by Pari

If there's a dog heaven, I hope it's filled with rawhide chews.

There'd better be long grassy spaces perfect for fetching tennis balls, damn it. And someone to throw them nonstop.

It has to have warm ponds to swim in and jackrabbits to chase, soft sand to roll in and bushes to sniff.

I want to — today I need to — believe that creatures that bring so much joy while alive can experience reciprocity tenfold in death.

Our dog Finn died on Saturday. His demise was swift and came far too soon. At almost six years old, our yellow Lab should've had at least that much more time to romp and poop. Instead, on New Year's Day while running after a ball, he passed out. The next day we learned, in one of those surreal and awful moments, that he had a serious heart block. The only treatment option was a pacemaker . . . if we could even find someone in NM to do it and/or if we could afford it.

The decision wasn't ours to make.

When our vet came over to give Finn another EKG last Friday, he told us nothing had gotten better. We weren't surprised but thought we'd have more time with our beloved friend. We could keep him happy and loved. He could still visit his favorite rocks in the neighborhood and mark them. We'd cherish our time with him and make sure he didn't suffer at all.

The vet warned us that Finn's death would probably come when he got excited, so we walked more softly and didn't make extremely loud noises. None of our efforts worked well. Finn loved to jump and bark and greet people as if they were the most important beings in his doggie universe. He was just too damn happy to settle down.

The vet went on to say that we should prepare our children since Finn's death would most likely be traumatic: he'd jump up in joy, convulse with a heart attack and keel over.

Finn didn't die that way.

Saturday morning, he woke up frisky. My husband Peter took him for a good walk and came home optimistic. Finn hadn't had a single fainting spell. Peter went to work and the rest of us went about our business. At around noon, I noticed Finn on our couch. He looked a little odd. I petted him and watched him sleep, his breathing slow and regular. Fifteen minutes later, my younger daughter came into my office and said, "Mom, Finn looks funny. His tongue is hanging out and he's not responding."

It was that simple, that pure.
That heartbreaking.

— — —
Here is a video from Mass by Leonard Bernstein. I love it not because of its religious message, but because of the tune. The music consoled me and continues to.

64 thoughts on “Finn

  1. Lorraine

    “And now,to all the good dogs –the special onesyou loved best,those of ourswe still miss–


    untilon some brighter day,in some fairer place,They run out againto greet us.”

    George Papashvily

  2. billie

    Pari, I’m so sorry. I hope it’s a tiny bit of comfort that he went so peacefully.

    Each time I’ve lost a pet I have planted bulbs or something perennial over the grave. The blooming flowers each spring were a comfort, especially through that next year.

    Take care. I’m sending big hugs for all of you.

  3. Jim Winter

    During my first marriage, the entire time, we had a cat named Toonces who was our constant companion. As Diane and I were mulling going our separate ways, the reality that Toonces was a 16-year-old cat hit us. He had two strokes, and we had to put him to sleep.

    I bawled my eyes out for a week every time I came home from work.

    Now, my current bride and I have a dog named Gurl, 5-years-old and still thinks she’s a puppy. She gets excited a lot, though not nerve-wrackingly so. And I know one day, I’m going to have to go through that terrible night again with Gurl.

    Who was it who said a pet is usually a heartbreak waiting to happen? I suppose that’s true, but I’d rather deal with the loss every decade or so than not have them in my life.

  4. J.D. Rhoades

    What Jim said.

    I’m sorry for your loss, Pari. We’ll be facing the hard decision soon with Clifford, our old Golden Retriever. His poor aging hips are about to give out, and the cold’s not helping. He’s had episodes where he was clearly not well (not eating, very lethargic and non responsive) and we thought a couple of weekends ago that it was time…then he suddenly got up and started begging for table scraps again, so we knew he was feeling better. But we know it’s only a matter of time. Hugs…

  5. Jake Nantz

    God bless you Pari. I can’t imagine what that day will be like for us when one of ours is ready to go. I’m happy he went peacefully, but I know that’s no real comfort. I will say this: I don’t care what any person or any text says, I firmly believe all pets go to Heaven, and they’re running around having fun right now. Other than that, the best I can do is give you a virtual shoulder to cry on, and it’s there as long as you need it. Oh, and it’s an old virtual t-shirt, so if you get snot on it, it’s okay.

    (anything? a smile, a giggle maybe? hopefully?)

  6. JT Ellison

    There most certainly is a pet heaven – I believe that fully. I still dream about my girls – Jezebelle lived to 24, Jiblet to 19. I couldn’t bear to part with them, I had them my entire life, so I had them both cremated, and their ashes are in two beautiful urns in a display with my china. That way I can share a little bit of them with God.

