Arthur and me

Arthur and me

Thursday, August 13, 2009

RIP Arthur

"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
— Will Roger
I'm hoping to forestall some number of "Where's Arthur?" questions. The best answer I have is "I don't know." But that's the only question I'm really having trouble with. If you have any other questions about his life and death, please feel free to ask. I might cry, but please don't worry, I like to cry and I need to cry. He had 12 and a half years of love from a lot of people, and that's a pretty good run.

I raised Arthur for Guide Dogs of America, to be a dog guide for the blind and visually impaired. In that role, he got to go with me lots of places. He was the second of five dogs I raised, and the first to go into service.

He got to go to the opera. In fact, he got to sing there. One day, in the middle of Flying Dutchman, he got his paw caught a little behind the seat in front of us and let out a little yelp.

Let's let Leah Garchek of the SF Chronicle tell the story ..
As soprano Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet's voice soared along with James Morris' during Tuesday night's San Francisco Opera performance of ``The Flying Dutchman,'' the duet turned to a trio. A series of delicate howls were voiced by a guide dog (probably a tenor) in training in the back of the orchestra. ``It was a very odd sound,'' said opera-lover Elle Stern, ``but it was a beautiful dog.''
My job as a puppy raiser was to socialize him, and expose him to lots of different situations. I think I did that pretty well.
He went to plays in Ashland, he went to drumming recitals. He was very cultured, even though he slept through a lot of it. He was on stage for one production I was in with Lyric Theater, Babes in Toyland, and backstage for many others through the years.

He went back to Doggy Grad School at about 18 months old, and had intensive training in the actual work of being a guide. On January 31st, 1999, he graduated with his partner, Kim, an experienced guide user living in the Vancouver, WA, area.

Kim and I kept in touch, and I saw him a few times over the years that followed. I particularly recall when Kim came down to the Bay Area with her Dragonboat team, and I went to watch her race. I was visiting Kim about three years later and she said, "I'm glad you dropped by, since I didn't know how to do this over the phone. Arthur is retiring, do you want him back?" By the end of lunch, I had decided that the answer was "hell yes", and he came back to me a little while later.

Kim is a firecracker, and Arthur was a bit too laid-back for her lifestyle. I have to wonder, given how laid-back Arthur was, just whom he might have been a better match for. He knew how to take it easy, and maybe just didn't really want to be a dog guide.

He's been with me ever since, and made a lot of friends, and done a lot more things. He's always loved to swim, and we tried to get a swim in at least once a month. I have a lot of stories to share, but I'll stick to just one.

Arthur is the only dog I know who got a joke I made. One of his commands was "kennel" to tell him to go to his crate to rest. One day at a garage sale, there was a tiny cat crate, with a door no more than six inches square. I pointed to it and said "kennel." He lowered his head and looked into it, and then looked up at me with a smile, which I'm sure was saying, "get out of here, you kidder!"

Last week, August 6th, 2009, we went to the vet because he didn't seem to be using his rear legs all that well. he wasn't getting on the couch, he wasn't rolling over for belly scratches, he wasn't doing back stretches as he usually would. At the end of the visit, I knew that he had extensive cancer, and it was all over his lungs. He wasn't in pain. We left the office and went up to Ocean Beach to go swimming. He ran after his favorite fetch dummy, and swam in the deep water to get it.

The last week has been good to him. He was allowed to eat anything he wanted, and he took advantage of that. I usually take Thursdays off from work, and often that's our swimming day. This week, I decided to go on Wednesday the 12th instead. He had a big bowl of kibble for breakfast, a side of peanut butter, three sausages, and a few pieces of bacon.

We went to Half Moon Bay, where the beach access is a bit easier. He trotted, but didn't run; he waded, but didn't swim. He had a great time, and it was hard for either of us to leave. At lunch, I ordered him a bacon cheeseburger, and he didn't want it. He wouldn't eat beef jerky, either, or kibble.

There were other signs, too .. He'd been drooling a lot more, his back legs were getting weaker and weaker, his breath was coming short and frequent. I think the cancer was pretty much taking over his lungs.

We spent a few hours with some of his close friends, and then went to the vet with my partner Katrina, and he died in my arms. He died with the scent of people who love him in his nose, and we know he loved us too.


  1. Wow. I'm so sorry for your loss. He was a beautiful dog with many people who loved him, including me. But you gave him the best life and it sounds like he must have had one of the best weeks.

