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.

  • Jill G

    2015/07/10 at 2:00 pm

    My heart misses Chuck more than any other dog I’ve never met. Thank you for sharing him with us. Even though I’m tearing up, I know he had such a beautiful, full life and that makes me feel happy. Sending good thoughts your family’s way.

  • Caroline

    2015/07/10 at 2:01 pm

    Heather, I’m so, so sorry for your pain. What a painfully beautiful tribute to your beloved boy. Chuck will be missed by many. Sending so much love your way.

  • Rachel

    2015/07/10 at 2:01 pm

    I am so sorry, but so glad you had that moment together, at the end. All my love to you and your family.

    For Chuck, I’ll be hugging my dogs extra tight today, and then I’ll try to balance things on their heads.

  • Jett

    2015/07/10 at 2:03 pm

    Whew, Heather. Whew. Sorry that you’re gonna be missing your Chuck.

  • Sandy Brown Brady

    2015/07/10 at 2:17 pm

    I used to read your blog religiously, but for various reasons I haven’t been here for a long time. Then I happen to end up here today and am crying my eyes out. I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what that day will be like when my own furry son leaves – so I can not imagine your pain. Just remember you were the perfect Mom for Chuck, are not alone in your grief.

  • Jaime Derringer

    2015/07/10 at 2:18 pm

    Send you lots of love, Heather. xo

  • Alicia Soret

    2015/07/10 at 2:18 pm

    I burst into tears the moment I saw “yesterday afternoon at approximately…” and didn’t want to keep reading. As though if I didn’t see what came next, that it would somehow not have happened. Heather, I’ve been a fan of yours (and Chuck’s!) for years. I’m still crying, sad for you, sad for Chuck, but so happy that he was able to be with you up until the very end. So much love to you and the family. I’m so sorry. He was amazing.

  • Kim

    2015/07/10 at 2:18 pm

    Heartbroken and sending you lots of love. What a loving tribute to a crazy joy of a dog.

  • Amy Coletta

    2015/07/10 at 2:18 pm

    Like others, I’m sobbing. Just six months ago, we went through the same thing with our beloved Clark. Thank god we could afford to have a vet come to our home and perform the euthanasia there. I’ve been the sole reader of your blog in our house, but the whole family loved seeing photos of Chuck. So, so sorry. Thank you for sharing all of him with us.

  • ~Ms Orange~

    2015/07/10 at 2:19 pm

    Thank you for sharing Chuck with the world! I’m going to dig out his old calendar. Thank you for also giving him the best that you could. We will miss you Sir Chuck-a-licious!

  • Heather

    2015/07/10 at 2:21 pm

    Oh so sad. I hope he gives our Murph a nod wherever they are.

  • Brian Reeves

    2015/07/10 at 2:21 pm

    I am a stranger to your blog (it has been many years since I’ve read here, for example I’m saying “divorce?”) but happened across a link to this and I’m in tears for you and for Chuck. This is beautiful. May you both have peace.

  • Kim

    2015/07/10 at 2:22 pm

    Same here. No shame. I can’t count the times @HeatherArmstrong:disqus has written things that have moved me to tears (or uproarious giggles) at my desk.

  • Melody Fugazzotto

    2015/07/10 at 2:22 pm

    Thank you for sharing your loving moment with Chuck. RIP

  • marjoy97206

    2015/07/10 at 2:23 pm

    Man, I love this dog, and I’m so, so sorry that he’s not in this world anymore. Thanks for taking such wonderful care of him and for sharing his life with us. The tears I’m crying now are a tribute to his beautiful soul.

  • Vicki Broughton Ruh

    2015/07/10 at 2:23 pm

    So sorry Heather, Leta and Marlo. I never met Chuck but I’m sitting here at work crying. Thank you for sharing him with us and for sharing your love for him.

  • Lex Lemon

    2015/07/10 at 2:25 pm

    I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing Chuck with us.

  • Skeets

    2015/07/10 at 2:25 pm

    Oh Heather. I’m so incredibly sorry. I’m over here sobbing like a baby reading this, I can’t imagine how you feel. You were the best thing to ever happen to him. Love and light to you and the girls.

