 2008

We learn that all is not well.

Saturday, July 12, 2008, 6:30 AM

He spoke through tears of 15 years how his dog and him
traveled about
The dog up and died, he up and died
And after 20 years he still grieves.

(From Mr. Bojangles by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, 1970)

It is early Saturday morning, and I can no longer sleep. Preternaturally quiet, a shroud of silence blankets the house, oppressive, dark, and hateful. There aren't even any birds chirping, and puzzlingly I have yet to hear the shriek of the the whistle heralding the morning train that rumbles along the tracks less than a mile from our house at ridiculously early hours every morning. With a groan, I rouse myself from the couch, where I fell asleep last night and make my way to the refrigerator, looking for something to drink. Then I notice it.

Three fresh ears of uneaten corn sit in a clear plastic bag on the bottom shelf of our refrigerator. My wife purchased them for the family, but one of the ears will not be eaten. That's because Echo, our dog who delighted in eating corn off the cob just like a human being, died yesterday.


Echo at the beach in 2001


Echo in her prime

Our relation with Echo began July 3, 2000. Actually, it began a few days before that when, fresh from buying and moving in to our first house together, my wife and I first met the gangly black puppy who would ultimately win our hearts and whose passing. At the time, we had been married 8 years, and in all that time we had desperately wanted a dog. However, residency, graduate school, and our frequent moves all conspired to deny us our wish. Right after our marriage, we lived in a rather large apartment building that didn't permit dogs. Between 1996 and 2000, we moved a total of four times, thanks to the demands of my training and then my finally finding a faculty position at the tender young age of 36 in a far away state, or, as I put it, my first "real" job. Upon relocating to allow me to take that job, we first rented an apartment because we were unfamiliar with the area and had no idea where would be a good place to buy a house. No dog again. Our delayed gratification was delayed another year. When we finally did start looking for a house, one of our near-absolute requirements was a fenced-in backyard, and we absolutely required that we could fence in the yard. Getting a dog was part of the bargain, as far as we were concerned. Otherwise, why bother to get a house, rather than an apartment of condo?

There were actually several weeks between when we finalized the offer and when we closed, and as the date of moving grew closer, we kept our eye out, starting by frequenting, as well as checking out events at a local shopping center where shelters would bring adoptable dogs. Soon after we moved in, we were visiting a couple of shelters and left thoroughly depressed at all the dogs without homes. A visit to the Staten Island shelter in particular dampened our spirits. So many dogs! How to choose? We wanted to take them all, but we had room for only one. How would we know which one was the one? How could we?

Then my wife found her online:


Her name was Tina, and we found her on We had no way of knowing that "Tina" was the one, but she was around four or five months old and appeared to be around the right size. We went to visit her at a shelter then known as Small Dog Rescue. Run by a retired child psychiatrist named Emmett Wilson, Jr. on his farm, Small Dog Rescue is a no-kill shelter that primarily saves small dogs. But not just any small dogs. The dogs Dr. Wilson rescued tend to be mostly the "unadoptable," such as old dogs, dogs with missing limbs, dogs with health problems, or dogs with behavioral issues. Also, it's a condition of adoption that if anyone adopting a dog from Small Dog Rescue decides to euthanize the dog for behavioral issues or inability to take care of the dog, Dr. Wilson must be informed and given the opportunity to take the dog back. As we visited the farm, I was thinking that I had never seen such a motley collection of scruffy, old, snaggle-toothed dogs running around between a massive fenced-in pen and a barn. If the dog wasn't at least six years old, missing a limb, and preferably missing most of its teeth, it wasn't a typical candidate for Small Dog Rescue. Or so it seemed to us at the time. The barking was continuous, and we were immediately greeted by a pack of the aforementioned snaggle-toothed dogs.

"Tina" looked distinctly out of place among the grizzled dog population on the farm. She just didn't fit in. For one thing, she was much younger than the other dogs, obviously still a puppy. She was a bit larger than the other dogs as well. Indeed, I got the impression that the shelter personnel didn't quite know what to do with her and her level of energy. Her power over humans could not be denied, however, inducing Dr. Smith to rescue her from a local shelter because she was scheduled to be euthanized the next day. We have no idea whether her owners brought her in or whether she was a stray, but Dr. Wilson saved her life and brought her to his dog farm to live among the collection of lovable misfits who dwelt there.

His dog farm is where we met Tina and fell in love. We decided that she was the one, or she decided we were the ones.

It was with great excitement and anticipation that we went on a shopping spree to buy things a dog needs: food, dog bowls, crate, leash, toys, etc. Although my family had had a dog when I was a teenager, since moving out of my parents' house, I had not owned a dog. Since our marriage, my wife and I had never even lived in a place where we could have a dog before; we had none of that stuff around. When the day arrived, my wife and I were little kids going into a toy store. We brought her home, and renamed her Echo, a name my wife thought of. It fit.

The first nights did not go smoothly. Echo, like many puppies do in strange surroundings, cried all night. I got frustrated and angry, apparently so much so that my wife later told me she was afraid that I was going to make her take Echo back to Dr. Wilson. She needn't have feared, but I could see why she might have thought that. I had operations to do the next day and needed my sleep. My wife stayed up with the dog the whole time and tried to calm her. Eventually, Echo came to accept us. Upon taking her to the vet for the first time, we learned that she had a pretty bad worm infestation as well as ear mites; so we had to poney up for medicine and treat her. I remember its taking seemingly forever to clear her ears of those mites.

