Heater, Mother of Lance

“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.

grieve

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.

280 Comments
  • Nicole

    2015/07/10 at 2:54 pm

    Oh Heather I am so sorry. I am crying with you all the way in NJ, and am sending you and your girls hugs. Your family and Chuck have been part of mine for so many years and I will miss him too. I’ve been down this road, and it does get easier, although it will always hurt just a little and you will always miss him. You did the right thing for him. You and your family are in my thoughts.

  • H

    2015/07/10 at 2:57 pm

    I don’t have the right words, but I’m sending you the warmest of thoughts.

  • Greg Ritter

    2015/07/10 at 2:58 pm

    I’m a 40-something single dude, and probably not anywhere near your core audience, but although I’ve read your blog religiously since sometime in 2003. And I’ve never commented before today. Heather, I’ve enjoyed your humor, your family, watching your daughters grow. Hell, I’ve even enjoyed Coco. But most of all — most of all — I have *reveled* in Chuck. Like your other readers I’m sitting here with tears on my face, but I’m also thinking about the many smiles I’ve garnered from that sun-basking, trinket-balancing, modesty-patched dog that I’ve never met. Thank you so much for sharing Chuck with me and everyone else. I will miss him dearly.

  • Tish

    2015/07/10 at 3:06 pm

    Crying … I have never met you I realize this but I still feel an odd connection to that pup. I’ll miss him and your stories. Man this was a hard one to read… Hugs Heather

  • Anne Taylor

    2015/07/10 at 3:06 pm

    My sincerest condolences.. what a beautiful soul. I am so glad to hear he passed peacefully and knowing how loved he was.

  • michael from dadcation.com

    2015/07/10 at 3:07 pm

    i loved seeing that dog. so sad to read this.

  • sunnyarchibald

    2015/07/10 at 3:08 pm

    I ache for you. Thank you for sharing this beautifully written post with us. I’m so, so sorry.

  • bluesurly

    2015/07/10 at 3:10 pm

    They always let you know, and if you listen you will know too. I am so very sorry for your loss Heather, because I have felt it too more times than I want to remember because it hurts so much. But you gave him the best gift of all by being with him throughout it all and he will never, ever leave you. Hugs.

  • Susan Jett

    2015/07/10 at 3:12 pm

    I am so very sorry.

  • Beth Avant

    2015/07/10 at 3:14 pm

    My heart is aching for you. It’s so hard.. so many virtual hugs..

  • SaturdaysChi1d

    2015/07/10 at 3:15 pm

    A similar thing happened with my first dog Happy. I was away at University and one morning my folks appeared at the front door of the house I shared. I knew straight away what had happened: my dog had died. My Dad said he’d been sleeping with him in the living room for a few nights as he had gotten to a similar point where sitting was painful. Dad had woken up one night and had looked over at Happy, who had clearly been awake for a while looking at my Dad. When their eyes met, Happy pulled himself up, not far, he was a Bassett Hound, walked very slowly over to where my Dad was sleeping on the floor, crawled onto him and, after a short while of being cradled, passed away. That has stayed with me since the day my Dad told me. Dogs aren’t dogs. They’re very old souls. And our lives are infinitely graced by their presence if we can see that.

  • Lucy Cash

    2015/07/10 at 3:16 pm

    Somewhere long ago I read that you only really have one dog who is “your dog” in your lifetime. You may own plenty, mind, but there will be one who is THE dog, the one who touches something inside of you in a way that no dog before has and no dog after will.

    I think Chuck may have been your dog. But maybe, since as you note he was decidedly undoglike, you will be that rare person who has a second dog. I hope that for you.

  • Heather

    2015/07/10 at 3:17 pm

    I’m so, so sorry. We lost our dog last December, and it was traumatic. I sobbed for weeks. I know you’re going through a very hard time right now, and you won’t feel better for a while. Eventually, that pain will ebb, and in the meantime, I’ll be thinking of you and your girls. Thank you for loving Chuck as you did. He was a fabulous dog, and you were a fabulous mom to him.

  • Danny

    2015/07/10 at 3:19 pm

    Heather. My rescue dog of 8 years passed away yesterday evening. It’s very hard. She had been sick for a while too. My wife and I were with her at the end. She was a great gift to us and it’s sad that not everyone can know her like we did. But she was something special. I feel your loss and understand the pain. Think of you today.

  • Briar

    2015/07/10 at 3:19 pm

    I’m crying. I’m sorry.

  • Michael Mathews

    2015/07/10 at 3:22 pm

    I know. I add my condolences to the long list. He was something special.

  • Kheenan Halvorson

    2015/07/10 at 3:24 pm

    literally crying… I cringe the day that this will happen to me as i have two dogs. I am hoping they go on their own and not in pain and in my arms (albeit they are 80lbs) but i want that. I am so sorry for your loss and my family and pups will keep yours in our thoughts.