  • Skipper Chong Warson

    2015/07/10 at 2:25 pm

    Heather, after years of reading your blog and cheering for all the things balanced on Chuck, the thoughts and prayers of my family are with you and yours. All the best.

  • Amy

    2015/07/10 at 2:26 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Heather. You were so lucky to have him and he was so lucky to have you guys as his family. I’m sorry for CoCo, too.

  • anne

    2015/07/10 at 2:26 pm

    Oh Heather, I’m so sorry. Trying very hard not to cry at work right now and mostly failing. You truly and completely honored your commitment to that dog, and it was beautiful to witness.

  • mom2ajs5

    2015/07/10 at 2:26 pm

    I am so sorry. I don’t normally read posts at work, but I did today and ending up crying at my desk. Sending you and your girls much love and peace. I hope Coco is doing okay too. xoxoxo Rest in Peace, Chuck. You will be missed!

  • Meegs

    2015/07/10 at 2:27 pm

    I’m so very sorry.

  • gracie680

    2015/07/10 at 2:28 pm

    I am so sorry. What a sad day. I was reading you way back when you first got him. I don’t know what else to say.

  • Seriously

    2015/07/10 at 2:30 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Brooke

    2015/07/10 at 2:31 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. What a great dog he was.

  • Kelly

    2015/07/10 at 2:32 pm

    I am so sorry about Chuck. I have been reading your blog for nearly 10 years and have seen Chuck grow up. Like so many others, I cried. I am so sad for you and for the girls. I am sending you big gentle hugs and prayers for you and the girls.

  • Jen

    2015/07/10 at 2:32 pm

    Perfectly said, @marie_mcdowell:disqus. I am so, so sorry, Heather. Oh, man. What a loss and at the same time, what a life-affirming way to lose. I’m so glad that you shared that moment with him.

  • Chai Bella

    2015/07/10 at 2:33 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear this but you did right by him. It was his time. And you are good for having listened. He was so loved and so lucky, as were you to have him. If you haven’t already, I would thoroughly encourage a reading of the Rainbow Bridge. Not a religious person myself, I don’t care where I end up, but I love the idea that if there is somewhere out there, my dogs wll be there waiting for me.

  • Chris

    2015/07/10 at 2:36 pm

    Such a beautiful written post about your beloved baby boy. And OMG, if I wasn’t sobbing enough, you had to end it with a Morrissey song. RIP Chuck.

  • Chris

    2015/07/10 at 2:36 pm

    Such a beautifully written post about your beloved baby boy. And OMG, if I wasn’t sobbing enough, you had to end it with a Morrissey song. RIP Chuck.

  • Diogenes

    2015/07/10 at 2:38 pm

    The last obligation we have to our fur companions is when to let them go, either naturally or with assistance. When their life becomes a burden to them it is our responsibility to make the choice. At what point does keeping a suffering embarrassed pet alive become selfish? My Heaven is where every pet I have ever loved is waiting for me at the rainbow bridge.

  • Sonny

    2015/07/10 at 2:38 pm

    Oh, wow. I’m speechless and tears are streaming down my face. I knew this post was going to be coming sometime soon, but I’m still sad to see it in front of me. I’ve been following your blog for more years than I’d believe possible since I’m a gay 40-something with no kids and no connection to you other than your wonderful sense of humor.

    I’m struggling with an older dog myself and I admire your ability to know and understand when Chuck was ready to let go. Not everyone is so selfless.

    My heart goes out to you today. The world got a little less special now that Chuck isn’t a part of it.

  • Shannon

    2015/07/10 at 2:39 pm

    Sobbing for you right now. My heart is broken for you and your family at the loss of a family member. I’ve read about and enjoyed pictures of Chuck for years now, and he has a special place in my heart. I’m glad that you had the strength to help him, to hold him, and to make that terrible decision when it was time. Thank you for sharing him with us.

  • Sara Haugen

    2015/07/10 at 2:39 pm

    I remember a short video of little Leta, maybe four, when she out of the blue up and says, “I love Chuck. He barfs!”

    It touched my heart and I’m reminded of it now. I hope you, Leta, and Marlo are okay and I’m so glad you had that half hour with the Congressman.

