My mom told me that when I had my first child, I would realize my dog, Bertie, was just a dog.

She was right. My husband and I stopped taking Bertie to see Santa. We stopped fawning over her every accomplishment, and turned our attention to our newborn son. Of course we did.

But when Bertie died on Sunday, we lost something precious. And if we’re supposed to go through life trying to learn what lessons others and our experiences have to teach us, here’s what I learned from Bertie:

1. I have to grow up. Bertie was the first time I was responsible for someone else. I had to plan for her and around her—trips to Pet Smart, vaccinations, walks, feedings, puppy-proofing, finding a sitter for vacations—versions of all the things you have to do with children.

2. Trust their instincts. My husband and I worried over Bertie as a puppy because she often wouldn’t eat. Our vet told us, “Don’t force it. She runs on instinct. She won’t starve herself.” I love this lesson because it carries over well to children. Picky eaters will not starve.

3. The more I cater to craziness, the more “crazy” I will have. When I responded to every whine—usually with a terse, “Hush, Bertie, I’ll let you outside in a second”–I got more whining. When we realized Bertie didn’t like walking on wet grass, we walked her down the street to the apparently drier boulevard in front of a neighbor’s house. This did nothing for our stress levels.

4. You have to cater to some craziness. In other words, you have to allow others to have idiosyncrasies. Forcing Bertie to walk on wet grass didn’t do anyone any good, either.

5. You get what you get. When my husband and I decided to get a dog, we pictured a long-term relationship with a family dog who would roll around on the floor with our future children, fetch sticks, and live to please us. This did not happen. Bertie had a mind of her own and she lived for herself. But she greeted us with love every time we came home, followed me around as I performed chores, checked each room in the house before going to bed at night, alerted me every time she heard a noise outside (this could be frightening), and loved to cuddle (on her terms).

Bertie’s favorite things, probably in this order, were: lying in the sun, running at full speed with leash trailing, hotdogs, and eye scratches. Then us. But I wouldn’t have changed that. Anyone can have a Lab. We had Bertie.

Nothing could have fully prepared me for motherhood, but Bertie took me a good ways. So, thank you, Bertie.


22 responses to “Bertie”

  1. ocdtalk Avatar

    What a wonderfully written tribute to Bertie……my condolences on your loss.

  2. Karen Avatar


  3. Katie Null Avatar
    Katie Null

    Very nice, Jess. And now I’m crying all over again.

  4. Jennifer Avatar


  5. Larissa Avatar

    Well done. It’s always hard to lose your first dog as a couple. I never want to see that day 😦

  6. bas Avatar

    Very nice tribute….we will miss her too

  7. True STORIES. Avatar

    Thanks, all. I appreciate your comments very much. My husband and I couldn’t be with her when she died, so writing this offered me some relief.

  8. Eva Rieder Avatar

    This was a lovely piece in honor of Bertie.

    1. True STORIES. Avatar

      Thank you, Eva. Letting others know about Bertie through writing is a great help. I’m sure you’ve experienced this–writing as therapy.

      1. Eva Rieder Avatar

        Absolutely, and it’s a great therapy. All the best to you as you heal!

  9. ryan Avatar

    Very thoughtful! I am sorry to hear for your loss. I, too, grew up with a dog through my college days, and several years after. He was my pal and we did so much together. I learned a lot of the same lessons from him now that I stop to think about your story and connections.

    1. True STORIES. Avatar

      Thank you, Ryan. I’m glad you can relate. It’s another reason writing is so helpful–it gives you time and the occasion to think and appreciate.

    1. True STORIES. Avatar

      Thank you, Rebecca.

  10. […] post about the passing of her Bertie and how Bertie is so fondly remembered, you can check it out here.   And the friend-of-a-friend had a little puppy that fell ill and was just too weak to recover.  […]

  11. […] A Note of Thanks (132 + Homepage views) […]

  12. tammyidobelieve Avatar

    Very touching. Our furry friends give us so much and ask very little in return. Sorry to hear of your loss. I lost my cat last year and was lucky enough to have understanding people around me that allowed me to grieve her loss. Thanks for sharing.

    1. True STORIES. Avatar

      That’s important isn’t it–to have understanding people around you. I did, too, thankfully. While the loss of my dog was not as significant as the loss of a (human) family member would be, the grief was still very real.
      Thanks for reading.

  13. Melanie Conklin Avatar

    I imagine you are still seeing flashes of Bertie out of the corner of your eye. We lost our Cassie two weeks ago, and I’m still not used to the idea. She may have slid down the hierarchy, but she was our daughter. Our first baby. I miss her every day. I wish the best to your family.

    1. True STORIES. Avatar

      I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I think losing something you cared for, and took care of, is difficult no matter where on the hierarchy or what species. Yes, I do still see flashes of her and I still think to let her out every night before bed.

  14. Wiley Schmidt Avatar

    Bertie sounds like a great dog. I’m sure he is missed. Hugs to you and your family in your loss. 😦

    1. Jessica Vealitzek Avatar

      Thank you, Wiley. I like hearing from dog lovers like you. We just passed the year mark and I still miss her very much.

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