24 September

Hey Gus

by Jon Katz
Hey Gus

Hey Gus, I was thinking about you this morning, and now, my eyes are filled with tears, and I imagine if you were here, you would be looking at me curiously with a tilted head, as you so often did.

If you were something new and strange for me, I imagine was the same for you.

Somewhere, in the middle, we connected.

I have to write a chapter on your sickness and death for my next book Gus And Bud, A Tale Of Two Dogs In A Time Of Transition. I want to write this chapter this week, as it is an important week in the story of my life with dogs. So you are on my mind this week.

I’m going to write about your sickness and death.

Since I found myself sitting here sniffling, I had the idea to write this as a message to you, even though I have no expectation  you will be reading it. I love dogs, but I do not love dogs, if you know what I mean.

Maria and I were both surprised at how much we came to love you, and I can’t speak for her, but your death hit me hard. For awhile, I thought we might pull off a miracle, but that was hubris.

You were just a pup when you were diagnosed, and not even a year old when you died. I’ve seen dogs die, but never a puppy, and never so cruelly. Watching you wither and starve was not something I had imagined or was prepared for.

You’ve been gone about six months ago. We have been looking for another BT for a long time.

We decided to put you down as an act of mercy,  as you were clearly starving to death. Our struggle to overcome your megaesophagus, an invariably fatal disease for dogs, had failed. We put up quiet a fight together, you me, and Maria. I tried 100 different recipes and mixes and potions and pills.

I remember mixing and stirring for hours, and I will always remember Maria singing to you while she held you upright for at least 20 minutes a meal to try to get food down into your stomach.

I feel like letting you know about Bud, in case you are up there somewhere watching. I don’t care for the Rainbow Bridge stuff, it always seemed sappy and selfish to me, I hope you are not sitting by some bridge waiting for me to come and play with you for all eternity.

I hope you are off somewhere having sex, chasing mice, digging holes,  eating disgusting things, commandeering sofas and beds, charming the world around you.

This Saturday, if all the tests are good, a dog named Bud, a brown Boston Terrier from Arkansas, is coming to live with us. He is what they call a “rescue” dog although I believe that all dogs are rescue dogs in one way or another, so were you.

He has had a rocky time of it, he is well now.

I am more than ready for another dog. I had never had a small dog before you, and even at your sickest, you were a blast, torturing Fate, stealing her toys, jumping up on sofas you were not allowed own, riding Lulu around the pasture. Even at your sickest, you were the King. I loved writing about you, and also about what I call the Small Dog Experience, I’m eager to pick up the story.

I hated to see you suffer so much, vomiting, coughing, spitting up, having so many pills and tablets rammed down your throat. You were a good sport, nothing ever really seemed to faze you.

And look what you started, Little Man. A dog revolution at Bedlam Farm.

The sad news about dogs is that they don’t live as long as the people who love them, the happy thing about dogs is that you can get another one to love. People can’t do that with people.

I suppose one of my favorite moments on Bedlam Farm was when the sheep charged at you full speed, and you simply sat down and barked, and brought them all to a standstill, even Zelda. You had been watching the border collies and seemed to see no reason you couldn’t do just what they do.

I am sure the sheep had never seen anything like  you, and neither had I. You came as a small dog, and because of your illness, you never really grew.

The thing about you, is that your spirit was quite large, in health and sickness. You never seemed to grasp that you were a small dog, so you acted like a very big dog, and that was part of your charm and appeal. You might have been gravely ill, but you never showed it, not for a second.

You were always funny, even when you didn’t mean to be.

You made me smile 50 times a day, and how precious is that. I expect Bud will be a very different kind of dog, he had almost as rough a year as  you did, but he survived, thanks to an angel named Carol Johnson and her dedicated rescue group, the Friends Of Homeless Animals. I am told he is quiet and peaceable, unlike you. We’ll see.

He is a food thief, apparently, we’ll keep an eye on that.

So anyway, I’m not into being maudlin, the past is the past, and the future is my life, and I will not waste an hour of it on nostalgia or regret. Bud is coming up from the South in a huge truck with 100 other dogs being adopted up North,  and we will be meeting him in Brattleboro, Vt., one of our favorite places to visit.

I’m excited, I just bought a bunch of treats for him. I can’t wait to meet him and take pictures of him and write about him, just like I did with you. Wherever you are, I wish you peace and happiness. You were a wonderful dog, and if I don’t care to mourn you forever, I will surely not ever forget  you, not even when I get another dog..



  1. Hi Jon, I’ve been thinking of Gus lately myself. I have missed your stories of his antics. Your post today brought tears to my eyes. It was a bit strange I got this rush of emotion about him.
    I’ve missed him.

    I feel this connection to Gus. I also have two Boston Terriers, one I got from a breeder, the other Linny, was a “rescue” from TN.

    My first dog looks very much like Gus. Sophie is adorable, calm yet sassy. Like Gus, she has her own set of rules. She does as she pleases. I love her more than I ever imagined. I downsized dogs when my 167lb French Mastiff had an emergency and I had to find a neighbor to help me load him into my car to get him to the Vet. Unfortunetly he did not survive.. He had just turned 4. (another rescue, and was at the time the current love of my life)
    I do not treat my dogs as “furbabies”. They eat dog food and do dog things. The only luxury is a coat in the winter. We live in Maine.

    With the upcoming arrival of Bud, I am getting more and more excited for you and Maria.
    It is a long time to wait when you know you want something that badly. I am not that patient either. I look forward to “meeting” Bud and following his new life with you and Maria.

    So, just a quick hello to you both. I can only imagine the excitement you both must be feeling.
    Give Bud a hello kiss from me when he arrives.. I can’t wait for the first pictures!

    Jan from Maine

  2. What a great remembrance of Gus. It is harder to lose the young ones, it seems. Our Zari was 2 and her death was a surprise. I find myself thinking of her more often than my old guys/girls. The young ones really are a blast and remembering is both painful and joyous. Your post reminds me of the joy. Thanks

  3. What a wonderful tribute to Gus! I met him at last year’s Open House and he was all wiggles and kisses. I believe that was prior to his diagnosis and he was such a happy puppy. My best to you as you continue the small dog experience with Bud.

  4. Lovely tribute. I have 2 Boston Terriers (one dark brown and one fawn with distinctive black markings) and I can’t wait to watch Bud’s antics on your blog. Best of luck with Friday’s tests and lots of pictures please. God bless little Gus!

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