the smell of my desperation has become a stench

“How I dearly wish I was not here”

“I personally believe that dogs are into quality vs. quantity of life, and he knows you’re hurting. And he wants to know if you’re going to be okay when he’s gone.”

In 2008 I hired a trainer to work out some kinks with Coco, and during some of our training sessions she got to spend some time with Chuck, witness his unique personality, watch him slink off when bored with the conversation. Once while traveling I paid her to board the dogs at her home, and when she returned them she handed over Chuck’s leash, pointed at him and said, “That ain’t no dog.”

I laughed open mouthed. How many people have met him and expressed something similar? There is no other dog quite so peculiar in an almost professorial way.

I had a long talk with her a week ago, and the quote above is what she told me after I shared with her what I’m about to share with you.

When I arrived home from dropping the girls off with their father in New York, I immediately noticed that Chuck’s condition was getting progressively worse. Exponentially, almost. He was waking up in his own feces every single morning. Because of the way that he is shaped, his poop comes out of the hole for his tail in every diaper that I’ve wrapped around his body. During the day he began pooping near the back door of the basement and smearing it around, sometimes with his face or head. He also stopped listening to or acknowledging any command I gave. He would not come when called. He refused to sit. He did not want to go for a walk.

And then, oddly, he remained lying in the dog bed that is situated near the desk where I work. Normally he prefers to be alone and will slink off to a dark hallway when I sit down at my computer, but last week he stayed put. He hung out all day sleeping, occasionally lifting his head to glance over at my furiously typing hands.

Late last Thursday night after finishing up a project I sat down on the floor next to his fragile, curled up body.

Wait… let me back up a few years. Chuck hasn’t always preferred to be alone. In fact, when friends would come over he’d come find my body and wrap his own around it somehow. If I was sitting on the couch he’d force his way underneath my legs and poke his head out from between my knees to survey the crowd. If I was sitting on the floor he’d authoritatively plop his butt down on one of my crossed legs and press his body into mine so that I had to look around his head to see and talk to my guests.

He preferred that I sit on the floor so that he could do this. He had a sense for it, a radar of sorts, where he’d be in some other part of the house and receive a vision that I was somewhere sitting on the floor. Without fail he’d show up and have a seat in my lap. I’d rub his ears and say, “Fancy seeing you here.”

Chuck hasn’t tried to sit in my lap in almost four years. Not once. There have been certain events that triggered Chuck’s reclusive nature. Yes, my divorce is prominent among them, but I can pinpoint several others that have sent him brooding into dark hallways. Aging hasn’t been a joyride for him, either.

When I sat down next to him last Thursday evening he didn’t move, didn’t blink, didn’t acknowledge that I was there. I reached over, cupped his head in my hands and lifted it toward my face. He didn’t jerk it away, but he did turn his head out of my hands to lay it back on the bed. I tried this again and achieved the same result. The third time I held the back of his ears a little more firmly so that I could catch his eyes.

He finally didn’t turn away.

I held his gaze with mine for a few seconds and said, “Hey, we need to talk.”

He blinked but then continued to look me squarely in the eyes.

“You need to tell me how you’re feeling,” I said looking back into the dark expanse of wisdom so deep that if you jumped in you’d never hit the bottom.

We sat there staring at each other for over a minute, neither of us looking away. I remembered the first time I fumbled with his leash on the corner of Stanley Avenue in Los Angeles, the moment he realized that his neck wasn’t attached to my hand and the electric current that circulated through his entire body to set off the lightbulb above his head. I had to chase that impish puppy for three blocks as he darted in and out of alleys and hid behind manicured hedges. Here I was searching for him again.

He finally blinked one more time, and then he very painfully stretched out his body from the circle of where he’d been curled up. I set my hands on the floor on either side of me and sucked in an involuntary sharp breath as he stood up, took a few steps toward me and climbed into my lap.

His dignity would have at some other point in his life preferred that I not talk about what happened next, but I know that he wants me to set that aside for now so that I can share this with all of you.

Chuck tried to sit down on my leg like he had so many times before, but he physically could not do so. His hind legs trembled as he attempted to set himself down. So I reached up, hugged him close to me and eased his butt onto my right thigh. I realized then that his diaper was wet, but that thought was pushed flat against a tiny corner of my brain as his words filled the whole of it like rising water.

