Leslie's Website!

Pete's Page

imageThis is a letter I sent out 10 days or so after the death of my dog Pete, whom I adopted when he was one-and-a-half years old, and with whom I had the amazing good fortune of spending fourteen-and-a-half years. 

I post the letter here as a cyber memorial, of sorts.


26 Feb 2007

Dear Friends of Pete:

I wanted to let you all know that Petey died last Thursday.

I'm happy to be able to say that he was not terribly ill—he was able to enjoy a short trip to his favorite spot on the Deschutes river and to savor a couple of beef bones on his last day—but at 15 years and 11 months old, he had become so weak and arthritic that life just began to seem…so…very…hard for him.  All that falling over, when it was so difficult and tiring to get back up again!  My highly intuitive friend Jill said she thought he was hanging on just for me.  If that were the case, I knew he'd hang on long past the point of his own best interest.  I'd been giving it lots and lots (and lots) of thought since about last October—How to know what was really best for him, what he really wanted, without the benefit of talking it over with him?

On the Monday before he died, he suffered a comparatively minor infection, but his reserves were so low it left him barely able to get up.  The infection was brought under control with antibiotics, but I knew then that if I wanted him to be able to die without first suffering the trauma of being mortally ill, the time was probably very near.  On Wednesday, I made an appointment with our veterinarian, Gordon, to come to the house at sunset on Thursday, the fifteenth.  (Thank you so much, Gordon, for the peace of mind you gave me, and the peaceful passing you gave Pete!)   The next day, I ferried Pete's body up to Seattle for burial at the home of my wonderful former neighbors David and Victoria.  He now lies in a violet-and-daffodil-covered grave a few feet from the resting place of Nick, the dog who inspired me to get him.  Nick was also a Wonder Dog, and he and Pete were great pals.  They enjoyed lots of cavorting together in nearby Ravenna Park over the years.

As you all know, I took tremendous delight in Pete.  I "interviewed" dozens of dogs for his position, volunteering at the pound for months, perusing ads in the paper, and finally, getting a tip from a word-of-mouth network about a dog on Vashon Island who was headed for the pound if a home wasn't found for him quickly. From the first day I met him, at that orchard on Vashon Island--where he won me over with a combination of youthful canine beauty and downright peculiarity (he ate 14 fallen apples in the first hour of my knowing him, for starters); to his last day on earth, when he watched me intently from his bed as I moved about our little straw-bale house doing chores (as though I were, even after fourteen years, a fascinating creature, worthy of the minutest attention)--I just pretty much couldn't get enough of Pete. 

I loved the way he drank water, the way he was at once stand-offish and loving, the way his eyes sparkled with intelligence and playfulness, the way his tail-less butt fluttered when he was happy, and went into absolute overdrive when he was contrite.  I loved the luxuriousness of his multi-hued "deluxe upholstery upgrade," the oversized whiteness of his well-formed paws, and his solemn dogly devotion (raised to the power of Australian Shepherd).

That dog infused my days with gratitude and appreciation—every last one of them.  This unfailing daily joy, combined with my devotion to his well being, helped see me through a couple of perilously dark stretches along our 14 ½ year path together.  Yes, Pete did a spectacular job of guarding his one-person herd, almost from the inside out.

Even in his dying, he continued to help me.  As his death approached, I wanted to be very still inside in order to fully experience my feelings and the last moments of our being together. I'm happy to report that I eventually managed to achieve that stillness, more or less—but his passing showed me how unaccustomed I have become to being truly quiet, and reminded me of the supreme importance of cultivating that ability to turn off the quotidian clatter of the ever-insistent world.  Because only then can I hear the subtler tones of oneness and connection, of peace…of God.  And what's more important than that?

I'd like to trumpet a resounding "thanks" to Pete, for all the bike rides and walks (thousands upon thousands of them, according to my calculations), and the metered love licks.  (He was not obsequious or overly effusive—when he licked your hand, you knew it represented a considered and solemn emotion.)  Thanks for the heartfelt celebration whenever I returned home—even if I'd only gone as far as the grocery store!  Thanks for sharing my days and my travels; for being so infinitely, entertainingly odd; for being so unflaggingly "there" for me.

And thanks to all of you receiving this letter for enjoying him with me at some point along the way, and for taking this moment to share in my joyful appreciation of his life...and my sadness at his passing.

Leslie (person of Pete the Wonder Dog)


Top of page: Pete at about 3 years old, at the base of "Exasperator," a stellar climb in Squamish, B.C.  There never was a more savvy or better-behaved climbing dog.  He would wait, unleashed, at the bottom of climbs, and never wander, or make a peep to disturb other climbers.  Once, however, when I was on Zebra-Zion, a four-pitch climb at Smith Rock (the first pitch of which is very popular and well-traveled), Pete "defended" the base of the route and wouldn't let anyone else on it the whole time we were gone!  Ha!  Okay, maybe not the best-behaved climbing dog in that instance--but he was doing his very best to protect us, his oddly-behaved sheep!  (Between that and his famous "eyeball belay,"  we were safe as houses up there! Ah, Aussies...)