September 4, 2015

D is for Dog

Welcome to the Write On, Mamas! We are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. We would love to hear your comments.


Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

Dogs Have Bucket Lists Too

I haven’t taken a nice vacation without a diaper bag, sippy cups or portable crib for seven years! So it was with great excitement that my family began to plan a beachfront vacation in Hawaii during spring break. I could already taste the sweet, pulpy coconut in a piña colada and feel the gritty, warm sand between my toes as I dug my feet in deeply with a sigh.

But, as often happens, good times get derailed. While planning our vacation during the gray gloom of winter, we discovered dismal news. Our beloved dog, the center of our family for 11 years, had cancer. Of course this took the wind out of everyone’s sails. Our hard saved vacation funds now poured quickly into our “Save Our Sweet Dog” campaign. It was the right choice (for us.) We would not let our canine pal down without a fight.

After months of treatment, and when the lush island landscape and hip swaying sounds of Hawaiian music were a distant daydream; a bit of blue sky shown down on our family. Our dog felt a little better. If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of facing a terminal illness of a loved one, you know that life shrinks down into those moments that lie just in front of you. There is no “next Christmas” or “when you are back in town” or maybe even tomorrow. There is just now. And so, we decided that our dog deserved a bucket list, a few things for him to tick off before he went gently into the night.

How does one create a bucket list for dogs? It’s not that hard because dogs generally do everything they want to, when they want to, like running really fast, or sleeping for 16 hours straight, or rolling on top of that smelly dead skunk because it just felt right.
We looked at his bucket list as more of a “What Would the Dog Do?” or WWTDD, and applied it to all of us. We’ve been taking lots of walks, enjoying naps and sitting down with each other and our dog, and just “being” together. What has this done for us? Well, it’s made us appreciate each other and be grateful for the love and companionship of our dog for over a decade. We’re less tired, much happier and maybe even a little more fit.

And for those spring break plans, we put that on the bucket list too. We’re headed to a lakefront family resort 20 miles from the beautiful Yosemite National Forest. It’s dog friendly, of course. Our pup will get plenty of splashing, hiking, and relaxing with his family who love him more than anything.

We just asked, WWTDD? And so, we did.

Laurel Hilton’s essay Of Rats and Deadlines will appear in Mamas Write.


  1. Dogs are so much part of the family, and the trauma of losing a pet can be almost as bad as losing any other family member. I’m dreading the day when our Labrador has to leave us.
    All the best with the book.

    • Sue LeBreton says:

      Yes, our dogs are an integral part of our family and sadly they do not live as long as we’d like.

      • Laurel Hilton says:

        He’s had a terrific life and given us so much love, I’m so grateful! Thanks for reading my piece!

    • Laurel Hilton says:

      Fanny, thank you for your kind words. In addition to my two human kids, yes, I consider my pup my first child. :-)

  2. Such a sweet thing you did, making that bucket list, and I am glad it worked out for the family. Regret is never a good thing, in any case. Your dog looks like a sweetheart :)


    A to Z Challenge, 2014
    Introspection in Shades of 11

  3. Sue LeBreton says:

    Laurel: I love this way of thinking. We could all learn so much from our dogs who live in the moment. It reminded me of a friend who spent the last weekend with her beloved Golden feeding him his favourites and taking walks and photos.

  4. Bucket list for dogs – I love that. Robyn (owner of 15 yr old beagle)

  5. Your love shines through. I am imagining Indigo with a big smile after splashing in the water! WWTDD is so fun!

  6. What a sweet essay; Hawaii will be there when you’re ready.

  7. Beth Touchette says:

    That’s such a sweet piece. I hope your dog can do lots of swimming and stick fetching. Our dog Apollo is 4 and I am already dreading his later years, but now I will add a dog bucket list. It is tragic that their lives are so much shorter than ours. I recently read “Pukka’s Promise” which gets into ways of increasing dog longevity, but ultimately, natural selection was not kind to wolf/dog life spans.


    • Oooh, I will have to check out Pukka’s Promise. Thanks Beth. If I knew a few years ago what I know now. Hindsight, of course. But I am eager to share with any fellow pet parents all the research and learning I have gathered on how to avoid a cancer diagnosis with a dog. Something good had to come from this. :-)

  8. Ann Kendall says:

    Laurel, that was beautiful. It made me think of our little Cocker Spaniel who passed away at 13. What a heart breaking experience. We now have another Cocker and we named her “Heather” after the first one we had. I told Lisle that we would always be calling her Heather anyway, so we might as well name her Heather. It took 3 years before we were over our sadness with “Heather 1”, but it was well worth it to have another loving puppy to enjoy. She’s a little wild, but friendly with everyone.

    • Thank you Ann! Means a lot that you read my piece. I am glad you are enjoying “Heather 2”
      My parents waited over 10 years to get Liberty after our Lab passed. Hope you are well!

  9. Lovely, Laurel, Enjoy the time that’s left. I agree with others–Hawaii will still be there.

  10. OH! That is so sweet! And it sounds like it was every bit as bonding and relaxing (maybe relaxing isn’t the right word?) as a vacation. I love the idea of a doggie bucket list.

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