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A Letter of Gratitude to My Dog on His Birthday

Dear Buster,

A Letter of Gratitude to My Dog on his BirthdayTomorrow it will be seven years since I found you hiding behind the dumpster in our cul-du-sac in Philadelphia. I remember the construction worker running out to warn us about the “big black dog” back there, and after shuttling Ty and Rod inside, I grabbed a leash and came to see if I could help you. You were so scared. It broke my heart to see you trying to make yourself small, shaking uncontrollably, not daring to look at me with those big brown eyes.

I sat down with my back to you and talked gently, telling you that I wouldn’t hurt you … that I just wanted to help you get home. Slowly, slowly you moved a little closer and I kept talking, not glancing your way, just reassuring you that everything would be alright. You seemed to understand, and finally you got close enough to sniff me. Holding my breath, I reached over and clipped the leash to the chain around your neck. And that’s when I promised you that I’d make sure you were safe.

I brought you though the back gate onto the patio, and got my first real look at you. You’re beautiful! You sniffed all around and then came over, sat down, and gave me this deep stare that communicated your loss, confusion, and hope all at once. I tried desperately not to fall in love with you – surly someone was looking for such a gorgeous boy! – so I called you “Dog,” as though not giving you an official name would somehow keep my emotions in check.

We mounted a search for your people, plastering posters of you everywhere, calling the shelters and rescues to let them know where you were, sending out email blasts to the members of our dog park, and putting your image on the Internet. While we waited for the our efforts to take hold, we got rid of that awful chain and got you a proper collar. We took you to the vet, so he could check for a microchip and also make sure you weren’t injured, and we took you to the groomer for a nice bath. It was a whirlwind, and you took it all in stride.


What I remember most is that you loved being in the car. One day you and I were out for a walk and a neighbor who’d heard about you pulled over to say hello. She left her car door open and you almost knocked me over diving into the front seat! What a sight we must have been – two grown women, laughing with tears rolling down our cheeks – trying to get you back out of that car!

Looking back, it might have been a sign. In the past seven years we’ve traveled well over 100,000 miles together.

As you know, whoever raised you for the first year of your life never got in touch with us. Now I like to imagine that there was no one else – that heaven delivered you straight to our doorstep, to light up our lives, and so you could guide us on a journey beyond our imagination.

We were in turmoil for the first few weeks. Rod wasn’t keen on keeping you. He saw that you had no manners, and you peed every time he bent over to pet you. But Ty was the toughest nut to crack. He was determined to be an “only dog,” and for the first few weeks, it was he and Rod against you and me.

Buster's Eyes

You needed to go back to the vet to be neutered, and while you were under you got a microchip so you’ll never be lost again. Once you recovered, you were all-consuming. Trainers, trips to the dog park, you and I walking miles every day because you were a German Shepherd puppy living in a townhouse. Ty tried to bite you when ever he got close to you, and Rod was keeping his distance. We lived in a house divided – literally and figuratively – and I have to admit, I almost gave up. I didn’t think I could handle you, and I wasn’t sure I could give you what you needed.

Eventually, you and I managed to win Ty and Rod over. None of us can even imagine life without you now. We all owe you so much – you’ve changed our lives completely.

Ty and Buster sporting their seatbelts

When it was time for our first family vacation, there was no question it would be a road trip. What a riot that was! You, a year-old German Shepherd puppy, confined to the back seat of our car for three and a half weeks. At that time there was no easy way to find dog parks, or know if you were driving right by a pet friendly beach. It was on that trip that our real adventure began.

Like a diamond being formed, the pressure of being trapped together in the car for 3,500 miles brought forth the idea for GoPetFriendly.com – a website that would make it easy for everyone to travel with their pets!

And that’s when life really started changing. A year later we launched the site. Six months after that we sold the house and bought our first motorhome. We left everything behind … and finally started living.

Over the past seven years I’ve learned so much from you. You’ve taught me that the most important thing we can do is love each other, and that we’ll learn the rest of what we need to know together. You’ve shown me that I’m stronger than I think, and that being afraid of something shouldn’t stop me from doing it. I’ve learned a lot about patience – for you and for myself – and that being gentle is always the right answer. And you’ve brought me to so much joy. Going through our photos, you’re smiling in almost every one.

We’ve seen so many places together, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. But what’s even more precious is that you’ve helped transform me into a better person. Without pressure or demands, you’ve changed me from the inside out, just by being you.

So tomorrow, we’ll celebrate your “birthday.” Not the day you were born, but the day you came into our lives and started working your magic. You won’t understand the fuss or why we’ll have special treats – but we will. We’re remembering all the fun we’ve had, all the wonderful experiences we’ve shared, and looking forward to the many places we’ve yet to go together. And we’re showing our gratitude that one day, seven years ago, the stars aligned and you became ours.

A Dog Changes Everything

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