I woke up around 4:30am today to the sight of an owl swooping into the branches above me and taking away a rat, which protested loudly as it departed.

The owl, huge and gray, vanished as quickly as it arrived. It cleared the lemon tree and the oleander, and flew into the darkness with its prey.

I have spent the last 10 weeks sleeping outdoors with my dog Boomer.

People would ask, ‘You’re not in a tent? You’re just out in the open?’

No tent, just a mattress, pillow, and blanket. And Boomer beside me.

How was it?

In a word, glorious. Once Boomer realized that I was in it for the long haul, that I wasn’t sneaking away after he fell asleep like I used to with my kids, he relaxed and took it as his due that in these final weeks of his life, he would be kept company around the clock. Never mind the mosquitoes, the rats, the police helicopters. It was just the two of us. It was sort of like Huck and Jim on the river, but with the aching, underlying awareness that our adventure would soon end.

One of my favorite songs is “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac.

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides,
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well I’ve been afraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built by life around you.

The season of my life is changing. I am saying good-bye on Monday to this beautiful, loyal, majestic-looking dog who has been my best friend for 14 years. Lately, more and more, I did build my life around him. I put off visiting my parents back east. I begged off from every social invitation. I cooked for him. I slept outdoors at night. I told my wife she might have to take the kids to college by herself. My daily schedule was shaped by when Boomer woke up, when he ate, when it was cool enough outside for us to walk around the block.

These last 10 weeks were some of the sweetest, most lovely weeks of my life. What a privilege. Not just to spend so much time with him at the very end, but to have him in my life, in my family for 14 years.

A passage from Sharon Lebell’s translation of the ancient philosopher Epictetus:

Nothing can truly be taken from us. There is nothing to lose. Inner peace begins when we stop saying, “I have lost it,” and instead say, “It has been returned to where it came from.” …. The important thing is to take great care with what you have while the world lets you have it.

I’ve tried to do that. I’ve tried to take care with my dog — and with my children — while the world let me have them.

The departure of the kids for college next month will hit me even harder than Boomer dying, I think. I was an all-in, stay-at-home parent. I definitely built my life around that project.

Again, this was a privilege. And it was a privilege granted to me by my wife. She went to work every day for 20 years to pay the bills and buy the house, while I kept an eye on Lulu and Jesse, read books to them, watched Disney movies with them, drove them back and forth to school, to ice hockey.

There wasn’t much moderation in my parenting. I disregarded lots of good advice about letting kids fail, letting kids have their own lives, leaving the kids with others occasionally so that I could take a vacation with just my wife.

Fuck that. I wanted to squeeze every last second out of parenting. Same with taking care of Boomer.

In the last few days my wife and I realized that we were keeping Boomer alive partly out of fear and avoidance. We didn’t want to face the chasm of sadness which his passing would open up.

Boomer was my wife’s first dog. This will be her first time saying good-bye.

For my part, I grew up with dogs. That was a gift my parents gave to my siblings and me — the opportunity to live with dogs, learn about them, and yes, one day mourn their passing. I had amazing human friends growing up, but dogs may have been the best friends of all. Just the quiet keeping of each other’s company across the years. I was fully myself with dogs, whatever that means.

Boomer has kept me company in this particular season of my life — the child-raising season. He went wherever I did, even the ice hockey rink. He always sat in the middle-right seat of my minivan. I opened the window for him. We were partners.

The truth is, he’s in pain now. Even just walking a few blocks, we have to stop in the shade of a tree for him to lie down, panting, exhausted. The recent heatwave has made matters worse. He is trying to hang on as long as possible; he knows how important he is to me.

My wife had a dream recently. Boomer was above our house, huge, his four legs bracing the four corners of the house. His gigantic frame was supporting the house, enclosing it, protecting it. In the dream, I was a tiny figure in the backyard looking up at the rat nest (where the owl struck this morning).

Another song lyric, from Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain:”

Friends will arrive,
Friends will disappear

Now we’re at the ‘disappear’ part. I know that Epictetus was right — take care of it while you have it, but then let it go. Don’t cling to it or wail over its passing. With time and practice, I think I might get the hang of that.

Friends of mine have lost so much more in recent years. Friends have lost spouses, parents, even children to untimely deaths.

I don’t think I could apply the Stoic principle to the death of a child. I think that would break me. Hell, Boomer’s death might break me.

As far as I can tell, Boomer has appreciated these nights outdoors together. The air cools off, I stop looking at my phone, working in the garden. He and I lie down. Sometimes I talk to him, but mostly we just listen to the night around us.

We listen to raccoons and opossums moving along the back fence, police helicopters passing overhead. We still hear fireworks too, even a week after the holiday. We don’t mind. We sleep well knowing that we’re together, which is the main thing.