The next question was whether the dog would be allowed to get in bed with us. My view was that she should not, that we should put a dog bed somewhere near ours for Echo to sleep in. My wife's view was that she should. You can guess the outcome. I lost. Ultimately, I didn't mind losing, but Echo grew beyond what was originally predicted by the vet. Fully grown, she was between 60 and 65 pounds, and she instinctively knew how to use her bulk as a dead weight to take up as much space as possible, and she was truly the immovable black lump of furry blackness. Sometimes I think that, deep in that doggy brain of hers, she carefully calculated and plotted exactly where to lie and how to make sure that both my wife and I were left with only a sliver of space on either side of the bed. She was just that smart. I also used to joke that she was a bit of a slut in that she would get into bed and sleep with anyone, so much did she love the comfort of a warm bed. What I most remember about Echo and beds is how she used to "ask permission" to get into the bed. She'd sidle up to the edge of the bed, head down, quietly approaching, and then then she'd rest her head on it, looking at my wife and me with those huge brown eyes silently and plaintively pleading, "Oh, please, please can I get up on that nice, warm, comfy bed? It looks so soft and warm and cozy and I am so cold and small and pathetic. I won't be any trouble at all. Really."


Echo and friend in winter


Echo and another friend in summer.

Over the months, our love for Echo deepened, and Echo became truly our dog. We were a family. It's not that she was a perfect dog, but she was perfect for us. I remember an incident when she was an older puppy when she chomped the stitching on one of our living room chairs and pillows. For reasons that we never figured out, she developed a couple of strange phobias as well. She didn't like linoleum floors, and in fact wouldn't come into our kitchen willingly because the floor frightened her. Most un-dog-like behavior, and for several years until we moved into a different house she missed out on cleaning up our dropped food because of it. She also didn't like stairs. Sometimes it would take her multiple false starts before she'd finally make it up the stairs, and if the stairs were enclosed, as the stairs leading to the upstairs in my mother-in-law's house were, forget it. The only way to get her up those stairs was to carry all 63 squirming pounds of her. She was also most un-Lab-like, despite the webbing between her paws, in that she didn't like the water. When we took her on a boat one time, the first thing she'd do when we put her in the water is to swim straight back to the boat and try to get out of the water, finally scrambling with help back onto the boat looking every inch the proverbial drowned rat.

In other ways, Echo was quite brave and strong. When we let her out into the back yard, she'd frequently go charging out there, chest puffed up, with a challenging bark to chase away any interlopers. Usually, any interlopers were bunnies or squirrels, but she leapt out into the yard as though she were preparing to do battle with a bear. She could leap, too, huge distances, covering our deck in just two jumps at most. She had a mischievous streek, too, and sometimes used her strength and appearance for her own amusement, too. One of her favorite games at the old house was to wait in the corner of the backyard for the mailman to walk by. She'd wait until he was right next to our fence (our house was on a corner lot), and then leap up and bark fiercely, sometimes scaring the crap out of the mail carrier. I still marvel that she never got maced.

Echo also loved to "scent roll." I'm sure there's an evolutionary explanation for why dogs love to roll in poop or dead birds, but it's a trait that can annoy. I remember one time that before we make the several hundred mile ride to visit the family with the dog my wife gave her a bath. Not long after our arrival, Echo zeroed in like a smart bomb to the one spot in my parents' yard where there was some compost and rolled in it, coming back, her neck covered in grass and smelling like--well--a compost heap. A particularly ripe compost heap, actually. The amusing thing is that Echo bought herself another bath that very day, perhaps the only time that she got two consecutive baths on two consecutive days. Not that that deterred her. We had to keep a very close eye on her after that, because she tried to do it again.

Then there was the critter carnage. I've written of this before; so I won't dwell on it overmuch here, but Echo was the Goddess of Death for any unfortunate bunnies who strayed into our yard, particularly young bunnies who couldn't get either under the fence or under the deck before the Goddess caught them. We learned certain behaviors that tipped us off that Echo may just have made a kill. Of coure, she'd sometimes come back with fur not her own all over her face, but that tipoff was just too obvious. One time, Echo managed to sneak a dead baby bird that she had found in the yard all the way into the house and upstairs to our bedroom. We didn't realize it until we wondered why she wasn't opening her mouth and then noticed a feather sticking out the side and what looked like part of a wing. At least she didn't make it into teh bed with that thing. We also marveled at how an animal could be so merciless when it came to small critters but so loving and devoted when it came to us. Six years ago my wife and I went through a very difficult time in ourlives, and Echo was there. Her smelly, black furry bulk and unconditional love helped us make it through our trials.

Somewhere along the line, Echo developed a taste for corn. I don't remember how it started, but to the best of my recollection a few years ago my wife started letting her lick the corn on cob. It started out with us letting her have a go at the bits and pieces left over on partially eaten ears of corn. Echo loved it, and she got better and better at cleaning every last bit of corn off the cob. In fact, she did a much better job of it than I did, even at the cost of occasionally inducing a little bit of bleeding in the gums. When she was done, there was not a single hint of corn, just a cob chomped as far as it could be chomped without biting into the cob itself. Echo particularly liked her corn with butter and salt. In her later years, we started intentionally making more corn than we could eat, so that Echo could enjoy the leftovers. Sometimes we even boiled an extra ear, just for her.