  • Kristen Nicole Biehl

    2015/07/10 at 2:40 pm

    I’ve been reading about Chuck for six years now. My heart is so broken for you and your girls and for Coco. I’m sure she’s so confused. I held my dog as they put him to sleep about eight years ago, and it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve always said that if he could be with me for everything I’ve gone through, then I would be with him to the end. You’ve done that for Chuck. <3

  • Scargosun

    2015/07/10 at 2:41 pm

    I knew this day was coming. I knew your post would be heartbreaking and also joyful and sound. Sleep well sweet Chuck. Your mama did a nice job letting us know you are at peace.

  • Tammy C

    2015/07/10 at 2:42 pm

    As many others have expressed, I too am bawling. You honored his request and can feel strength in doing so (hopefully). I don’t obviously know you personally but I have to say I hope you are doing OK. This is an incredibly hard thing to go through and I am worried you are having to face it alone (since you mentioned the girls are with their father). He was a good dog!

  • DriverB

    2015/07/10 at 2:43 pm

    I didn’t cry when I watched Inside Out last week, even though everyone said to bring tissues. But this poor dog has tears running down my face in my office. Thank you for sharing him with us. Pets are such a blessing. God speed, Congressman.

  • Debra L. Wellman

    2015/07/10 at 2:44 pm

    So sorry. We will all miss him. He was a part of daily life for many of us and made us smile frequently. I’m glad you were with him at the end. Just as it should be. But I’m still so sad.

  • issascrazyworld

    2015/07/10 at 2:45 pm

    Oh Heather, I’m so sorry. He was greatly loved and he’ll be greatly missed. Much love to you and the girls.

  • Benjamin Hirsch

    2015/07/10 at 2:45 pm

    Heather, I have lurked your site over the years, and above all else, enjoyed your pictures and stories of Chuck. My wife originally shared this site with me years ago, and I’ve lurked ever since. As I read your story about Chuck just now, I cried as if Chuck was my dog. Your deep love for this guy has always been obvious to me, and I’ve learned to love him through your words. Thank you for having shared him with me and rest of us. He will be dearly missed.

  • mrnmama

    2015/07/10 at 2:45 pm

    I’m so sorry.

    I started reading the first few sentences of this post on my phone, got a sense of what it might be about, and got on my laptop because I wanted to be able to see his pictures properly. Sweet, crazy Chuck. Thank you so much for sharing him with us.

  • Buster Brown

    2015/07/10 at 2:46 pm

    Fuck. I’m so sorry, Heather. What a beautifully written post. I have no words. I’m sorry for you and your family. Big hugs to all. RIP Chuck, you will be missed by many.

  • Andi

    2015/07/10 at 2:47 pm

    I’ve been reading for more years than I can rememeber, and like some others, I rarely comment, but I am absolutely sobbing. What a heartbreaking story, but also such a gift to have these moments…this life together. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Heidi

    2015/07/10 at 2:49 pm

    Oh, my God. It hurts so much. I hurt for you and your girls, but I’m so glad Chuck is at peace. He was so lucky to have you. All my love and thoughts with you.

  • meaniesewe

    2015/07/10 at 2:49 pm

    So sorry for your loss, Heather. I too am a long-time reader who is now bawling at work. Sending love across the internets.

  • Jessica @ Golden Brown and Del

    2015/07/10 at 2:51 pm

    I’m relatively new to your blog, so I haven’t loved Chuck for years as some have, but his sweet face and his story have touched my heart. I’m holding back the tears as I reach for my own pup, sitting feet from me on the couch, hoping with all my heart that it will be many years before I have to let her go, and yet praying she will give me the same signs when it’s time. You and your girls are in my heart and on my mind.

  • antigone78

    2015/07/10 at 2:53 pm

    It’s true. Can’t tell you the number of times I turned to him and said, “Look at what Chuck has on his head now!!”

    We loved him from afar for many years. He had such a good life and was so loved. He certainly lived a very good life. He was so lucky to have you.

  • Charity Suzuki

    2015/07/10 at 2:54 pm

    Trying not to cry in our stupid open floor plan office. Heather, I’m so sorry for the loss of Chuck. He will be missed. <3

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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