I don’t know whether I will be able to sleep on Sunday night. I’m kind of expecting to be up all night replaying the last 14 years in my mind. That’s okay. We’re at the finish line now. I’ve tried to care for him while the world let me have him.

In the song “Graceland,” Paul Simon sings,

Losing love is like a window in your heart,
Everybody sees you’re blown apart,
Everybody sees the wind blow

If you see me next week, you’ll see the wind blowing. It’s okay. I’ll find my balance again. Maybe it’s a good run-through for saying good-bye to the kids. Anyway now I can finally go visit my parents back in Maryland. They are 87 and 88 years old. Dog lovers themselves, they were understanding and supportive about me staying by Boomer’s side to the very end. So was my wife.

In the song “Love Has No Pride,” Bonnie Raitt sings:

And if I could pray, my prayer would never end.
If you want me to beg, I’ll fall down on my knees,
Asking for you to come back,
I’d be pleading for you to come back,
Begging for you to come back
To me

In a day or two, that’s how I’ll be feeling about Boomer, wishing I could have just one more hour, one more minute. Another favorite artist of mine, Dolly Parton, sings with the same anguish in “I Will Always Love You.”

Yeah, these are sad songs; that’s where I am this evening. But mainly I am grateful. The world let me have Boomer for so long! For 14 years! I did nothing to deserve him. But I tried to take care while I had him.

UPDATE … Boomer died peacefully on July 12, 2021. He relaxed completely within seconds of the first painkiller shot, in obvious contrast with the labored breathing moments earlier. He really had been suffering.

My wife and I were crying a lot during these final moments. I worried we were sending the wrong message to his departing spirit, making him think we still needed him, wanted him to stay. So in my mind, I threw a tennis ball as far into the sky as I could. I looked up and said silently, ‘Get out of here! Go get the ball! Go see your Mom and Dad, and your siblings. Play! Feel what it’s like to be running again, without pain finally.’

I’m going to miss the hell out of Boomer, but it was time. His work was done.

About Kit Troyer

Kit Troyer lives in Los Angeles. He worked previously as a newspaper reporter and a criminal defense attorney. For the last 15 years, he has been a stay-at-home dad. But that gig is running out. Kids will soon be moving out and moving on.
This entry was posted in CHILD REARING, COURAGE, DOGS, HEROES, SPIRIT. Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to GOOD-BYE, SWEET BOOM

  1. Aristos Marinos says:

    Kit, I’m sorry to hear of your loss. As a dog owner and lover I understand the sense of loss you, your wife, Lulu, and Jessie are feeling at the moment. Remember the wonderful adventures you had with boomer. I will always remember the post about the time you attempted to remove a live squirrel from inside of Boomers mouth only to have the tip of your finger removed from the furry critter. I hope the coming days become easier.

  2. Sharon Miller says:

    Oh, no – Kit. Terrible news. Thank you so much for sharing this piece of writing and laying your heart bare — for the rest of us. It’s a painful, amazing read, made all the more excruciating by the last 18 months. My heart breaks for the whole family.

    Massive, virtual hug.

  3. lola says:

    Kit, this is heartbreakingly beautiful. I so, so feel your pain. I know it all too well. They are not here long enough. Period.
    I’m holding you and the family in my heart so tight. But you, especially.
    Love you, my friend.
    Lola xxx

  4. scottadamwexler says:

    This was brilliant and emotional and raw.

    So sorry beyond words. My dog is dying of terminal cancer. Could be any day.

    The love and bond that you you describe for him – that’s the gift. I think you’re lucky. The world goes by and most don’t think about what’s really important

    Sending lots of light to you and your family.


  5. Geri Jacobs says:

    With love and tears, such a majestic beast
    I will miss the two of you

    • Kit Troyer says:

      Well said. Majestic beast. And to think he had a secret stash of tennis balls in your hesge all those years. Now i know why i had to keep replenishing by scavenging balls which Marlborough girls would accidentally hit over the fence during practice on Rossmore Ave

  6. Maya Forbes says:

    Heartbreaking, Kit. So sweet. I think Wally will be sleeping outside with our dog eventually; you’ve shown him the way.