So life went on for eight years, Echo bringing joy to our lives every day, until the dreaded disease, to the fight against which I've dedicated my life and that has claimed family and friend, decided that humans were not enough. Thursday night, ironically not long after I wrote an update of her condition, Echo's breathing became rapid and labored. My wife and I both slept downstairs in the family room with her, my wife on the couch, me on the floor on a makeshift bed of blankets because she could not make it upstairs. We had been doing this for the last few days anyway, because we didn't want to stress Echo's leg by making her go up the stairs. By the morning, it was clear that this was not a temporary setback. Echo was lethargic most of the time and could only intermittently rouse herself to bark at passers-by. The limp that had brought the tumor mass to my attention was clearly much larger, and her leg appeared to be bothering her more. Echo looked tired, so tired, and her belly was larger. I was sure she had developed ascites. There were periods of time when she lay on her side, almost unresponsive, such that we feared she would stop breathing before we could do anything. But then something would happen and she would perk up for a while--but only for a while. Through it all, she never lost her appetite, though, making me marvel at how she could be so deathly ill and still beg for cheese, her favorite treat of all. Nonetheless, faced with unequivocal evidence that Echo's condition was going downhill rapidly, my wife and I made the the only decision we could, but even so it was most difficult decision we have ever had to make together. Friday morning, I arranged to have a vet who does house calls come out to the house to relieve Echo's suffering. As we waited for the inevitable, my wife and I sat with Echo outside for a couple of hours on a beautiful sunny Friday afternoon, taking pictures. After the vet and her assistant arrived, Echo's end was peaceful and quick, but most of all it was in familiar surroundings, with my wife and me at her side petting and hugging her. When it was over, her features softened, and for the first time since her deterioration she was at peace.

So after having misjudged how strong the wine my wife and I had drunk in Echo's honor Friday night and fallen asleep on the couch, here I sit in the gloom of ths morning and my thoughts, my wife asleep on blankets on the floor, her chest rising and falling rhythmically, reminding me that one being I love, at least, still lives. In stark contrast, a blanket lies accusingly on the floor with black hair on it. A bowl of water that will never be drunk and a plastic storage bin of food that will never be eaten, at least not by Echo, sit as silent reminders of what we lost. A basket full of toys, including the infamous one that what we tended to refer to as the "disgusting, spitty, furry chipmunk," lies on the mantle mocking me. All remind me that never again will either of us feel Echo's warm body at our feet or plastered against us in the bed. Never again will we savor the silky softness of her ears. Never again will we chase her in the yard to her (and our) delight, as she would trot up to provoke us and then speed away as we chased her. Worst of all, never again will my wife or I come home to Echo's legendary greetings, in which she would break into a howl of "woo-oo-oo!" and talk to me in that voice of hers that sounded every bit as though Scooby-Doo and Chewbacca had mated in 1999, and Echo was the offspring.

But most of all, reminding me of our loss most of all are three uneaten ears of corn that still sit on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. We had planned on having one last corn feast with Echo, but, alas, it was not to be. My wife and I may eat two of them and bury the third. Or maybe we should bury all three in memory of what we once were. Whatever we decide, this weekend, at least, there is a large art fair in our town. We will go there. We will go there and try to enjoy it. We will go there to try to fill the gaping dog-shaped hole in our hearts.

We will fail. There are some holes that can never be filled, and there is an ear of corn in our refrigerator that will never be eaten. Nothing can change that, and our lives will never be the same.

Farewell, old friend.

Echo's last week:


Echo's last day:


And the last picture of Echo ever:


Farewell, to the greatest dog in the world, Echo (b. February 2000; d. July 11, 2008)

Note: Donations can be made in Echo's name to Small Dog Rescue. The address and instructions can be found here and instructions here. Dr. Wilson does good work.


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I'm speechless. It's going to be hard to clear the tears and get on with surgery today.

By AJohns, M.D. (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

I'm sorry for your loss, orac. Wish I had something better or more comforting to say, but I don't so, just I'm sorry.

Deepest sympathy for the loss of a wonderful companion and an obvious friend.

By Blaidd Drwg (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

Orac...what can I say. Again I have tears in my eyes. My heart goes out to you and your wife and you are in my thoughts. Hugs. Dawn

My sympathies to you and your family.

(I've had to deal with our kitties and bunnies, since I'm the biologist and therefore the heartless one. Fortunately we have apple trees and gooseberries in our back yard - so they get to rest in the shade.)

James 2:24

Thanks for giving Echo the best of lives...and for the brave selflessness when you both realized the moment had come to let her go.

Here's to holes that can never be filled, changed lives and the best dog in the world...

Oh, I'm so sorry, Orac. She was a beautiful dog and I'm sure she knew how much you and your wife loved her up until the moment she passed on.

I am so, so sorry for your loss.

Man I'm sorry Orac. I keep myself up some nights wondering that that day will be like for me and my two dogs. I don't sleep well those nights.

Thinking about you and your family.

Condolences for losing someone that was like family. The happy moments with Echo will always be with you and your wife.

My heart goes out to you, Orac. Been there, done that, with a couple of cats I dearly loved (as I love the two I've got now). Even for those of us in the healing professions, it's tough.

