We were lying side-by-side on soft green moss in the shade of an old pine. Me on my back, hands cupped behind my head. She so close I could hear her breathing. I talked about things bothering me at the time as she stared into my eyes. Though young, I realized how lucky I was to have her. She blinked. Such long eyelashes. But I didn’t love her for the long eyelashes, or for the perfectly white teeth, not even for the way she adored me.

She was still looking into my eyes when she burped, wagged her tail twice, and continued chewing on a stick.

I loved her because she was my dog.

Mitzi was a collie. I was nine when we went as a family to meet the litter. I don’t remember whether we picked her or she picked us, but in short order we were on our way home. Mama and Daddy in the front seat while in the back seat my sisters and I fought over whose lap the fluffy puppy should ride home on.

It would take a long time to tell about her lifetime and anyone who’s loved a dog knows the telling doesn’t do it justice. You have to have felt it. As a puppy she was constantly hugged and kissed. As she grew up she became our best friend. And in her old age she earned the respect of family and friends as an intelligent, faithful old girl. We treated her like a member of the family.

Because that’s exactly what she was.

During her life Mitzi accompanied us kids on hundreds of trips to the pasture, ran countless miles behind our bikes, and joyfully ratted us out during games of hide-and-seek. She was a happy constant when we returned from school. Not only did her tail wag, her entire backside swayed vigorously when she saw us hop from the school bus. Many families have several dogs over the years. My family did too and we loved them all, but for me that collie puppy was the dog. Thirteen years into her life, I was then twenty-two, and that happy old collie was still the dog.

When she fell ill it happened fast. I went to work but called home to check on her. Mama hesitated, sniffled a few times, and told me Mitzi died. Back in those days, in spite of regular vet trips starting with her spaying and continuing with regular vaccinations, heartworm prevention was not what it is today and sadly Mitzi was a victim.

I hung up with Mama and went directly to tell my boss that I needed to go home. When she asked why, I said there had been a death in the family. My phrasing had nothing to do with dishonesty. It was the genuine reason. I’d heard she had a dog too so surely she would understand.

She expressed condolences and asked who died. When I said “my dog” there was a slight pause before she giggled and said she couldn’t let me go home for that. With no one to easily cover for me I’d have to stay. Undaunted, I left her office and immediately talked to my coworkers who agreed to cover for me, no problem they said. I returned to tell my boss I’d made arrangements for coverage but she repeated no, I had to stay.

I left.

There was nothing I could do when I got home. Daddy had already buried Mitzi at the edge of the same pasture she played in all her life. Nothing I could do, but to stay at work with that sense of grief would have been pointless. It was Friday, so on Monday I’d talk to my boss about it again. If I still had a job.

It was an emotional weekend. We cried, laughed, talked about Mitzi and talked to Mitzi. Family and friends called to say they were sorry. They treated her death as though she’d been a member of our family.

Because that’s exactly what she was.

Early Monday morning I learned from coworkers that my boss had been very unhappy about my leaving on Friday after she’d told me to stay. I started working and awaited my fate, but my boss didn’t come in that day. On Tuesday she was back.

I tried to read her face as she walked towards me. She said nothing as she handed me the envelope and walked away. I looked at it, puzzled she’d said nothing, and ripped it open expecting my dismissal letter. It contained nothing official, just a small card from her to me.

A sympathy card.

I learned later just why my boss missed work the day before. Sadly, her own dog had been hit by a car over the weekend and hadn’t made it. My boss was understandably upset and stayed home that Monday. She told upper management her absence was due to a death in the family.

Because that’s exactly what it was.

Stuart M. Perkins





Filed under dog, Family, grief, Uncategorized

81 responses to “Mitzi

  1. shann273

    😢 I have that one cat now who is my soulmate and I’ve had a dog like that. I think they are more than family. It’s indescribable really. I’m glad that boss came around. I love this story so much. It’s like a hug.

