Mister President, Rest in Peace

It was my birthday yesterday, and I had to lay down Mister President, my dog of ten years, to rest forever. All things considered, my family and I were fortunate in that we were able to say goodbye to him in the home we shared with him, where he could be comfortable and unafraid; his veterinarian came to us in the afternoon, counseled us, administered the sedative and then the euthanasia drug, consoled us, and took away his body to be cremated.

Afterwards I took a walk to Ft. Greene Park, about a mile away. Mister President and I used to walk there several mornings each week, during off-leash hours. I sat down near the trees where I used to chase him for fun; it was one of his favorite games. The weather was uncharacteristically mild for late autumn; clear and with bright golden hues from a warm, low-slung sun.

Still, I had already begun to feel a chill in his absence, like a draft coming in through an open window at the other end of a room. Beyond the window feels like emptiness, a void. I miss my dog.

Throughout Mister President’s shockingly fast decline, I’ve been struggling to express exactly why he meant so much to me, why I loved him so dearly. In some ways this is something that can go unsaid, because when you tell people you’re losing your dog, they instinctually seem to understand what’s at stake. Dogs are dogs, and they are designed to be loved.

But I think it’s important, at least for me, to articulate it more fully, and I’m only now starting to be able to do that.

This is what I’ve come up with: Mister President came to me at the height of my selfishness, during a time of my life when, fundamentally, I was interested only in myself, despite all the relationships I’d had up until that point. And when he came to me, he taught me how to care for someone else, to devote myself to someone else, to really love someone else — unreservedly and unconditionally .

When I look back, I had never learned to do that before, at least not as an adult. I have always loved my parents and my sister in that way, but I’d never been able to muster what it takes to truly love someone new — until I brought home that furry, awkward mutt.

In this way, he saved me. Without him, I don’t know if I would have been ready to fall in love with Laura when I met her, and more importantly, I don’t know if I would have known how to sustain that love. And without Mister President, I don’t know if I would have been equipped to care for and truly love our wonderful daughter.

In and of themselves, those are two enormous gifts that he gave me. This is what dogs do, I guess. You think you’re doing all the giving. But they give you more than you know in return.

I really loved that dog.

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45 Comments

  1. Touching tribute Khoi. The gifts that our furry friends can impart is surprising and wonderful – to see beyond human-centric viewpoints.

    RIP Mr. P.

  2. Khoi, I am sorry for your loss. Wonderful tribute which I’m sure resonates with many of us reading your blog.

  3. In fact (in reference to my comment yesterday)…it seems he saved you in many NOT-so enigmatic ways. Once again, eloquently articulated (what we’ve come to expect from you on other matters, but duly noted: this is very different) – and really, so generous of you to share this experience so openly. I loved Laura’s comment yesterday wherein she said, “Yes you were lucky to find one another, but it was clearly never meant to be any other way.” That dog really loved you.

  4. I’m so sorry for your loss, and so grateful for your ability to articulate your heartbreak in this way. RIP Mr President!

  5. Dear Khoi, heartfelt commiserations from someone who’s been there and surely will be again.

    As you seem so able to do, you articulated my own circumstances as well.

    Ebb and flow, the thought somewhat comforts me at least.

    God bless.

  6. It’s a love so uniqueЁyou will hear his nails tap against the floor and his collar jingle into his food dish for the rest of your life. Maybe he and my Watson are running togetherЁsomewhere green and warmЁ

    RIP Mr. President.

  7. I am sorry for your loss Khoi. And thank you Mr. President for the life lessons that resonate beyond Khoi’s words.

  8. I can honestly say I never expected to read a post on this site that made me cry…

    Genuine thanks to you, Khoi, for sharing this. Our dog just turned 7 and I can’t imagine my life without her. In fact, whenever the thought creeps in I have to push it away.

    Very sorry to hear about Mr. President’s death, but you were both very lucky to have each other for the time that you did.

  9. Sorry about Mr president… your eulogy was perfect and fully reflects the gift that a dog can be to a human with an open heart.

  10. When a loved pet dies, it definitely takes a part of you with them. So, in that way, you are now less than you were …

    But while you own and care for and love your pet, they give you so much in return that even after their death, you end up with so much more than you started with.

    Mister President was a lucky guy, and so are you, Khoi. Condolences to you and yours … RIP, sweet doggie.

  11. Khoi — so sorry for your loss. I hope in going through the process of articulating why it hurts, you will gain a measure of peace and find a lasting way to cherish the friendship. best to you.

  12. So sorry for your loss.Mr. President sounds like a great companion, and you were clearly lucky to have each other.

    I found that letting my dog, Ray, go – for very similar reasons – was the worst thing I could do for me, and the best last thing I could do for my friend, who taught me pretty much the same lessons you learned.

    Take care.

  13. Ugh. I know exactly how you feel. I just had to do the same a couple of months ago for my eighteen-year-old feline companion. Feel well soon; it’s clear how well-loved he was.

  14. Khoi-I am so sorry to learn about the loss of your Mr. President. What a touching tribute you have given him here. The gifts he has given you will be with you always. Take comfort in them and in happy memories of the time you spent together.