    In the spirit of your post, I’ll add a relevant song lyric:
    And in the end
    The love you take
    Is equal to the love you make

    Lucky Boomer and lucky family that you found each other. Xx

    • Kit Troyer says:

      Thanks, Maya. I love being back in touch with you lately. Please tell me when The Good House is avail to stream somewhere. I loved everything about that movie

  7. Sonia Keshishian says:

    Tears tears tears can’t stop . Brought back all my losses young and old , I use to sleep next to my sister for a year leaving your uncle Kevig behind so I could give my only sibling the unconditional love till the end . When she passed I kept saying over and over “if I could build a stairway I would climb up to heaven and bring you back again .”Now we want to leave that ladder which by the way was the cause of her husbands fall and death last week . Well i am depressing this morning as well but the beauty and depth of your soul my sweet amazing Kit thru your words take wings of their own and fly in the air , on the rooftops , in our vast sad universe till grief ends and memories take over to keep them forever in our hearts . I wish I could hug all of you right now . 😢😢😢😇😇💚💙

  8. Jane April says:

    💔 exquisitely written. 💔 my heart goes out to you.
    I think I just cried buckets
    I know the love of our dogs. 💔💔
    Be well friends. Be gentle with yourselves in your time of grief.
    Sending much love to you all.
    Boomer is going to be with Kevzi and he will wait forever at the rainbow bridge
    Love Jane

  9. Heidi Richardson says:

    I love reading your stories about your life
    They bring up so many feelings about mine
    I can still remember you directing traffic at wagon wheel when life was so simple.
    I read your last post to Zeke laying in bed one morning laughing about the rats ( which he has a rat phobia)
    I’m so sorry about Boomer . He made me think of our dog charlie who died a few years ago and is buried in our back yard . I was greatful to have had charlie for 14 years .
    Thank you for opening up your world & heart
    I needed a good cry
    I’ll be thinking of you & hope I run into you real soon to give you a hug


    • Kit Troyer says:

      Thank you, Heidi! Zeke hearing the rat story in bed made me laugh

      • Carrie Heckman says:

        Oh Kit, fortunately I don’t typically cry before 9 a.m. but today was an exception. You have gone above and beyond to let Boomer know you are as there for him as he has been for you all of these years and what an amazing journey that has turned out to be – complete with a thorough education on the ecosystem of your backyard. Thank you for sharing your heart with us and hopefully processing some of it by writing it down. We will also be sending our second child off into the world this fall and it’s hard to make sense of how to do that after holding on to them so tightly all of these years. Thank you for reminding me to take a moment and appreciate what we do have in this fleeting but precise moment – our kids at home, our rapidly aging and deeply loved Ruby and even the magical events occurring in our own backyards and neighborhoods while we’re sleeping. We’ll miss seeing you and Boomer roaming the neighborhood. We’ll be thinking about you all tomorrow and hope to see you soon.

      • Kit Troyer says:

        What a beautiful message. Thank you, Carrie!

  10. Rest in Peace, Boomer! He was a lucky dog to have you, and you were lucky to have him.

  11. Reblogged this on Time Traveler on the road of Life and commented:
    see comments

  12. Alek Keshishian says:

    Kit what a beautiful, deeply moving post. What a profound soul connection you and Boomer have. Some dogs are just dogs, and some dogs are much more. Boomer has always felt like a great soul sent as a gift — like a sage, a wise teacher, the gentlest giant, who emanated kindness, softness, humility, simplicity… Unlike most dogs he never insisted on being the center of attention, on making his presence dominate. Instead, he was content to simply be a part of it all, without ever needing to ask for much in return. When we sat for family meals, while my dog begged loudly for food, running from person to person under the table, Boomer, the Sage, would always remain still and unperturbed — he would simply lie there nearby, immune to the delicious aromas wafting around him, as if he was satiated simply by knowing his family was was well-fed and taken care of. What an unbelievable gift to have had Boomer all these years. I wish his soul well as he returns to his ture home, where we will all join him one day.

  13. mamason99 says:

    I feel your pain. I still smile almost daily thinking of our last Lab we lost in 2017. I have 2 more now and dread the day they will cross the bridge. I have to read this often.

  14. Demetra Dunne says:

    Oh, Kit. I’m so sorry, my friend. My heart is breaking for you tonight. We definitely don’t deserve dogs, but I am sure Boomer could not have had a better best friend than you for his life. You loved him well, and you were blessed to have each other. I will be praying for you and your family tonight. Love and peace to you all.

    • Kit Troyer says:

      Demetra! What a beautiful full name. I only knew the nickname. Hey it makes my heart happy to hear from you, a friend from the early early days. Thanks for your message. Sending love right back to you and your whole family.

  15. Karen says:

    Oh, Kit, we love you all so much. Really feeling your loss. Hugs and love to everyone. I was dreaming about you all last night. Now I know why.

