Unconditional love: Loss of dogs leaves hole in heart

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer March 12, 2014 10:53 am

In a high school Catechism class, our instructor asked us to make a list of who we were — daughter, friend, student athlete, musician, etc. — and put them in order of priority. 

That list-making comes vividly to mind now that I am a childless mother.

I unexpectedly lost Bridey, my 7-year-old chow-heeler, last week, and the hole in my heart left by Finnegan’s recent death is now a chasm. My identity is blown. I struggle to list who I am today. Until recently I was the guardian of a couple of dogs, followed by being a daughter, friend, reporter, hiker, skier, swimmer, runner, stargazer ...

My neighbors know me by my dogs — we walked up the road and into the private timberlands, sometimes tethered together with harnesses leashed to my waist. Eventually we gave up the leashes. When I was at home, they spent a lot of time outside unattended. Finn was elderly when we moved to the farmhouse and stayed close by most of the time, but Bridey roamed far and wide and then returned to sunbathe on the lawn.

Everything on that list of who I think I am included the dogs, even reporting. They spent a lot of time in the car, going to photo shoots or waiting for me when I was in a meeting. 

In the summertime, we traveled to Wallowa Lake and the rivers. If I gently said, “Do you want to go for a ... walk, swimming, skiing?” they were at the door.

I was a work-at-home mom for 5-1/2 years. Dog-walk breaks, barking during phone interviews and having to get up to open the door for them were part of the home office routine. In fact, my alarm for almost 15 years has been a hungry mutt wanting breakfast.

Last summer, Finn spent a lot of time swimming for a tennis ball. I would throw one via a “chuck it” into the lake. He’d bring it back and bark for more. A couple times the Scout taped the barking on his phone. Maybe I should use it for my alarm.

Without the guys around, I can put my drink on the coffee table. No longer are there food wrappers in the living room from items scammed off the counter. No one is barking or crying when I come home, nor looking sorrowful when I leave. There are no paw prints on the sofa or nose prints on the window.

I don’t know what to do with myself. A consummate dog girl, I am suddenly alone. We were a team. Now I have no one to argue with as I drive, or scratch or pet. No one to sing to or hear singing. 

Their absence has brought forth all the humans in my life. Humans to drive me to the vet with dying dogs, humans who help me bury them, humans who hug, call, write and come by unannounced to give their condolences. For the humans in my life, I am eternally grateful. 

There’s a bumper sticker that says, “Play like a dog,” but I say, “Love like a dog.”

Contact Katy Nesbitt at 541-786-4235 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Katy on Twitter @lgoNesbitt.