  15. Thank you Mr. P for your life’s lessons. You came into Khoi’s life as a dog who needed love and in return, you loved unconditionally. You left on the anniversary of that first day you met him. How did you know? May you be chasing those balls that Khoi threw you, protecting your home, and dreaming about chasing rabbits.
    I will miss that Dog too.
    I’m sorry Khoi for your/our loss.

    ps beautiful essay!

  16. Very sorry to hear the news. Reading your post makes me remember my golden retriever, Angus, who lived to be 13 or 14. He died about ten years ago.

    My childhood cat lives at my parents’ home in Florida and is now 21 years old. She’s mostly deaf and blind now, but still happy to see me. I think about pet mortality whenever I see her.

    With bigger dogs it’s tougher in some ways, because the duration of their lives compared to ours is so much smaller.

  17. So very sorry for your loss, Khoi. Ironically, I just discovered your blog yesterday via a link to your wonderful “Think like a dog” flow chart. We admire dogs for their unconditional love for us, but I think they are equally gifted at eliciting that same emotion from people. Your love for Mister President is abundantly evident, infusing all your posts about him. Sincere condolences.

  18. Virginia and I are so sorry for your loss. Your post is beautifully written, and being a dog lover and owner, more than a few tears were shed. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. President while staying with you in Brooklyn and he was a unique dog. They say dogs take on the characteristics of their owners and you two were kindred spirits. Mr. P had the same mannerisms, he was serious, quirky, insightful and he seemed to have a wisdom behind those expressive eyes. You two were lucky to have found each other.

  19. Khoi. So sorry to hear of your loss. Dogs are so very wonderful as they never ask for anything but love in return for of all the wonderful things they do to brighten our lives. Mr. President’s indelible mark on you and your family will never fade – hope you are able to take solace by remembering the pure and unconditional joy he brought to you.

  20. It’s a genuine kind of love that dogs have and give, so selflessly, so generously, so warmly. Here’s to Mister President.

  21. Beautifully said, as always. There is no testament to love more true than having the strength to ease a friend’s pain. You did the right thing.

    Rest in peace, Mr. President

  22. Oh Khoi – I was so sorry to learn of Mr. President’s illness and passing. Even though we have never gotten to meet face to face we all live vicariously thru Ken, Jan, Jenni, and facebook postings and we all know how much Mr. President will be missed. I think your essay is so poignant and true and I think it is a difficult thing to realize what we no longer have and what gifts were given – freely, and generously by our pets. My mom lost her beloved Sheltie at only 7 years old this past January and I know how much she still grieves. These friends of ours – they live with us forever and watch over us, knowing our secrets and flaws – but loving us all the same. We wish you peace at this time and hope someday we will all be able to meet up…Kara, Ben, and Penelope Boyd

  23. You spoke so well of what our furry friends teach us. I’m a better person because of my dogs. Your pain will dull and you’ll be able to smile at all the wonderful memories you have of Mr. President. Great name BTW.

  24. Virginia had told me so much about Mr President and I had been looking forward to meeting him. You and Mr President had a great love – one I admired from a distance. My heart went out to both of you when I heard he was so ill – and goes out to you still.

  25. Khoi,

    I have a very vivid memory of being over at your place to watch the debut of the Colbert Report and having mr president there with us.

    I remember being struck by how clear it was that, in spite of (because of?) his being an occasionally exasperating presence, he seemed to make your life much fuller and deeper somehow.

    There’s this, from Kinky Friedman re the death of a beloved pet:

    “A few days ago I received a sympathy note from Bill Hoegemeyer, the veterinarian. It opened with a verse by Irving Townshend: ‘We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle…’”

    Indeed.

    Mr. President was one of the greats and will be sorely missed.

    I chose to believe that his spirit lives on.

    My thoughts are with you and your family.

  26. I’m sorry for your loss, Khoi.

    This post was really touching. Love and selflessness is something we all need to work hard at.

  27. I’m so sorry, Khoi. As a long-time reader of your site & career, I can’t remember a time when Mr. President wasn’t a part of your life. Thanks for sharing this with us, and how he changed you. Sincere condolences.

  28. As I was reading this my dog walked into the room and curled up in a ball on the couch, keeping an eye on me as I work. I feel you man.

  29. Thank you for your eloquent post! I just lost Bubbles 3 weeks ago, letting her go was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. My thoughts are with you & your family in your time of sorrow.

  30. my deepest sympathies, khoi. he was an incredible companion- loyal and loving to the very end. his spirit lives on in your memory. My heart goes out to you, Laura, and Thuy.

  31. May we all be so lucky as to have such meaningful, if painfully temporary, influences in our lives. They burn so bright, thus their time is short.

    My condolences, Mr. Vihn.

  32. As an admirer (and neighbor) of yours, I feel like we all got to have a relationship with Mr. President through his bleeding-edg web presence. As a once-and-future dog owner who well remembers the wrenching pain of loss, I’m sending lots of peace and healing to you and your family. I know the Park will never be quite the same for you. Wish I could have met him.