  • LisaCrazyAdventuresinParenting

    2015/07/10 at 3:26 pm

    Oh, the tears. I’m so sorry for your loss, Heather and family. <3

  • Nora Sawyer

    2015/07/10 at 3:35 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. It’s just plain not fair that these animals only stay with us a short time.

  • Michelle Cormack

    2015/07/10 at 3:36 pm

    This is so beautifully written. It is one of the great blessings we have, those of us who love our pets, that not only do we get to fall in love with them when they are impish young things, we are also able to demonstrate that love by helping them go peacefully when the time is right. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Katybeth

    2015/07/10 at 3:38 pm

    ♥ ♥

  • Liz

    2015/07/10 at 3:40 pm

    You were lucky to have had each other. Take care and hang in there.

  • mihow

    2015/07/10 at 3:41 pm

    This is a poem written by one of my most favorite poets from way back in the day. I thought I’d share. (Heather, I am so sorry for your loss. Crying for you.)

    Dogs
    by Tim Seibles

    Dogs know things.
    They know the important things come from a person’s head.
    That’s why they look at your face when you’re giving them commands.
    They hear what you say.
    They know what time you said you’d take ’em for a walk.
    They know.
    They see people throwing voices back and forth.
    They see you and your pals looking at each other talking.
    They see the anchor people burping out news on TV.
    They see you watching.
    They hear your face bending around sentences.
    They see you wink. They know you know they can’t wink back.
    Dogs know stuff.
    They know their names are not THEIR names.
    And they get tired of hearing NO! all the time.
    They know you know you shouldn’t stare into their eyes.
    Dogs don’t wanna play around all the time.
    They know you “throw ball” and do “jump for the treat” because you feel funny about being mean sometimes.
    They know that alotta days you wish they’d shut up and just STAY!
    They know who gets hit with the newspaper.
    They know that you know it doesn’t matter if they mind.
    Dogs know stuff about things.
    They know about those NO DOGS ALLOWED signs.
    They know who domesticated who. They know who pets who whenever whoever feels like it. They know who keeps whose food shut up in the pantry next to the broom.
    They know who bred who into long-legged, goofy-looking afghan hounds.
    They know who bred who into cute-little, nasty, yip-yapping fur balls.
    They know who takes who to get whose ears cropped.
    Dogs know who gets who “fixed”.
    Wagging a tail is not always a happy sign.
    You know how sometimes certain muscles twitch when certain other muscles wanna be kickin’ somebody’s butt,
    how sometimes you nod your head and say ‘that’s okay’, while your left hand keeps cramping into a fist.
    Dogs deal with things like that.
    They know who gets locked up in the garage.
    They know who doesn’t get to dig in the garden.
    They know who has to pee in public.
    They know who puts who “to sleep”.

  • jill

    2015/07/10 at 3:41 pm

    I am so, so sorry. Sobbed all the way through. If I can love him this
    much just through your writing, I can’t even imagine how you all feel.
    Wait, no, I’ve had to put down my dogs, holding them in my arms until
    they passed. They were my babies. He’s your baby. Thank you so much for
    sharing your beautiful boy with us.

  • Tara Parker

    2015/07/10 at 3:41 pm

    Ive followed you for a few years now and just wanted to say, I think you made exactly the right decision with Chuck. Im so sorry for his loss. Ive enjoyed reading about him so much. Thank you for sharing him. Hang in there.

  • Marci Phee

    2015/07/10 at 3:43 pm

    Also sobbed through this post. Rest in peace, sweet Chuck.

  • Tristan Adair

    2015/07/10 at 3:51 pm

    you are funny, heather, your family is nice, i like your writing, but the main reason i come to your website is because i love chuck. i love seeing his pictures. i love hearing you talk about him. i have dreaded this day. in fact each time i come back, i get scared, thinking it will have happened. today is the sad day. i am so sorry. i am sorry for all of us. i am happy for that gorgeous boy, finally running free in the wind. i have had the privilege of having my pups die in my arms, when it is time for them, and will live in this house forever because i’ve buried one of my boys in this backyard, and i have ashes of my other boys. these fur creatures make our lives so much better. i wish there was a funeral i could attend. i hope my dad can meet chuck up there and play with him, they would love each other. thinking of you, sending you love. Tristan

  • Deanna L. Milsap Argyros

    2015/07/10 at 3:53 pm

    Oh Heather, like most of your readers having never met you but followed you since back in LA. Watching Chuck and the girls and wow I am bawling here at work. What a moment that has just stopped me in my tracks. You have loved him like I love my own. Wow, I am so very sorry for your loss but thrilled your got to spend his final moments with him. My heart goes out to the family.

  • Tristan Adair

    2015/07/10 at 3:55 pm

    p.s. i have had some startling after death experiences with one of my sweet boys. don’t be surprised if you hear some distinctive toenails coming down the hall, or feel a pressure of a little warm body, and when you check, nothing is there. just our furry loves checking in and giving us a little reminder that they still live.