  2. I regularly read your postings. They always poignantly express things that touch my heart. Thank you!

  3. I miss having dogs. My cats can’t do that. Although, I have one who wants to live in my lap.

  4. I can relate. I, too, had a dog named Mitzi. A little white Spitz that was a part of our family, too. A really great companion for us three kids. We buried her under a tree at the edge of the garden, our pet cemetery. I didn’t miss work when she died because I was too young to have a job (other than working with my brick-mason father), but we all mourned. I still miss her!

  5. I have known that kind of love in my life.

  6. Wow. What a perfectly told … and perfectly heartbreaking … story. Just perfect. I stayed home from work both before and after my Springer Spaniel, Katie, died. Before to care for her just as I had my mother before she died. After to grieve the horrible loss. Luckily, I had a very sympathetic boss.

  7. Furkidz are always family. Bless you for sharing Mitzi.

  8. I’m sorry you couldn’t be with Mitzi when she died; that’s rough. Was the boss who took time off because her own dog died the same one who wouldn’t let you go? If so, she was a hypocrite.

  9. This made me cry … again. I cried when I read your earlier blog entry in 2016 (I believe it was) about Mitzi, her death & your grief. When I read your original entry my husband & I were dealing with the impending loss of our 19-year-old cat who was in renal failure. Your original blog entry touched me deeply because of our circumstances. When I was able to write again after we lost our Max I did a blog entry of my own about his loss & began by mentioning you & Mitzi. I said that those of us who knew that special relationship between a beloved animal & a human would immediately have held the door open for you as you bundled up your grief & left work without permission. You helped me when we lost our cat by echoing my feelings. I so loved revisiting your relationship with Mitzi in this piece. I think about our Max every day & those memories give me joy.

    • Wow, I’m so sorry about Max and yes, a friend recently lost her dog and asked I repost this one. Thanks for that thoughtful comment and again, very sorry about Max but clearly he was one fortunate cat to be with you.

  10. It’s unfortunate it took the death of her dog for her to understand and support your absence. Grief is grief, no matter human or other.

  11. Diane Perkins

    Thank you for your memories of Mitzi. I so enjoyed your story. You draw in your audience to share in your feelings. Our furry family members give us unconditional love and loyalty. They entertain and comfort us. Many offer a special connection. I’m so thankful to have a furry companion in my life today, and also thankful for the memories of others throughout the years.

  12. Stuart…. I just love your way with words, every time. This is a jewel among many in your portfolio. thank you. +

  13. I loved “anyone who’s loved a dog knows the telling doesn’t do it justice. You have to have felt it.”

  14. This is a great story. Our first Irish Setter was named Mitzi. She shared 13 years with us and we still miss her.

  15. You tell a story perfectly. I was drawn in with the first sentence. Marvelous!

  16. Yes, our four-legged furry friends ARE family! Too bad your boss had to suffer that loss, too, before she understood.

  17. We had a dog named chancy growing up, when he died we all grieved. The loss was deep, I totally understand. Beautifully written.

  18. Oh, gosh, such a story. I’m sorry for you. And the manager, at that.

  19. A “like” seems nowhere near enough to express how much I loved this piece of writing. Thank you so much for sharing such an intimate part of your life.

  20. Although I’ve never had a dog I’ve had many animals that were members of my family, and a couple that made me a better person and that bond was incredible. I hate that we have to fight for the acknowledgment that animals can become family and their loss can be worse than that of a blood relative. It’s so sad that your boss had to realize this through a loss of her own. This post was really something and I’m glad to have read it.

  21. What a great story, Stuart, of love between us and our dogs. The loss I’ve felt when one of my dogs has died is immeasurable. I felt them more keenly than I did when I lost my mother. They are family.

  22. Yep. We give our hearts knowing they will be broken. And then again. I think that says all I can say.

  23. annmarietornabene

    god do I know this story all too well. Your words made me feel that and more. xx

  24. This story touched me, remembering my own dog Tiger. I never felt about a pet like I did about him. I have had other pets but he was my first. Well shared, thank you.