He pushed his torso against my chest, tucked his head up under my chin and rested it on my left shoulder. I gripped him with enough force to communicate that I was listening, that I could hear him pleading, but gently enough to honor all of his protruding bones.

We remained in that embrace for over 30 minutes. I’m not sure I’ve ever been given a gift so valuable.


Yesterday afternoon at approximately 3:15 PM Mountain Time, The Former Congressman Henry Buck Chucklesworth died peacefully in my arms. I had the privilege of catching his last breath on my knee. I then cradled my baby boy like I used to do 13 years ago while dozing on the couch looking out at a California sunset, the sky under which he was born.


I know how much all of you loved him, and I reassured that marvelous, professorial dog in the hours leading up to those last moments that you, too, would be okay that he wanted to leave.

  • Desiree Fawn

    2015/07/10 at 1:31 pm

    Oh gosh, so sorry to hear this 🙁 He had a wonderful life with you and your fam. Sending lots of love your way.

  • Sharon Barrett

    2015/07/10 at 1:35 pm

    Godspeed, Chuck. We loved you, and will take care of your humom best as we can.

  • UtahDOF

    2015/07/10 at 1:35 pm

    I’m so sorry, Heather. The world loved Chuck. I am honored to have met him.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2015/07/10 at 1:35 pm

    I’m so sorry, Heather. Can’t believe I’m all teared up over a dog I never met, but I am.
    So very sorry for your loss.

  • Heidi

    2015/07/10 at 1:36 pm

    My heart breaks for you. I am so, so sorry for your loss. He was a lucky dog to have you.

  • jillyj

    2015/07/10 at 1:36 pm

    Oh Heather, Leta and Marlo, I can not tell you how sorry I am. I know exactly the hurt and loss that you are feeling right now. Not too long after you shared Chuck’s condition and I shared with you that my Myra was going through exactly the same thing, she and I had a similar exchange to the one you have so bravely posted today. I held her as she slipped away on April 28. I miss her every minute of every day. I know that your time with Chuck and the excellent life you gave him will keep him in your hearts always. Be well and take care of each other. Sending love from MN. X.

  • Karen Walrond

    2015/07/10 at 1:37 pm

    Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.

    I had to put our Rufus down late last year, and it was the worst day in recent memory. I’m so, so sorry, Heather.

    Bless his sweet heart.

  • TinaBelchersawkwardmoan

    2015/07/10 at 1:37 pm

    I’m so sorry. I really did love Chuck! Sending you all my love.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2015/07/10 at 1:37 pm

    I’m so sorry, Heather. Can’t believe I’m all teared up over a dog I never met, but I am.
    Very sorry for your loss.

  • JenniferW2323

    2015/07/10 at 1:37 pm

    Thank you fro sharing, Heather. Crying along with you. Wishing you and your family peace and love.

  • Erin Cooley

    2015/07/10 at 1:38 pm

    So, so sorry for you and everyone who loved Chuck so much, Heather.

  • Susan

    2015/07/10 at 1:38 pm

    I have been dreading this as I’m sure you have. I love you my dear Chuck and when I get home from work, I will read this again and weep properly. Heather, please consider one last calendar as a remembrance of our friend.

  • emily hinkle

    2015/07/10 at 1:39 pm

    How do you write such a tough moment so gracefully? I’m in tears and yet so grateful for you to witness such a moment. Thank you for sharing this with us. Chuck is no doubt wriggling playfully up in pup heaven.

  • Mme C

    2015/07/10 at 1:40 pm

    Oh. Oh, my heart. When I saw this post, I instinctively knew. I turned off the tv, turned off the music, and sat in the silence, almost to give Chuck my entire being as I read this. How special of him to give you that last beautiful, sincere and raw gift of that embrace. Please excuse me that I can’t be more articulate, but I am weeping over your (and our) loss.

  • Leslie in Toronto

    2015/07/10 at 1:41 pm

    I am so, so sorry. Chuck was such a special dog. Rest peacefully, Congressman Chuckles.

