6 November

Ghosts And Spirits: Red’s Last Time

by Jon Katz

I remember this photo. Maria took it, and it was the last time  Red ever came out to the pasture, and the last time he and I worked together.

By this time, Red was something of a ghost. He couldn’t run, struggled to see the sheep but seemed very content to sit on his hill and look out over the pasture.

With his hearing and instincts, I’m sure he knew exactly where they were. That morning, I felt good standing out there with him, in silence it was our comfortable way of saying goodbye.

The previous day had been a rough one at the Mansion,  several people I knew well were gone.

it was Red’s last appearance there as well, and I could see he was just spent. He could barely stand up.  That last morning, I remember thinking how grateful I was that I could end Red’s life in a dignified and peaceful way.

He was getting disoriented and could no longer walk or run far. I didn’t want to see him deteriorate painfully and for many weeks and months. And I didn’t have to see that, it was up to me.

I did not ask Red what he wanted me to do, nor did I believe that he could or would tell me when it was time to go. I could see when it was time for him to go, the signs are not subtle or mysterious.

Nor did I hope to see him in the afterlife, or on the bridge. My wish for him to was to rest, heal and find another human and enrich his or her life. I didn’t want him to hang around me forever, I wanted him to give rebirth to himself, just as I have tried to do.

I don’t know if this happened.

I’m not a psychic or an animal communicator, I do not know if Red’s body or spirit lives or if he has turned to dust by now out in the pasture, leaving nothing behind but love and companionship.

He was a good memory dog, and all the memories were good. So here  I am, just a few months later, getting ready to bring a new dog into the farm, and my life with Maria.

I am curiously excited, I am looking forward to training this dog, socializing her and loving her.

I made it a point never to project my own wishes onto my daughter Emma when she was young.

I never told her what I thought she should do or wanted her to do. It was and is always up to her, all I want is for her to be happy and fulfilled, that is a tall order in itself. She has to do it on her own.

I want Zinnia to be a therapy dog, but that is my wish, it might not be hers. I want to be open to changing directions or – as happened with Fate – realizing that the path I chose might not or should not happen.

What I don’t want to do – to a child or a dog – is project my own needs and desires onto them. Zinnia will reveal herself soon enough, and that is the most interesting part, watching and waiting to see.

Red is a ghost now, a spirit, a shadow, an emotion. He is always there, and never there.

He always wanted the best for me, that is always the way I saw it. I think that is what the best dogs want for their humans.


  1. Thank you, Jon for sharing this poignant message about projection on our pets. It’s such an important one and one I’ve had to come to realize about myself, and I’m grateful I did.

  2. Thank you for your thinking and sharing. I want to find a post of yours that I read in lateJune. It is about how dogs can become therapy dogs with or without training classes, and that your dog deserved respect for the work.
    Please help me re- find the post.

    1. Linda, I’m afraid I don’t have time to search the archives, I’d be doing nothing else all day, if you want to search, I’d suggest going to the search window at the top of the Farm journal page and typing in the subject you want.that’s the way I would have to do it.. j

  3. Your photo brought tears to my eyes….he was such a special dog, and he brought such joy to you. That’s the sad part of having an animal that brings you so much joy….when their time comes, it is so very difficult to let them go. I rescued a Yorkie a few years ago after having nothing but big dogs all my life, Pit bulls, Doberman’s, Labradors but I was ill with chronic lyme disease and couldn’t handle a big dog. This little guy came to me and was diagnosed with it also. So we were both sick together. We would cuddle close and fall asleep, and wake up every morning ready to tackle the day, but other days, we could barely get out of bed. After four years, it was time to let him go and it just about broke me…but I did it for him. It is so very hard to let him go. Thank you for sharing your time with Red with us. God bless you Jon.

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