It leaves a void that seems as if it can never be filled. But it can, and it will. Someday.

I'm so sorry, Orac. She was a beautiful, and obviously loving dog, and clearly you guys made her life a very happy one. My feline, two dogs, and I are thinking of you and your family.

*Virtual Hugs*

I'm so very sorry for your loss Orac.

My thoughts are with you and your wife at this horrible time.

By Lilly de Lure (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

I lost my cat who had been with me for 16 years back in December.

Pets can bring such much joy to our lives but such heartache when we loose them.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

I'm so sorry for both of you. She was a beautiful girl and she was very lucky to have two humans who gave her the full life she had and the good death she deserved.

Damn you for making me cry in the morning. Eerie to read that our dog is not the only one with linoliuphobia.

Condolences Orac.

I'm so sorry. What a beautifully written and moving post... my condolences.

I am so sorry for your loss.

My condolences to your family.

So very sorry for your loss. I'll say to you what I've told my children when beloved pets have died. Do you have any regrets, or did you love the pet to your utmost and show it daily? I know you did that, Orac. You and your family loved Echo and showed it every day in every way. Treasure the great memories of her. And look for a new puppy to love when you are ready. Such love needs to be given anew.

I'm so sorry for the loss of Echo. We lost our dog of ten years in April, and my heart breaks for you and your wife. Dogs lives are too short.

Hugs, Orac.

By Julie Stahlhut (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. You obviously loved her, you made the right choice for her at the right time. No one could ask for more.

Best wishes and sincerest condolences to you and your family.

Orac, she is at peace, and she could not have had a better send-off than to be with the 2 humans she loved the most. My sincere and heart-felt condolences. I know it doesn't seem like much, but I feel your pain and understand what you are going through. The tribute was beautifully written and very touching. Good luck to you and your family.

About the video...damn, that was some good corn ;)

By Craig Willoughby (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

My Bichon got his paws on a shrew yesterday , & I thought of Echo.

Echo lived a wonderful life filled with love, right up 'til the end. And she loved back like only a dog can.

*virtual hug*

We love the so, so much, and their lives are so short.

But I wouldn't give up that love for anything.

Rest peacefully, Echo. My much-loved Sasha dog loved corn on the cob too.

Sincere condolences - she probably died a peaceful death and could not have asked for a better death, probably - just the way my dog died two weeks ago.

My sympathies to you and your wife. You wrote a beautiful tribute. We all know that you loved her and were a wonderful person to her.

My condolences to you and your wife.

Your lovely tribute made me cry this morning as it brought back the feelings of last Thanksgiving when my 16 1/2 year old cat passed away.

Virtual hug to your wife and a virtual awkward man-hug to you.

For what it's worth, I understand, and am glad you are able to celebrate Echo's life with you. She lived well. That's something always to be treasured.

I'm so sorry, Orac.

A couple of weeks ago, calling my spouse from the grocery store, after I asked if I should pick anything up, I said, "Let me talk to Geordie" (one of the two big old rescued mutts who own us). When my spouse got back on the phone, I SAID, "Uh oh, we've turned into THOSE people, the kind who talk to their dogs on the phone."

If you want to know the character of a person, just look at his/her dog.

What a fine person you are, Orac. I hope over time that your memories of Echo become comforting.

I'm so sorry for your loss and appreciative for the time you had with her.

It is little consolation to know that Echo's life was much better with you two than it would have been otherwise. I have lost three dogs to cancer. Every once in a while I have to think about them and cry a little. It's an installment on what I owe them.

I'm very sorry, Orac. I wish I had something more than just words to offer in the way of consolation; it's never enough. She sounds like a great dog, and your love comes through in your tribute to her.

Damn you form making me cry this morning.

Hang in there.


My condolences on your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Some people might think "it's just a dog," but once you've had a dog in your life, you can never think that. It's not just a dog. It's *your* dog, and that is an entirely different thing.

"We will go there to try to fill the gaping dog-shaped hole in our hearts."

When we lose someone, we feel as if a part of ourselves has been ripped brutally away. But I've come to realize, through all the funerals I've been to in the last year, that it's not really true. The part of you marked "Echo" is not gone. It's still there. If it had really been ripped away, you would not hurt so much. And that's actually not a bad thing, even though it hurts, because as long as you've got that part marked "Echo", she isn't completely gone from this Earth -- and because it means you loved her, which is undeniably a good thing.

We mourn for our lost pets (and family and friends), but that is the price we pay for loving them. It is very much worth it. The best illustration I've ever seen of this is in Antoine de St-Exupery's "Le Petit Prince". Chapter 21 is about the little prince taming the fox, which is central to the whole book. The same themes are repeated later in the book with much more poignancy.

The Little Prince, Chapter XXI
Le Petit Prince, Chapitre XXI

Later, in Chapter 25, there is this:
Je me souvenais du renard. On risque de pleurer un peu si l'on s'est laissé apprivoiser...
I remembered the fox. One runs the risk of weeping a little, if one lets himself be tamed...

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

Yup, i'm crying too.

Echo's story is beyond beautiful. I know you miss her, but remember you did right by her, and gave her a wonderful life.

That was a beautiful tribute.

My deepest condolences. Take good care, and know that you gave her an amazing life.

That is tough, I am sorry for your loss.

By Catherina (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

Sorry about your dog.

Chewy was a good dog too. They never last long enough.