  2. I'm so sorry to hear about Arthur. He was such fun to be around, and such a good dog. I especially recall rehearsals in the theater, where he would lie quietly just off the aisle for the hours required of a rehearsal and never complain or be restless. I always tried to stop by, say hi, and pet him as much as possible during the rehearsal.

    I'm glad you had as many good years together as you did. I will miss Arthur too.

  3. What a lovely tribute! I'm glad you got to have one last day at the beach together and that you were able to give him as nice an ending as possible.

    I'm so sorry for your loss... he was truly part of your family.

  4. I am so happy that I had a chance to spend time with you and Art just before the end...though I do feel weird that I raised concerns that you didn't seem quite ready to hear at the time.

    What a guy. Just looked at the doggie bed you gave us a few years back, and burst into tears.

    Much love,
    /jen and kona

  5. I am so sorry to hear this. I was fortunate to meet Art once or twice and I never forgot him. Whenever I mentally picture you, that picture in my mind's eye has Art in it, too. He was such a good dog.

    Thank you for being so good to him and for letting him go with so much love. My thoughts are with you both...

  6. Barry, this is a beautiful farewell. You gave Arthur a wonderful life and death. Would that we all could have such a death.

    Holding you in my heart and thoughts, with love,


  7. Arthur! Good dog! What a good boy! I remember giving him tummy rubs in Ashland during intermission of a show, and how the other patrons smiled. And other stuff. Oh the purity. Ach. My heart aches.

  8. Oh how sad. I'll never forget my first meeting of Arthur the Big-Headed Wonderdog on one of his NJ visits. Well-behaved, mellow, and sweet beyond compare. That big dog could cram himself invisibly into some pretty small spots. (Eg under the table at the pizza place!)

    You gave him a great life, and in return, he gave you a lot as well.

    Maya will get a lot of extra hugs today, and hopefully a swim as well.

    Take care,

  9. Barry, I feel so sad for you. We will miss Arthur, too, even from here in NJ. It's hard to picture you without him. We loved it when you and Arthur came to visit. Our kids (your nieces and nephew) want their next dog to be like Arthur. He was obedient, would fetch a ball off the dock at our lake house, could go everywhere with you, even to restaurants and movies and plays (how cool is that?!). With your help, Arthur was a dog that made a difference in this world. His life was important to you, to Kim, to so many friends, to us. Our hearts go out to you.

    Love and hugs, your sister, Kathleen, and family

  10. Ahh. What a wonderful dog and beautiful blog. I'm glad that Clara, the Bibb, Chi, and I all got to spend some time with Barry and Arthur in Oregon last month. Arthur mainly just lay around, but anything more and he would have alarmed the Bibb (our cat). He changed the Bibb's attitude toward dogs forever.

  11. Barry, You and Arthur were blessed to have each other. My sincere condolences. Julia

  12. I remember the Leah Garchik story!

    Sniff. Thank you for this, and I'm so sorry.

  13. I'm the first to admit I'm more of a cat person. If there's one individual that ever challenged that notion, it would be Arthur. My wife and I met Arthur and Barry for the first time at a Strong (Wo)man competition in Salina, Kansas. Arthur stuck to the shade made by the rear hatch of the vehicle with his collapsible dog bowl. We fawned over him and gave him some patting, but nothing perturbed his characteristic Arthur laze.

    I was pretty excited to get to see him when I came to California last time. Barry, Arthur, and I went to a coffee shop to grab a snack and talk for a while. Arthur's guide dog vest seemed to be a VIP pass for him to go everywhere a mere mortal dog would never be allowed. The waitress cast a furtive glance at Arthur when we came in, but the vest erased any objections she had. Arthur didn't care, though: he had some relaxing to do.

  14. Thank you for sharing Arthur with me. He was a fantastic dog.

    And thank you for the post. That last part ("He died with the scent of people who love him in his nose, and we know he loved us too.") is just beautiful.

  15. Barry, you know I've never been a dog person, but Arthur was a good dog, and you were good for each other. I'm glad I got a chance to see him again this summer. I'm sorry for your loss, but it sounds like you gave him a good send-off, and I'm happy for that.

  16. That's a lovely post, Barry. I've had to wait a few minutes to write a reply because my computer screen got blurry. You've had a rough couple of weeks. I hope all these loving posts from friends help.

    I remember Arthur as a puppy cavorting around the PlaceWare offices. Even then you could see his intelligence, empathy, and small streak of mischief that would make him such a perfect companion. Have fun wherever you are, Arthur.

  17. Good dog, Arthur!

    I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm glad I got to know him.