    Blessings to all of you, and a special one for Finn. xoxo

  7. Alli

    I’m sorry to hear about Finn. I am sure Finn is in doggy heaven and having a grand time chasing a tennis ball and tormenting geese.

  8. pari

    Billie,I wish we could’ve buried him here. There’s a clinic where our vet does his office work. They do group cremations and spread the animals’ ashes in the mountains.

    I find consolation in the fact that every time I look at the Sandias, I’ll know a bit of Finn is there.

    We’re talking about the right kind of memorial service/ritual we’ll have for him. We need something. I’ve got a small box with some of his hair and his collar and we’ll bury that.

  9. pari

    Jim,I know what you mean.

    We’re going to get a new puppy eventually. Our family is just incomplete without a warm-blooded NONhuman around.

  10. pari

    Jake,That’s so sweet. Thank you.

    I’m not crying right now, I’m just carrying this incredible heaviness — a hole — and it feels so very sad.

  11. pari

    J.T.,I know what you mean about your cats.

    This was the first time I ever bonded with a dog; I didn’t get the whole unconditional love thing for awhile there.

    It’s heartbreaking to watch our children, too. Finn was with them for a huge chunk of their young lives.

  12. pari

    Alli,Thank you.

    Finn didn’t give a hoot about geese when there were tennis balls to fetch. He’d chase until he could barely walk — if we let him. His ball would be covered in frothy saliva and I’m sure more than one person thought we had a dog with rabies . . .

    He lived to love and to fetch.

  13. Allison Brennan

    We had to put our dog to sleep last May. She was 15, older than our daughter, and it was heartbreaking, but watching her suffer was worse. My heart goes out to you and your family, the music was incredible and made me cry (in a good way.)

  14. Marianne Plumridge

    Pari, I’m so sorry. For your loss of a beloved family member. All too soon. 🙁 Super zen hugs…

    We’ve been waiting for news from dear friends who have two little dogs. They visited their family’s ranch in Texas and the two dogs suddenly got wind of something and took off. Only one came back when called. That was last monday. We have yet to hear if the tracker dog they hired found anything at all on Saturday. We loved those little dogs, and to have one of them not there anymore is heartbreaking. More so to their human parents who can’t have children of their own, but pour their affections onto their four-legged kids…


  15. barbra annino

    I feel your pain. It’s the hardest thing to lose a love so pure. I heard a story once about why dogs die so young. The simple answer was that they learn life’s lesson before humans do- unconditional love.

  16. Louise Ure

    Pari, here’s a poem back to you, straight from Finn:

    Grieve not,nor speak of me with tears,but laugh and talk of meas if I were beside you…I loved you so —–’twas Heaven here with you.

    -Isla Paschal Richardson

  17. Mariah

    Pari, I’m so sorry. It’s such a heart breaker to have to say goodbye. It sounds like Finn was a really special guy – right now he’s probably in doggie heaven chasing those rabbits with our sweet Marley.In December, our beautiful 10 year old golden girl had a seizure that would not stop, and we had to let her go. I still cry every time I think about her. Her ashes are in a box, still in the bag the vet put them in because we can’t bring ourselves to deal with it yet. When we can, we’re going to put some of her ashes in the places she loved best in the yard – the woodpile where she tormented the mice and the hole in the fence where she chased the rabbits.We still have her litter mate, but he hasn’t been the same. We’re hoping that when our daughter comes home later this week with her Jack Russell, it will perk him up a little. We’ll be looking for a pup soon – not to replace Marley (btw, the movie came out the week after she died and those damn commercials were on TV every 45 seconds) – but it’s time for us to bring home our next dog.Hugs, Pari, to you and your family.


  18. Rae


    I’m so sorry about Finn. The thing about pets is that they love you without betrayal or conditions – they’re the best kind of friends.

    I’ve always liked this poem by Dorothy Parker.


    Verse for a Certain Dog

    Such glorious faith as fills your limpid eyes,Dear little friend of mine, I never knew.All-innocent are you, and yet all-wise.(For Heaven’s sake, stop worrying that shoe!)You look about, and all you see is fair;This mighty globe was made for you alone.Of all the thunderous ages, you’re the heir.(Get off the pillow with that dirty bone!)

    A skeptic world you face with steady gaze;High in young pride you hold your noble head,Gayly you meet the rush of roaring days.(Must you eat puppy biscuit on the bed?)Lancelike your courage, gleaming swift and strong,Yours the white rapture of a winged soul,Yours is a spirit like a Mayday song.(God help you, if you break the goldfish bowl!)