  • Jennifer Trombly

    2015/07/10 at 1:42 pm

    I am sobbing like a child. Chuck was a part of all of our lives. He had an amazing life and he knew he was loved every moment. I can’t imagine how you feel. Rest in peace Former Congressman Chuck. <3

  • PBWoo

    2015/07/10 at 1:42 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful dog. My heart breaks for you, Heather.

  • Melissa

    2015/07/10 at 1:43 pm

    I am so so very sorry. Rest peacefully, Chuck. You were so very loved.

  • JeanAnn

    2015/07/10 at 1:43 pm

    I’m so sorry Dooce! I know it’s heartbreaking. Just went through this with my almost 14 year old dog a few weeks ago. RIP Chuck!

  • MissCaron

    2015/07/10 at 1:44 pm

    Oh I’m sobbing… I know how much Chuck meant to you… God bless you, Heather, and your precious girls, as you deal with his absence. ::::::::::HUGS::::::::::::

  • Jennifer

    2015/07/10 at 1:45 pm

    I went through the exact same thing with my Forever Dog (the physical symptoms, the personality changes), and yes, they tell you when it’s time. That does not in any way make it any less painful. Crying at work, and sending you and the girls all the love.

  • Amy

    2015/07/10 at 1:45 pm

    So incredibly sorry for your loss, but I am so glad that you both were able to share this moment together, and that he decided when it was time to let go. Thank you for sharing this wonderfully sad and precious moment with us.

  • Joanne z Filmlady

    2015/07/10 at 1:45 pm

    Heather, I’m so sorry. I’m crying for all of you, and so blessed you shared him with everyone. A true gift from Chuck to climb into your arms at the end. Many hugs <3 <3

  • Corey Lambert

    2015/07/10 at 1:46 pm

    (Web hug.)

  • Marie McDowell

    2015/07/10 at 1:46 pm

    Oh Heather, how is it that I have never met you or your wise dog Chuck, yet am here in Illinois, bawling my eyes out. He, and you and your family have touched our lives and he was a blessing to be a witness to all these years. Thank you for loving him so good.

  • Lucy Cash

    2015/07/10 at 1:47 pm

    You loved him well.

    May that knowledge bring peace to you and your family as you mourn.

    Thank you for sharing him. The gift of him to you became your gift to many more.

    I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Linda

    2015/07/10 at 1:48 pm

    I’m so so sorry. I started reading almost 10 years ago when my first child was born, and Chuck has always been my favorite. Peace to him, and to you all.

    Also, reading this at my desk after lunch – not a good idea.. Maybe I’m sobbing into my keyboard?

  • Stephanie Titcombe

    2015/07/10 at 1:49 pm

    RIP Chuck. You were loved around the world. Peace.

  • Cheryl

    2015/07/10 at 1:49 pm

    He loved you all as long as he could. Bless his little heart. There will never be another Chuck. There is so much love for him.

  • Abby Oh

    2015/07/10 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you for loving him so well and for sharing him with us.

  • Lisa Cherry Powell

    2015/07/10 at 1:51 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Heather. My tears join yours. I have enjoyed following your adventures with Chuck, as I am a dog obsessed person as well. My 3 furry loves send you hugs and kisses. Please take comfort knowing Chuck knew he was loved and you gave him one hell of a life.

  • Katrina

    2015/07/10 at 1:51 pm

    I’m so very sorry. So sorry. Rest gently, Chuck.

  • Ms_Issippi

    2015/07/10 at 1:52 pm

    Peace and comfort to you all. It’s never easy to let our creatures go, but that’s part of our responsibility to them.

  • Richard Morey

    2015/07/10 at 1:53 pm

    I’m so sorry to read of Chuck’s passing.. but I think we all knew this day was closer than we wanted to believe. As you said, we all loved Chuck – even having never met him we got a sense of who he was from your amazing photos and the stories you’ve shared with us about Chuck over the years past.

    I’m glad for both you and Chuck that he went peacefully in your arms and you did not have to make the painful decision about if it was “time.” I’ve been fortunately in my life that the dogs I’ve had have all died naturally at age 12 or 13.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your girls and of course Chuck. I’ll hug our doggy a little tighter tonight when he curls up next to me on our couch.

  • yaz

    2015/07/10 at 1:53 pm

    Came here to say the same. I’m so sorry.