My sincerest condolences.

Years later, I still have dreams about the dog I grew up with, the quintessential "river dog" who was a mix of German Shepherd and Lab and who knows what else and who had been raised from puppyhood by a cat and who consequently had a few quite un-dog-like manners. Ace was the reason my father taught me about epilepsy, as it happens, because a fever the dog had suffered in his younger days scarred something and left him with occasional fits. He was the sweetest dog in the world. . . even when he acted like a cat. . . .

Orac, even briefly scrolling down through this post made me burst into tears. I can't imagine what you're going through. I guess you've just got to remember that you were both lucky to spend such joyous times together, and that the happy memories will live on.

From one dog-lover to another, you have my sincerest condolences.

Sorry about your dog, Orac.

Oh gosh, what's the salty stuff leaking out from my eye???

Sorry about the loss of your beloved dog, Orac. I'm actually caniphobic, but I empathize with the bond you had with your pet.

By Rogue Epidemiologist (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

My condolences to you, more especially since our own Tess (Border Collie) died on July 10th, suddenly, unexpectedly, but at least peacefully.

This is why the word "sucks" was invented.


I don't know you and you don't know me, but the tears blurring my vision as I type are both for your loss of Echo and the memory of my dog, Bitsy, who died of cancer two years ago. I had her since I was five and she lived almost 14 years (I'm a young'un) and slept in my bed every night as well. It took me a long time to not think of her every day, and I still get afraid that I'll forget things about her; the little tiny things like how she'd kick me at night, or wake me up needing to go outside at 3am when she got older, or the softest little pink patch above her nose. My point is, that though I no longer think of her every day, or get sad when I do think of her, is that I don't think I've forgotten anything about her, and I don't think I will. Best friends like that leave too much of an impression on us, and though it hurts to lose them, it gets better and you're left with a lot of happy memories.

I'm sure you know all this, but I know it wasn't something I was thinking about when I was holding her in a pink towel (in case she got sick), my mother driving to the vet's to put her down, or very soon afterward, and I thought I'd let you know (among the hundreds of other well-wishers here) that my thoughts are with you *and* that I thank you for reminding me of how much my Bitsy meant to me, because I never want to forget.

My best wishes to you and your family,



I'm so terribly sorry for your loss. Words can't express the sorrow that I'm sure you feel.


So sorry, my deepest condolences.

Very sorry to read about it.

I am sorry for your loss.
What a beautiful tribute to Echo.

*can't talk right now, tears are gushing out of her eyes like freakin' waterfalls*

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

So Sorry, Orac. Rest in peace Echo.

By notmercury (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

My sympathy to you and your wife, Orac.

Oh no! So swift, so soon. All my sympathy.

Good dog, Echo.

By Faithful Reader (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

Dear Orac and wife,

The deepest sympathies from my wife, Maureen, myself, our dogs, Monty, Echo, Tina, Bebe, Rita and Abe, our cat, Tania and our peach-fronted conyer, Charlie. We all feel your pain.


By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

I'm so sorry to hear about Echo. Thank you for sharing a part of her with us. Now I have to go hug my two mutts.

My heart goes out to you and your wife. I had to let my dog, Daisy, go in March.
Echo was loved, cherished and had a beautiful life thanks to the both of you.

By MightyLambchop (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

Words fail me, it has been 11 years since I had to do the same thing to my dog for the same reasons, and you brought everything back. The only thing that I can do is to come up with a cheesy quote that helped me:

"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan."
-Irving Townsend

"i has a corm NOM NOM NOM" FTW!

I'm having a hard time typing this 'cuz I can't see through the tears. What a sweet girl, and what an eloquent tribute to the lost member of your family.

By themadlolscientist (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

Condolences, Orac. It's been a few years since we said goodbye to our old dog, but his memory lives on, too..

As she folded her paws for the last time, and rested her beautiful head upon them, her last thoughts would have been of the people who loved her and made life spectacular. She has now crossed Rainbow Bridge, to eat corn on the cob and frolic forever without pain. One day she will spot her people at the Bridge and welcome them with all the fervor possible.
(One can find the lovely little poem "Rainbow Bridge" on the net. Look it up.)

My deepest sympathy for the loss of your beautiful Echo. The death of a beloved pet hits very hard - here are some excerpts from writers that helped me a little when my dog died last year:

One last word of farewell, Dear Master and Mistress. Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: "Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved." No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.
-Eugene O'Neill "The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog"

But there are sources of consolation nevertheless. One is that the dead do not wish the living to linger in sorrow. Rather, they wish them to grasp the truth expressed in Jean Giraudoux's lines telling us that comfort and an eventual return to happiness are always promised in grief: "Sadness flies on the wings of the morning; out of the heart of darkness comes the light." To demonstrate this, consider the following. Think of those you care about; imagine them mourning when you die; and ask yourself how much sorrow you would wish them to bear. The answer would surely be: neither too much, nor for too long. You would wish them to come to terms with loss and thereafter to remember the best of the past with joy; and you would wish them to continue life hopefully, which is the natural sentiment of the human condition. If that is what we wish for those we will leave behind us when we die, then that is what we must believe would be desired by those who have already died. In that way we do justice to a conception of what their best and kindest wishes for us would be, and thereby begin to restore the balance that is upset by this most poignant of life's sorrows.
- A.C. Grayling "The Last Word on Sorrow"

I also offer my sincere condolences.