  18. I'm so sorry to hear about Arthur. You're in my thoughts. -D

  19. Arthur was a good dog. He was the most mellow dog I have ever met and got to go many places other dogs will never go. I'm glad I got a chance to see him again. I am sorry for your loss.

  20. Wow, I just heard that Arthur had cancer. Now he is gone? (gulp). Well, glad that Art made it through guide dog training and was placed into service, and was then able to 'retire' with Barry working at Google. I liked him the best of the 4 labs that Barry raised that I met. He was laid back. He saw more of the world than most people get to. And how many dogs get to work at Google? ;)

    I will share a funny Arthur story. I am sure there are many, like Art at the Opera. Or Art in Julie's pond. Anyway, Barry showed up silently in his quiet Subaru at the ranch one day. Arthur came streaming around the back of the house while Kona and I were on the patio. Kona looked at Art and did not say anything. I announced that Arthur had arrived and patted him a few times. Kona just ignored him, like he was part of the furniture. This was highly unusual, since Kona barks her head off at anything and everything. So Art sauntered in through the patio door to the Studio where Jen was, and Kona was still silent. I was perplexed. Kona just had nothing to say. Then Barry came around the corner and Kona saw him and went berzerk, and BARK BARK BARK! BARK BARK BARK! Then there was the usual greeting of animals and people frenzy. To this day I do not understand Art's stealth ability to get past Kona. I mean, Art is large dog, and Kona was keenly aware of his being there. Its a dog thing I guess. Or Art was highly skilled in Dog Ninjutsu?

    Anyway, RIP buddy. ...sleep in peace, wake in joy, good angles guard thee...


  21. I am so sorry to hear this. Thank you for such a moving tribute, and for doing such lovely things for him throughout his life and in his last days. What a good dog. And what a good companion you were to him.

  22. I'm so sorry to hear about Arthur. He was such a good dog and such a faithful companion for you (and you for him). Am glad we got to see him last month when you were in Seattle for a visit.


  23. Oh, Barry, I'm so sorry. I know how much Arthur meant to you. Ava and I have only known him in the twilight of his years, so it was delightful to read about his earlier adventures.

    Thanks to you, he had a great life, a very big life, something many of us want for our dogs, our kids, ourselves.


    Rest in peace, Arthur.

  24. Arthur was a regular at Quaker worship. So he was not only cultured in the arts but well versed in religion and an active part of our communuity of faith. We will miss him as we miss others who are no longer worshipping with us.

    I "hold in the light" all who loved Arthur.
    Diane Pasta, clerk of Palo Alto Meeting Quakers

  25. Dearest Barry,

    You mentioned Arthur's taste for music and plays, but you forgot to say how well-read he was! A regular member at the Kepler's Fiction Book Group, Arthur listened, snoozed, and frequently sniffed your toes through years of book group discussions.

    I've moderated the group for over 10 years and though we've had several canine attendees, none has been as consistent and gentle and -- dare I say -- as welcome a presence as Arthur. He was our best behaved member, too!

    It was always such a joy to have him with us. I think once you came without him and I practically wailed: "Where's Arthur?!" Going home after the groups, I would always tell my husband if Arthur had come that night or not.

    He was a marvelous, loving, sweet, sweet dog with a huge heart and a long, lucky life. No creature could ask for more than a loving companion like you.

    Thank you for sharing him with us. He will be sorely missed.

    Love and hugs and more love,

  26. Oh criminy - I just found out. I'm going to miss him dearly. My heart goes out to you.

  27. He was the very model of a modern service animal.

  28. >He died with the scent of people who love him in his nose, and we know he loved us too.

    Amen,Barry. This is such a lovely expression of your love for Arthur. We'll miss him at the Kepler's group, but hope we'll see you back there soon.

  29. I've been away from the Kepler's group for much too long and hope that one day I'll make it back. I am so sorry to hear that Arthur won't be there. He was a very special dog and always treated that way. Sending warm thoughts your way, Barry.

  30. I don't know how I missed this , Barry, but being at the tail end has given me the opportunity to read all these great Arthurstories. I would be pleased to have nearly as good a vaya con dios when its my turn.

    I too will miss Arthur very much. He was such a friendly, mellow guy. A little like me. Usually. I had never been forced to ride in the back of the bus before Arthur. But when I got a ride in the back of your beast on a [generous] ride to the airport, I was reminded who was in charge. The only thing missing was a little steering wheel for him. When I see you next, I'll give you a big hug for Arthur. Peace, Rich.

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