  • Christine

    2015/07/10 at 1:53 pm

    Maybe after my tears dry I will have something more insightful to say. Right now its just grief.

  • Lindsay

    2015/07/10 at 1:54 pm

    May or may not be crying at my desk right now…

  • Rita Arens

    2015/07/10 at 1:54 pm

    My heart aches for you. I have lost four cats in the past eight years, and it never gets easier. The worst was the one I’d had almost ten years. I’m so glad you had those moments together.

  • Erica Lorenz-Hays

    2015/07/10 at 1:54 pm

    Tear. RIP, Chuck. Hugs to all of you guys. He was one heck of a good dog.

  • birdgal

    2015/07/10 at 1:55 pm

    I have not commented on this site in years, but I’ve been reading still all this time. I just cried like I cried at ‘Inside Out’ the other day, and for a dog I never met in person. A dog that is surely as much a person to you as your own kids, and a great one at that. We will miss you Chuck.

  • lauriewrites

    2015/07/10 at 1:56 pm

    Lord Heather I am sorry. That dog was a marvelous gift to the world and the internet, but the biggest most important gift was that relationship with you and your family. I’m glad you had those final times with him. He won’t ever leave you. Thanks for sharing him with us.

  • LFDianne

    2015/07/10 at 1:56 pm

    I”m so so sorry. July 3, 2014, we said goodbye to our Jake, he was 16, and he had been with our family for 14 years. We rescued him when he was 2, and he had some “issues,” namely separation anxiety. Once we figured we could keep him “out” of places, but not confined “in” a place, we all got along just fine. One thing I loved about us being with him, while we were saying goodbye, the 5 of us, sitting on the floor in the vets, was that the staff came in with a basket of fun-sized candy. We fed him the once forbidden Reeses, Snickers, and a Hershey’s kiss or two. It was sad and peaceful when he went, but he was happy, and so ready, too.

    Thank you for sharing Chuck’s story with us all.

  • MsP68

    2015/07/10 at 1:56 pm

    No words. Just love.

  • Elizabeth Cadorette

    2015/07/10 at 1:58 pm

    I cannot thank you enough for sharing so much of this fantastic not-dog with all the rest of us, as you so graciously continue to share of yourself. I am so very very sorry you’ve lost your friend, Heather. Sending love from our house to yours.

  • Suzy Soro

    2015/07/10 at 1:58 pm

    I’m so sorry, Heather. I can’t help but crying when the paragraph starts “at 3:15 pm” because dogs are as close to God as we get. RIP Chuck. You were a very good dog.

  • Lori

    2015/07/10 at 1:58 pm

    This has to be the most beautiful tribute I’ve ever read about the love and trust that is shared between a dog and his best friend. The poetry in your words speaks volumes of the poetry of your relationship. He had a beautiful life and what sounds like a beautiful passing in the arms of his true love. If only we could all be so lucky.

    I’m so sorry to hear of Chuck’s passing. I’ve followed your blog for almost a decade and the posts and photos about Chuck were always my favorites.

    Rest peacefully, sweet little man. The world was a batter place with you in it.

  • Nancy B.

    2015/07/10 at 1:59 pm

    You were lucky to have each other. Thank you for sharing him with us all these years.
    My thoughts are with you.

  • Melissa Kuehl Dix

    2015/07/10 at 1:59 pm

    I am so, so sorry. Crying here (at my desk) in WI too. I had a similar conversation with my dog of 17 years, Bailey, just before the end. So hard to let them go and so hard for them to leave us. I’m glad Chuck is not suffering any more, I send you strength and love during this difficult time.

  • Pete Eisenmann

    2015/07/10 at 1:59 pm

    What a gift he gave you. Been a reader for years. Have a old lady cranky dog that reminds me of Chuck. I will never forget the blog post when Chuck spun the poo with the corn dog stick out of his ass, and you said “my dog is God”. Thank you for sharing. My heart hurts for you and the girls.

  • Becky

    2015/07/10 at 2:00 pm

    You all had the precious magical gift of Chuck and there are not words to express the gratitude felt to you for sharing him with your readers. We have shared in the laughter, and love, and joy that was Chuck, and now we will share in the grief and sadness of his passing. He will be deeply, truly missed, just like he was loved; deeply and truly.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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