By Squiddhartha (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

*can't see through the tears*

What a beautiful rememberence. Internet eulogy, even. Deepest condolences to your family. Echo was very obviously a loved dog, right up to the last moment.

I don't know what else to say at a time like this except to offer my sympathy and to say that readers like myself who have loved and lost beloved pets over the years understand your sorrow and sense of profound loss.


My deepest sympathies on the loss of your beloved Echo. Your pictorials have been a fantastic tribute. It's terribly hard, I know...and if I can figure out how to do it, I'll be posting some pics of that cat I mentioned in a previous comment. They may not last forever, but the love of a dog or cat teaches invaluable lessons that last a lifetime. And now I think I'll go pet my two felines...

I lost my little dog, Tilly, a month ago. I can't think of any thing that would make you feel better, so finish "Bunnies Made of Cheese" as a memorial to Echo. Tilly loved cheese and chasing bunnies, even though she wasn't big enough to do them any damage.

Lovely eulogy, Orac. It always hurts to lose a beloved friend, of whatever species. I'm sorry for your loss, but I'm glad you have such happy memories to keep. Take care.

~David D.G.

By David D.G. (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

Echo was a beautiful dog. This brought tears to my eyes. I wish you and yours all the best while you work through your grief. While I am an atheist, for some reason, the words God bless you come to mind at these times. God bless you.

Sorry to hear of your loss. She was a beautiful dog.

So sorry to hear the news.

I can't open a can of salmon without looking for my cat Brandy, already waiting at my feet for the juice. How he loved it!

For you, it will be three ears of corn.


I don't even know what to say. Your strength in being able to write about this is amazing, Orac. I'm sitting here feeding sour gummy bears (only the orange ones) to our Buffalo, a dog who looks remarkably like Echo, and crying. If it were possible to ease someone else's pain with the assurance of others who clearly want to do just that, I think you'd know what it is to be without suffering. To plagiarize Paul McCartney, it is evident that the love Echo made was equal to the love she took.

Oh, Orac.

My crazy rescue Chihuahua Kismet and I send our condolences.

*sniffles and goes to find tissue*

By kittenchasesyarn (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

So sorry for your lost, Orac.

By the way, I just became your first subscriber. It says you've had a youtube account for 2 years. And yet you've only favorited 3 videos. That's a little sad, too.

Almost 16 years later, I still remember vividly the day I woke up to find out that my two-year-old lhasa apso had broken his leash and been run over by a truck. He was like family to me. I'm sorry for your loss, Orac.

By Dave Carlson (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

So very sorry for your loss.
What a beautiful dog you gave a wonderful life to.

By the skeptical … (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

Orac and Mrs. Orac, I am so sorry for your loss. Orac, I have always enjoyed your writings and medical/scientific perspective, but in your posts about Echo, you've let us truly see your humanity and kindness. I am grateful that we have physicians and researchers who care as much as you do. Loss is hard, but for those of us who choose to share our lives with animal friends, it is almost inevitable. All we can do is enjoy their company while we can, and make their lives a little more enjoyable (written while the two stray cats and one shelter cat we've taken in roam our house).

My sincere condolences to you and your wife.

Thank you for sharing your photos of your beautiful Echo, the shiny dog with the cool ears.

I think that you and your wife should split that third ear of corn. That's what Echo would want.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Thank you for that lovely tribute. It was a joy to read.

It's obvious Echo had one terrific life and suffered little at the end. To have only a few days of illness at the end of a fruitful life is the best any being could ask for.

My sincere condolences to you, your wife, and all those whose lives were made more joyful by her presence.

So sorry for your loss Orac.

Remember the wonderful times you two had together - how Echo made you laugh, comforted you when you were sad and showed you unrestricted love and devotion. These are the secret gifts of a dog. These memories will always be there to savor - they are the immortal legacy of a true friend.


The only thing worse than losing her would be never having known her.

***crying at work*** Goodbye echo.

You've made me cry and remember Little Bit, my kitty of 11 years who died of cancer not long ago. Oh I loved that puss so much. I loved his silky fur and his endless, endless devoted purring when beside me.

He would gently bat my nose in the morning to wake me up.

Oh I loved that puss. It's hard to remember how he burried his head against my shoulder as the vet pushed the milky white vial into his IV, and then went limp.

I really hate death.

What a beautiful dog. What a terrible loss. My family, too, waited years to get a dog, and when we finally did, adopted a boisterous black youngster from a no-kill shelter. I moved out years ago, but I still look forward to seeing the now crotchety old guy when I visit my parents. I know we're going to lose him before too much longer, and it breaks my heart to think about it.

You're lucky to have had her, and more importantly, she was very, very lucky to have had you.

That video is brilliant, by the way. A lovely memorial for a dog with personality.

I feel like one of those people who cry about celebrities dying. It seems silly, because you don't know the people, but I think it's really because it evokes your own loss. I know what you're going through, and I'm sad for your loss. I'd hope no one has to go through it, and I wish you didn't.
My condolences to you and your family.

I'm so sorry. I know how you feel, but that doesn't make it any easier. There's nothing sadder than a suddenly dog-less house.

So very, very sorry for your loss.

I'm so sorry for your loss, Orac. Your eulogy provides such a rich and poignant portrayal of her personality her spirit, and your journey together. Thank you once again for sharing this with your readers.

