There’s always something to howl about

Saying goodbye to Shyly…

She loved me better than any dog I’ve ever known. She loved me better than I deserved, more than I ever did anything to earn. She was with me at my desk all day and on the floor beside my bed all night. When I left the house, she would wait for my return where last she saw me, and when I came home she would yip and scamper and dance and rejoice with every fiber of her being.

I loved her better than any dog I’ve ever known, but I loved her nothing like she deserved. I loved having her with me, but I ignored her almost all the time. But I always knew where to drop my hand when I wanted to touch her. I didn’t have to look for her. Her love and her loyalty were so complete, I always knew where she would be.

She taught me so much just by being alive, but what she taught me best was how to be that completely, that unreservedly, that rapturously alive. She was beautiful inside and out, and she was exuberantly delighted every day of her life — even this one, the last day of her life.

The photo montage above is from the out-takes from our Christmas Card for the year 2000. Shyly is the gorgeous black bitch in my arms who can’t sit still — who never could sit still.

She was a mutt, half Chow, half Labrador, but she was a proud and perfect puppy for every minute that she lived — always eager, always excited, always involved. She died at peace, as dogs can and as human beings so often cannot. I know she had a happy life, and I’m glad she had a painless death.

She was with me for thirteen years, but she’ll be with me for the rest of my life. I’ll never love another dog as much as I loved my Shylygirl. I’ll miss her every day.


15 Comments so far

  1. Don Reedy August 25th, 2011 5:06 pm

    Greg and Cathleen,

    So much on my heart. So little to say…of import.

    You know how special you both were to Beth and I when on the first day we ever met you took time to comfort a complete stranger in the midst of the his struggle over the loss of his puppy.

    In all my time with you, whenever I came into the room, whether wet, wet behind the ears, or just tracking in mud, there you were ready and willing to wag your tail and love unconditionally. You have been a metaphor for Shyly in my life.

    Crying feels good right now, since I have no tail to wag to say goodbye to Shyly……

    Love to you both.

  2. Teri Lussier August 25th, 2011 5:26 pm

    Love and hugs from Jamie and me.

  3. Russell Shaw August 25th, 2011 5:34 pm

    You write beautifully. You made me cry.

  4. Tom Bryant August 25th, 2011 5:40 pm

    I’m so sorry to read this. All true dog lovers know what you’re going through right now. My biggest hesitation in ever getting a dog has been knowing that in 10-15 years I’ll turn to a puddle of goo when he or she is gone.

    But, focus on the fact that you gave one of God’s creatures a great life – one that enriched you, Cathleen and Shyly.

  5. Missy Caulk August 25th, 2011 5:42 pm

    So sorry for your loss Greg, our pups are with us for really a short amount of time but leave such an imprint on our hearts.

  6. Greg Swann August 25th, 2011 7:03 pm

    Bless you all. Thank you for your kind thoughts.

    We used to foster rescued animals. That’s how many of our pets came to us. But because of that, we’ve seen a lot of death. The worst for me, until today, was a cat and her three kittens who all died in my hands, all within an hour of each other. I knew I’d lose Shyly eventually, but I thought we had a few more years together.

    Reverse the sign: I wrote this post for me, of course, and I shared it here because our dogs have always been such a big part of this place. I’m going to lose Odysseus, soon, too, but I don’t need to think about that right now. Instead I’ve been playing the guitar — kinda loud, to say the truth — a bluesy Telecaster through a dirty amp.

    The wake is for the living. We say our prayers, pay our respects and send our sweet friend off to her rest. But then we dance. And drink. And make noise.

    I can mourn Shyly for a bare moment, but I can honor her life forever — in my own life.

    If you want to know Shyly’s delight, live it.

    That’s at once a toast, an admonition and a battle-cry. Shyly will live forever on the nets. That essay is mirrored all over the place. But Shyly will live forever in my own expressions of delight — and in yours, too, perhaps.

  7. Scott Cowan August 25th, 2011 10:14 pm


    Living with pets makes us better humans. I am sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is losing a family member.

  8. claudia August 25th, 2011 10:20 pm

    I lost a special friend today
    The kind you can’t replace

    Shyly touched my heart
    And became my friend
    But only for a short of while

    Housekeeping was easy
    With this friend on my side
    Often watching
    That I do my work right

    Or just keeping company
    While I went from room to room
    With the loud vacuum
    And the green broom

    Oh, how did she enjoy it
    When I came with the comb and the brush
    Then eagerly settled in front of me
    With the absolute trust

    She loved the massage too
    And the hair kept on flying
    (it looked like she was smiling)
    Until we were thru

    I know I must have done well
    Because of the repay
    A lick on the hand
    And a wag with the tail

    What a great time we had not too long ago
    As we went to the doggy spa to have fun and be fro
    We splashed with the water and the nails where done too
    And since then your hair was soft and shiny thru and thru

    Now you lay at rest my friend
    It is hard to believe but it is for the best

    Oh what would I give for one more repay
    A lick on the hand and a wag from your tail

    I miss you my little Shyly

  9. Greg Swann August 26th, 2011 8:17 am

    Bless you, Claudia. That was beautiful. Shyly was lucky to have you in her life.

  10. Eric Blackwell August 26th, 2011 4:23 am

    **what Scott said**

    and also

    **what Russell said**

    Sorry for your loss, but happy for the good times and friendship. Just took Boston (Golden Retreiver / Chow) out for a walk to enjoy some time together and to enjoy every moment.

  11. Brett August 26th, 2011 7:40 am

    I am sorry to hear that Shyly passed away. I have two dalmatians that lived to be 12 and 13 years old. I do really miss my dogs. I know what you are going through.

  12. Mark Brian August 26th, 2011 9:08 am

    I am so sorry for your loss. Everyday we get to spend with a dog like Shyly is a gift not to be underestimated. I wish I could think of something to say that would help because I know what you are going through.

  13. Jeff Brown August 26th, 2011 6:21 pm

    I’m so sorry, Greg.

  14. Thomas Johnson August 27th, 2011 1:40 pm

    My condolences, Greg and Cathleen. We are all better for likes of Shyly. Thank you for sharing her with all of us.

  15. Elle Summers August 28th, 2011 8:57 am

    This part really wrung out my heart: “I loved her nothing like she deserved. I loved having her with me, but I ignored her almost all the time. But I always knew where to drop my hand when I wanted to touch her. I didn’t have to look for her. Her love and her loyalty were so complete, I always knew where she would be.”

    I have been in a situation like yours, Greg and Cathleen… yet I can’t say that I know your pain, because our beloved dogs each their own personalities, and as such leave their own unique imprints in our lives. My condolences…