  16. Elliott Korzen says:

    I am so sorry to hear about Boomers passing. I will never forget the times when Jesse and I were playing in the yard and Boomer would come chasing after us with so much joy. He was such a loving and beautiful dog who lived an incredible life. My thoughts and prayers are to you and your family.❤️

  17. Patricia Shea says:

    Such a beautiful story about Boomer thanks so much for sharing it. Losing our beloved friends is so heart-wrenching but I’m always grateful that I had them in my life. I sent this to a friend who just lost her dog and has had a Blog about him for the last four years he lived to be 17 years plus and the site is called Cleveland’s bucket list. She was very moved by your story about Boomer I think it meant a lot to her and she understood totally because she never thought she would do all the things she has done for Cleveland. Thanks so much for your story

  18. Vinny says:

    Oh man that is such a brilliant blog. If you’ve never had a dog then I suppose people won’t get just how you connect. We had our beautiful Dilly for 17 the early years she chewed shoes, opened the washer and chewed the clothes. Ate my brother in law’s birthday cake and much more but she was the best friend I’ve ever had. Sorry for you loss Kit.

  19. mitchteemley says:

    A wonderful, touching, and instructive post, Kit.

  20. mitchteemley says:

    Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:
    My Featured Blogger this week is Kit Troyer, a former news reporter and defense attorney, now a blogger and stay-at-home dad. There’s something very compelling about Kit’s writing. Maybe it’s the skills honed as a reporter and defense attorney. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that he’s a gifted communicator who cares deeply about the issues and people (or, in this case animals) he writes about.

  21. Wow. We lost Snowy seven years ago. We aren’t sure to this day if we want a new dog. Too painful

  22. Thank you for sharing this very personal story of life’s progress. I am sorry for your loss. Thank you too for sharing the Epicetus quote. It is the second time that has come across my desk this week. That usually means something.

  23. robstroud says:

    We too lost a beloved family member of fourteen years this summer. What a touching way to bid farewell to your pup.

  24. Perth Girl says:

    So sorry for your loss. They mean so much to us and they give us so much love. We are blessed to have them in our life.

  25. Hi Kit,

    This is a beautiful tribute to Boomer. One of my favorite songs is also “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac.

    Can I sail through the changing ocean tides,
    Can I handle the seasons of my life?
    Well I’ve been afraid of changin’
    ‘Cause I’ve built by life around you.

    I bawl each time I hear the song … first thinking about my ex-husband. Now, thinking about my son. As I grow older, I learn that I the older I get, the less I know. One thing I do know is that nothing is permanent in this life, including us. You have loved Boomer deeply, and the price of that deep love is deep grief. My wish for you is that you sail on your ocean of tears and may each magnificent sunrise rejuvenate your spirt. I send you light, love and many future sunrises on the horizon.

    My condolences to you and your beautiful family.

  26. Beautiful and moving tribute. You can feel the love through the words you shared. Boomer was indeed well loved and taken care of with you.

  27. Written with such love and compassion. I have tears rolling down my face, and I don’t even know you or Boomer. You are very lucky to have shared your time together. Hugs from a stranger.

  28. Great post! Boomer looks like a wonderful cuddle buddy, lol.

  29. LaDonna Remy says:

    In so very sorry for your loss. Boomer sounds as if he were a great companion in this life. 💗💗 Sending you lots of care.

  30. Eternity says:

    Thanks for all of the good work that you do with you blog, and for your continued LIKES of my articles. You are very kind and gracious.

  31. cheriewhite says:

    This brought tears to my eyes, Kit. I’m so sorry for the loss of your fur baby.

  32. So sorry for your loss 💜💜💜

  33. cbholganza says:

    So sorry to read of your loss, dear friend. I am a dog lover too. And just like you, have had to deal with the loss of a great dog in Kobe. Kobe was with me for 12 years. Reading your beautiful piece reminded me of Kobe. Thanks much for this.

  34. What a beautiful dog! Your post made me cry.

  35. Mike U. says:

    This really hit me. I lost my black Lab Dexter in 2008. He was a farm dog and we had many epic walks in the woods on the farm. What a big, goofy fellow he was. What did we ever do to deserve these blessings, even for such a short time? I’m so sorry for your loss. Boomer seemed like a great dude and an amazing friend, just like Dexter was. I haven’t written any poetry about Dexter on my blog, but I’ve got a piece about another doggo buddy of mine who died a few years ago, a deaf beagle named Harley. I’m deaf, too, and Harley and I had a very distinct bond because of it. Anyway, I’m new to your blog and just found this essay and wanted to tell you I think Boomer was a very lucky dog to have you in his life. Wonderful writing, Kit. Beautiful and moving stuff. 🙂

    • Kit Troyer says:

      Thank you so much for reading it and then responding. I really appreciate it, and i’m happy to have found your blog too. I’m enjoying it.

      Thanks too for the very kind thoughts about Boomer. He was amazing. I was so lucky.

      I’m happy to hear that you too know all about the depth of dog-human relationships, from experience. Dogs help make life a much kinder, warmer, more bearable experience than it would otherwise be.

      Anyway, thanks again and very best wishes,

  36. ❤️❤️❤️….what a sweet, beautiful tribute. He’s so lovely. Thank You.

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