You and your wife have my most sincere condolences on the loss of your beloved Echo. Be well.

I'm speechless, I never knew the dog, and I don't know you except your blog. But I feel so strongly in my empathy for you and your family. After having terrible luck (I guess that's the way to put it) with dogs whom I've developed bonds with, I know completely how hard it is to lose him or her...

Sincerest condolences...

When we took Vahsti home from the shelter (3 days after we dropped off a bag of dogfood that would never be eaten), one of the volunteers said "goodbye - have an nice life" to him.

You gave Echo a nice life. Remember all the happy moments.

When you are ready there will be a dog waiting for you in a shelter.

Condolences from me and lick from Vahsti.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

What a beautiful girl! I'm so so sorry for your loss. It is hard for a long time, you miss them everywhere you turn. Just remember that you gave her a good life and she returned that affection with her loyalty and mad protection skills of bunny-elimination and guard-barking. Good dog!
Sincere condolences to you and your wife.

I know this much. You and your wife gave Echo eight years of joy and happiness she would not have had without you. You can take comfort that she did not suffer needlessly, and her last moments were happy ones.

I've lost more cats than I wish to remember, and every one is painful. I take solace in the fact that I was able to bring them happiness, and to make their lives better. You were certainly able to do so for Echo.

Someone sent me this Mary Elizabeth Frye poem shortly after I lost my best bud of 14 years..

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight.
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there -- I do not die.

I'm sorry to hear she's gone - she was lucky to have known you, and vice versa.

I'm sorry to hear the news. I am glad you have pictures to remember Echo by.

I'm so sorry :(

((((hugs)))) for you and Mrs. Orac.

By CanadianChick (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

Orac, I am so sorry to hear that. I know how a pet becomes one of the family. It's very traumatic.

I'm so sorry. It's not like losing a member of one's family -- it IS losing a member of one's family. May time and good memories bring you some comfort.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

Condolences, Orac. Sorry for your loss.

By Duke York (not verified) on 15 Jul 2008 #permalink

Sorry for your loss, Orac.

I'm crying like a baby.

I am so, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for giving such a beautiful pup such a wonderful and loving home for those eight years.

You did good.

Peace and pain free at last.

Echo thanks you.

what a wonderful tribute to a good there any better compliment than "a good dog"?

Lucky for both you and your wife that you knew her, lucky for both that she left such sweet memories and lucky for you that she laid such sound groundwork that perhaps another dog or puppy in another time will reap the benefits of her teachings to you.

my condolences to you and your wife but also cheers to a life well lived and loved.

...crying too. So sad...

By Catherine (not verified) on 15 Jul 2008 #permalink

Such a loss is difficult; dogs end up a part of the family as important as any person.

You have my sincere condolences, Orac.

The relationship between humans and dogs is like nothing else. I still miss my best dog, who died when I was 14. She listened to me through my growing up, and was always there for me. Yours was a beautifully written elegy, and a testament to the depth and joy of the relationship. Were it not thus, the sadness would be less.

I couldn't read your whole post; I started crying here at my desk at work. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

By Stephanie (not verified) on 15 Jul 2008 #permalink

May the earth lay lightly upon her.

A poem that spoke to me, and still does, when my Josie left a German Shepard-shaped hole in my heart.


I wanted to stay with my dog
when they did her in
I told the young veterinarian
who wasn't surprised.
Shivering on the chrome table,
she did not raise her eyes to me when I came in.
Something was resolved in her.
Some darkness exchanged for the pain.
There were a few more words
about the size of her tumor and her age,
and how we wanted to stop her suffering,
or our own, or stop all suffering
from happening before us
and then the nurse shaved May's skinny leg
with those black clippers;
she passed the needle to the doctor
and for once I knew what to do
and held her head against mine.
I cleaved to that smell
and lied into her ear
that it would be all right.
The veterinarian, whom I'd fought
about when to do this thing
said through tears
that it would take only a few minutes
as if that were not a long time
but there was no cry or growl,
only the weight of her in my arms,
and then on the world.

Bruce Weigl

My whole pack sends you our condolences.
Chris, Jamie, Blizzard, Kodiak, Sasha and Shosti

I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to see if Blizzard likes corn on the cob, I have a feeling she will.

By Evinfuilt (not verified) on 15 Jul 2008 #permalink

Condolences for the loss of your friend.

I am very moved by your heart felt words.

I came online to see if dogs can eat sweet corn, as my son knocked some onto the floor and our puppy ate some before I could clean it up. I didn't think I'd get the answer in such a heartfelt and tragic way.

I'm so sorry about Echo. She will live on in your heart and your memories. She found her place in life with a loving family. She was a lucky dog!

Your video of her eating corn on the cob reminds me of my own Tar, a black border collie, I lost last year. She also enjoyed eating corn that way. She would eat it in nice neat rows, I only had to turn the cob once she finished a row. Unfortunately, she would try to eat the cob after all the corn was gone. That I didn't let her eat.

Kipling's "The Power of the Dog":

I'm so sorry about Echo. She sounds like a pearl of a dog and it is so, so hard to lose a member of the family, furry or not. I hope you and your wife are doing all right.