    “Whatever is, is good” – your gracious creed.You wear your joy of living like a crown.Love lights your simplest act, your every deed.(Drop it, I tell you- put that kitten down!)You are God’s kindliest gift of all – a friend.Your shining loyalty unflecked by doubt,You ask but leave to follow to the end.(Couldn’t you wait until I took you out?)

  19. pari

    Allison,I think one of the reasons I’m so heartbroken is that Finn didn’t seem to be suffering at all. Sure, he’d slowed down a little, but he was still that bundle of pep and joy.

    I know life isn’t fair, but I’ve got to say that right about now I’m thinking mortality sucks.

    And yes, that song is beautiful in a heartwrenching way.

  20. pari

    Oh Marianne,My heart does go out to your friends. I remember how much I doted on my cats before I had children — how life-centering they were.

    I hope that other dog shows up — healthy, happy and ready to play.

  21. pari

    Barbara,I think that sentiment pretty much sums it up.

    My husband was talking about the grief we feel with pets and how it’s so different from our human counterparts because there’s NO baggage.

    It’s pure on both sides.

  22. pari

    Mariah,I am so, so sorry for your loss.

    I can’t imagine how difficult it must’ve been to lose Marley. And curse that movie for making your pain even more difficult!

    What you said about getting another puppy is how we feel too. It’s not about replacement; it’s about inviting another being — an non human being — into your life and sharing it across species, learning from each other.

    I believe people who understand this special relationship and honor have lives far richer than those who never have.

  23. pari

    All,I posted responses to everyone after Louise and they don’t seem to have registered. I’ll wait a little while and if they’re not there, I’ll try again.

  24. Tom

    Pari, I’m so sorry. This was too soon for all of you. But it was a gentle passing for Finn, and for that we must be grateful.

  25. J.D. Rhoades

    “I think one of the reasons I’m so heartbroken is that Finn didn’t seem to be suffering at all. Sure, he’d slowed down a little, but he was still that bundle of pep and joy. “

    This, when you think about it, is not a bad way to go, if go you must. Small comfort, I know, but take it as it comes.

  26. Jena Snyder

    I am so sorry for your loss. Virtual hugs, and I don’t care about snot on my shoulder either — hey, I have dog hair and slobber all over my pant leg, what’s a little snot? 🙂

    After our 16-yr-old golden retriever died, every time I glanced at the empty corner where she used to sleep, I’d think for a second, “Oh, Taffy must be outside. I have to let her in.” Then I’d remember and the grief would rush in, fresh and raw. I spent 6 months doing this. Six months! I finally went and got a puppy (over my husband’s *strong* objections) and the hole in my heart was mended. I’ve had Willow (a Chesapeake Bay Retriever) for 7 years now, and can’t imagine life without her.

    I am absolutely certain there is a beautiful place in heaven where all our dogs are running with boundless energy and lying in the sun and smiling at us with their goofy doggy smiles.

  27. pari

    Tom and Dusty,Of course you’re right.

    I told my children that Finn died the very best way a being could die — happy and peacefully.

    Yes, I’m grateful for that. I think this is also evoking my mother’s death; though she was neither happy nor at home, the actual moment of her passing was incredibly calm. Like Finn, she just stopped . . .

  28. pari

    Jena,Yep. Yep.

    I went on a long walk this morning and when I came into the house, I had the same response. Finn wasn’t in his place on the couch and I thought about going to one of his other hangouts before remembering . . .

  29. R.J. Mangahas

    Pari, I’m sorry to hear about Finn. It’s always tough to lose a pet. Well, you can take comfort in knowing that he’s probably at Rainbow Bridge now. (If you haven’t heard of Rainbow Bridge, you can see it at

    The best I can offer is to say just remember all your happy times with Finn.

  30. Fiona

    Oh, Pari, I’m so very sorry about Finn. Please have a family hug from me. Losing a furry family member is so hard for everyone.

    We had an 18 year-old cat and 11 year-old dog die last year, within two months of each other. Even though they were senior animals, I still miss them and it was still difficult.

    Take care of yourself.

  31. Fiona

    Oh, Pari, I’m so very sorry about Finn. Please have a family hug from me. Losing a furry family member is so hard for everyone.

    We had an 18 year-old cat and 11 year-old dog die last year, within two months of each other. Even though they were senior animals, I still miss them and it was still difficult.

    Take care of yourself.

  32. Lisa Hendrix

    We lost our kitty, Zelda, Friday night. Her kidney’s failed and she got horribly dehydrated and sick, and we had to have her put down to stop the pain. She liked dogs, so it’s nice to think she might have met Finn someplace this weekend. Large, teary hugs to you and yours on this painful transition.

  33. Fran

    He’s running with my Dante now, and they’re having a blast, I guarantee it.