  25. This is wonderful. Your feelings about Mitzi in life and death are so like my son’s toward his beloved Casey. I understand.

  26. I know what it is to have a “Mitzi”. The only differences are mine was Missy and she was a Sheltie. Thank you for making me smile this evening! We’re so blessed to have known the love of our pups!

  27. Very good post—brings tears to my eyes–we lost our special dog three years ago and it was hard. Yes it is a death in the family. An empty spot on the sofa and in the bed that can’t be filled. An empty yard and abandoned toys. Even though we have since adopted again I still miss Max. He was special for so many reasons but I am learning to cherish the memories. And maybe see him again? Don’t know but I know God knows my broken heart and He has helped me through this ordeal none the less. One has to be brave to be a dog lover. You will risk your heart but it will be worth it. What if we never allowed ourselves to love a pet again? I think we would be the losers indeed.

  28. This posting is particularly poignant given my own heart and soul dog passed away this week. Thanks for sharing your experience. I realize my own heartbreaking reaction was totally normal for a beloved family member.

    • Wow, sorry to hear about your dog. Heartbreaking is so accurate. Thanks for always taking the time to leave such nice comments and sorry again about your own dog. Such an emotional jolt, I know.

      • Thank you, Stuart. It was sudden and unexpected, making the loss that much more painful. The dogs and I are trying to sort out what the new normal will be, Sam was the universe we all revolved around. We find ourselves in new territory trying to find comfort.

      • Oh I’m sure it’s a shocker. Extra sad for you to watch the other dogs try to figure things out too, I’m sure. Time helps, that’s true, but small consolation when it’s all fresh.

  29. gigi

    Bravo, Stuart! I’m so with you, here! Hunter, for me, is that one dog!! And one of the family…forever. This little story made my heart sparkle. Thank you!

  30. Bravo, Stuart! I’m so with you, here! Hunter, for me, is that one dog!! And one of the family…forever. This little story made my heart sparkle. Thank you!

  31. Yes! Stuart, you’ve captured the emotion of having a pet, especially a pup! Beautiful!

  32. Beautifully expressed! I have felt that love too.

  33. What a beautiful, heart felt story. I’m sorry your boss didn’t understand the grief of losing a family pet until they lost their own. (And how amazing it happened so quickly!) I remember when I was in my early twenties and my puppy was hit by a car and died on the way to the vet. I’d called work to let them know I would be late because my puppy had been hit by a car. When I arrived to work and my supervisor asked me how my pup was, I burst into tears. He asked me if I wanted to go home, but I chose to work to distract myself from the pain. We get closer to our dogs because they are so unconditionally loving.

  34. krc

    enjoyed this story!

  35. Loved reading about Mitzi. It reminded me of my own love affair with a favorite dog, Buttons, whom I adored and still think of with pleasure.

  36. Such an incredible story. I know exactly how you felt because our dogs are family too. They are my forever toddlers. My grief over my dog was as bad as my grief over my miscarried baby.

  37. Thanks, Stuart, for this lovely post. My 18-year old kitty just passed. I’ve been waiting to write about it until I was ready. This helps. It’s hard to describe the gift animals bring us.

  38. The way you write about Mitzi, I can tell you experience the same feeling for animals that I do. Nice to meet you Stuart!

  39. I’m so so sorry for your loss. I lost my Shadow on April 3….absolutely devastating! I feel guilty going out with Wilma but so many adventures and memories we had!! Only dog lovers understand this deep and horrid pain. I understand! Hugs!

  40. Oh golly! I’m late finding this beautiful story in my inbox! I have a dog and know exactly what they mean and that they ARE family. I still get upset talking about my last dog who died in tragic circumstances, but I now have Maggie my adorable chocolate labrador…all part of the family 🙂

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