By Elizabeth Reid (not verified) on 15 Jul 2008 #permalink

All good wishes to you and Mrs. Orac in your time of sadness. From the day we sprang him from Death Row at the Humane Society until the day nine years later when we came home to find he had "slept away" in the couple of hours we were gone, our good dog Jack enriched our lives with his exuberance and unconditional love. It took almost two years before we felt ready for another puppy, but we found that life without a dog was too barren; the joy they bring offsets the pain of their loss. I hope you and your wife come to same conclusion; never forgetting Echo, but giving the same wonderful life to still another dog.

What a lovely tribute to a wonderful dog. I'm so very sorry.

So sorry, Orac and family. I miss my own old dog so much; this has brought the tears back.

Echo was a Good Dog, and nothing more needs saying than that.

I'm sorry to hear the news, but glad that Echo went peacefully and in the company of people she loved.

Best wishes to you and your wife.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 15 Jul 2008 #permalink

So sorry Orac....I hope it is some small comfort to know that Echo is at peace and has no more pain.

By barbie123 (not verified) on 15 Jul 2008 #permalink

This is where I would like to offer wisdom, or say something poignant - but I don't know how, or what.

Our family grieves for Echo, and we pass along all our best to you and your family.

Good dog.

By Robster, FCD (not verified) on 15 Jul 2008 #permalink

A couple of months ago we lost Ashley, the gray cat who'd been my friend since I was 13 years old. I feel the sting of your loss acutely.

Losing an animal friend is a special kind of hardship -- not more difficult than losing a person but not really less either, just different. They have so much love to give and so little time to go about doing it.

By Jeff Read (not verified) on 16 Jul 2008 #permalink

I'm so very sorry.

I am sorry.

By She-Liger (not verified) on 16 Jul 2008 #permalink

Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who
possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the Virtues of Man,
without his Vices.
This Praise, which would be unmeaning
Flattery if inscribed over human
ashes is but a just tribute to the Memory
of Boatswain, a Dog.

Lord Byron

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 16 Jul 2008 #permalink

My condolences go out to you. Echo must've been like a family memeber to you - and we all know how that feels.

See, now I'm all teary at work and it's your fault. I'm so sorry for your loss. Sounds like she was a real sweetie and a true friend.

Hi Orac I'm back commenting again because I figured out what I meant to say: It's clear from her pictures and the way you write about her that Echo was a happy dog, who loved you and knew you loved her. There are few if any better things in life than to love and be loved in return, and that's what you gave to Echo. And there are few if any worse things in live than to lose one you loved and who loved you. My heart goes out to you and your family.


Echo was a beautiful and, obviously, happy dog. You and Mrs. Orac gave her a wonderful life, one that she wouldn't have known if she'd stayed at the shelter. (BTW, a karmic gold star to the man who runs it and cares for the "unadoptables") In every picture you took, she is a content and secure dog, a much-loved member of her "pack".

That video is just too adorable! So sad that she's gone.

Echo reminds me a lot of my mom's Lab/pitbull mix, Smoky. They've got that same Lab face and brown eyes, and even the same little white patch of fur on their chest.

If Smoky is any indication, I know what you mean when you talk about Echo's unconditional love. Dogs are wonderful that way, aren't they?

Sorry again for your loss.

My condolences! I know how you feel - I just lost a dog to bone cancer. Dogs are more than pets. They are our family, our children. We love them as much as we love our 2 legged one and we mourn them when we lose them.


Your eloquent story has made it hard to see through my tears and type anything. Echo sounds like a wonderful dog and excellent companion. I have a dog, too, a 75lb black dog named "Koko," who's been keeping me away from writing lately by insisting I throw her ball every night until it gets dark.

Maybe Charlie Brown was right, we should just devote our lives to making our dogs happy.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Pity not the man who grieves, pity instead the man who never grieves; for he will never know the love that leads to grieving.

Come yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
Just can't remember who to send it to.

---James Taylor, Fire and Rain

Yea, my condolences, Orac; that is a bummer. Despite your post being specifically about Echo, there's a lot that resonates with every pet owner.

Can only imagine how you've been feeling, and your post puts such blog inanities as 'Crackergate' in much needed perspective. I've had little twinges of sadness when I see the post title come up on the SB home page and Most Viewed lists; it alone captures a lot. On the good side though, I finally watched the great video of Echo eating the corn on the cob. She's funny enough, but what I really noticed about it was all the laughing and just general happiness of you guys in the background - to me, the best eulogy and tribute of all.

I was having browser issues and couldn't see the Corn Eating Dog until today. Echo was so beautiful! You gave her the best life a dog could want. She was happy and well loved.

So sorry for you and Mrs Orac and I know you'll be thinking of Echo very often. Hugs and sympathy from me and Kippur (a CKCS).

What to say? I'm sorry, Orac. This sucks.

I know I'm coming in late, but I want to add my condolences to Orac and Mrs. Orac.

Is anyone out there able to help Small Dog Rescue set up a PayPal account? I'd like to donate, but we don't use checks over here. Just from reading their descriptions of the dogs, it's clear they care a lot.

I'm so sorry to hear about Echo.

So sorry to hear about Echo.

By mezzobuff (not verified) on 21 Jul 2008 #permalink

Thank you for allowing me to experience the joy of owning a dog through your wonderful post about Echo. I am severely allergic to dogs (life-threatening asthma since birth) and have always longed to have one. You've probably brought me as close as I've ever come to that reality. I cried with you.