  • Patty Norman

    2015/07/10 at 3:58 pm

    I am so, so sorry. I’ve been reading about Chuck for a long time, and my heart aches for you and the girls. You were blessed to have him, and he you. Knowing that he will be waiting on the other side of the bridge won’t heal the hole in your heart, but hopefully it will give you a little comfort. I’m so glad you had that time together at the end.

  • CommenterFormerlyKnownAsR

    2015/07/10 at 3:59 pm

    I knew he would let you know and that you would listen. That doesn’t make goodbye any easier, I know. RIP, Chuck. Much love from Nebraska.

  • Kathy Meares

    2015/07/10 at 3:59 pm

    I am so sorry! I am crying like a baby.

  • Lonek8

    2015/07/10 at 4:08 pm

    So heartbreaking. What a beautiful tribute to a unique and precious soul

  • Patrick Ahles

    2015/07/10 at 4:09 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear this.

  • Ana

    2015/07/10 at 4:10 pm

    Here I am crying my eyes out. I feel like I’ve known Chuck forever.
    What a sweet, compassionate thing you did for him. Thank you Heather for treating this gentleman so kindly. Much love to you!

  • KateMc

    2015/07/10 at 4:12 pm

    I am so sorry for this profound loss, Heather. I will be thinking of you, your girls and Coco this weekend and sending positive thoughts your way. Chuck was such a special pup and I am so thankful you have shared him with all of us over the years! Thanks also for the reminder to listen to our pets and do the very best we can for them. Sending love your way.

  • cattail722

    2015/07/10 at 4:14 pm

    I was not prepared for my reaction, but sensed what was coming. I cried like a baby after reading this. Chuck has been part of my life for such a long time, even though I’ve never met him in person. Having been through this so many times with my cats, I know just how incredibly hard it is to decide what to do in these situations. Chuck could not have had a more wonderful life with a more wonderful guardian. You did the very best for him always, and he clearly knew how much you loved him and though they say that dogs can’t love, I call bullshit. He loved you back. Sending giant hugs to you and your family. <3

  • Laura Upton Harris

    2015/07/10 at 4:15 pm

    I cried like a baby when I saw the caption to the photo of Chuck, because I knew… I knew that you said goodbye to your friend because he was ready to go. Oh, how my heart hurts for you. At the same time, how very proud I am of you and Chuck for having the strength to be there for each other in the end. Love and hugs.

  • JennM

    2015/07/10 at 4:26 pm

    Heather, I’m sitting here bawling while reading your post. I’m so sorry for your loss. Chuck was definitely a unique and amazing dog and he knew your love until his last breath. The animals we have in our lives are amazing. My cat Jax came and cuddled up to me as I was reading a crying, to give me comfort. I love how they sense when we are sad. Hugs to you and the girls at this difficult time. RIP Chuck.

  • Laura Upton Harris

    2015/07/10 at 4:29 pm

    “Dogs aren’t dogs. They’re very old souls. And our lives are infinitely graced by their presence…” I wholeheartedly agree. I have never understood the person who doesn’t like dogs or who calls my life companion “just a dog”. It never gets easier to say goodbye.

  • Katy Ronshausen

    2015/07/10 at 4:30 pm

    Heather, I am so so sorry for your loss. May you be at peace through your sadness… and thank you for sharing Chuck with us all of these years <3

  • Ali's Grammy

    2015/07/10 at 4:31 pm

    What a beautiful, loving last moment with your dear Chuck.

  • Owengirl

    2015/07/10 at 4:32 pm

    RIP Chuck…<3Heather <3Leta <3Marlo

  • Aidan Morgan

    2015/07/10 at 4:40 pm

    Losing a member of your family is one of the hardest events in your life, whether that member is a human or not. You honour Chuck’s life with your words and your attentiveness. I think about things like this when I look at the trio of cats in my house and think about how each will eventually get up from their bodies and pad off to god knows where, and all we have left is the way that these creatures have changed us and made our lives better.

  • Caitlin

    2015/07/10 at 4:47 pm

    Sweet, special dog. Thank you for sharing him with us, Heather. Rest in peace, Chuck.

  • mizjuney

    2015/07/10 at 4:49 pm

    All dogs go to Heaven. Chuck will be in front of all of those waiting to greet you. And yes, Heather, you will go to Heaven one day, too. I love how Chuck communicated with you. Not just at the end, but always. You clearly saw in to his soul and should have no regrets. Kindest thing you did for him, hardest thing for you. My condolences, Julia

  • TheSuZieQ

    2015/07/10 at 4:54 pm

    No words…just a hug.

  • Heather

    2015/07/10 at 4:58 pm

    I’ve been reading for years and, like so many, fell in love with Chuck. Peace and comfort to you. Chuck wasn’t just a dog. He was a force.

  • Christina Mayer

    2015/07/10 at 4:58 pm

    So sorry for you loss. He was a good friend if not really a dog. Thinking of you and the girls as I sob at my desk. Give Coco a hug too since she is missing her best friend.

  • Sarah maddox

    2015/07/10 at 5:00 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. I loved chuck so much too. Thanks for sharing him with us for all these years.

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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