    But it’s still heartbreaking. It always is.


  34. Tammy Cravit

    Pari, I’m so, so sorry for your loss. Small comfort though it may be, at least Finn spent his last day happy and loved, and he went quickly and peacefully.

    Since we’re sharing verse, here’s one of my favorite, a comfort through many tough times:

    DO NOT STAND AT MY GRAVE AND WEEPby Mary Elizabeth Frye

    Do not stand at my grave and weep,I am not there, I do not sleep.I am in a thousand winds that blow,I am the softly falling snow.I am the gentle showers of rain,I am the fields of ripening grain.I am in the morning hush,I am in the graceful rushOf beautiful birds in circling flight,I am the starshine of the night.I am in the flowers that bloom,I am in a quiet room.I am in the birds that sing,I am in each lovely thing.Do not stand at my grave and cry,I am not there. I do not die.

    — Tammy

  35. pari

    Fiona,You know, it’s interesting that your post came up twice; I think it’s because of your tremendous loss of two pets last year.

    My heart just goes out to you. I know by now you’ve come to terms with it, but there’s that hole there . . .

  36. pari

    Oh, Lisa,I’m so sorry. We used to have cats until one of our children tested positive for that allergy. I know wonderful they can be.

    I like the idea of Zelda and Finn. There’s something very consoling in that, isn’t there? A shared hope, a shared sorrow.

  37. pari

    Alex and Toni,Thank you so much.

    It *is* heartbreaking. I’ve found myself getting angry about all kinds of insignificant things today. Yes, I know exactly where that’s coming from too.

    Anger and grief walk hand in hand.

  38. pari

    Fran,One of our favorite things was to watch Finn run across a field to fetch his ball. He was sleek and graceful, meant to run. So the image of him playing with another dog . . . running like that, brings me solace.

    Thank you.

  39. pari

    Tammy,That’s just gorgeous.

    Last night when I was singing to my daughters at bedtime (I sing a couple of prayers and songs to them every night — even my teen likes that), I imagined Finn just behind me. We had a ritual, you see. He’d come in and listen to my sing the prayers and when I hit a certain point in the subsequent songs, he’d start singing with me.

    I could almost hear him last night. I could imagine the click-clicking of his feet and nails on our wooden floors as he ran to meet me in the front room for her rawhide chew — the conclusion to another evening.

    Ah, hell.

  40. Tammy Cravit

    Pari, I know exactly what you mean. After our dog Mojo died about three years ago, my spouse and I both thought we heard the jingling of her collar for months after she died. (She used to do this head-floppy collar-jangly thing that was sort of a canine version of the potty dance.)

  41. pari

    Tammy,I just read my comment to you and saw all the typos; I was in a bad way yesterday.

    We hear that collar too. Already, the pain today is a little less intense. I’m focusing on calling up all the wonderful memories I have of Finn rather than that last final one of his death.

  42. pari

    Jude,You’re right. He was incredibly sweet and a massive amount of fun — lots of personality and playfulness.

    Our vet once said that Labradors are puppies for six years, then you get about five calm months before they become old . . .

    I wish we could have had all that time with Finn.

  43. Janet Reid

    Pari, please accept my condolences for the loss of Finn. I’m convinced dogs are in heaven simply because how could it be heaven without them?

    I lost my Newfie, Lucy, in a too-weird-to-be-believed accident (a bookcase fell on her head), and after she died, I kept her ashes for years. I simply couldn’t bear to let her go.

    Only when I knew I was moving to NYC and leaving the high desert of Oregon for good, could I scatter her ashes on my parent’s farm. Of course, that was exactly in the middle of the anthrax scare, and there I was pouring white powder all over a field.

    Finn is probably up there in heaven with Lucy right now, swimming in a pond, drooling on someone, and chewing on a shoe. (Cause of course, it wouldn’t be heaven without great shoes either.)

    In all seriousness, my deep sympathy for your loss.

  44. Rob Gregory Browne

    Pari, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. One of our favorite dogs was hit by a car a couple years ago, and we just got the news that another dog has cancer, so I know how terrible you must feel.

    My sincere sympathies.


  45. pari

    Janet,Thank you. I can understand carrying those ashes for a long long time.

    Finn was cremated in a communal cache and his ashes will be spread in our Sandia Mountains. Though he never romped in them, just knowing that some of his physical remains are there brings me tremendous calm.

    Lucy and Finn. They sound like a great couple, don’t they?

  46. pari

    Oh, Rob,I’m so sorry. You’ve had a rough beginning to the year too.

    I hope it improves, that your dog spontaneously heals from the cancer and all your projects turn to gold.


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