In Memoriam: Kirby the Wonder Dog

I remember being in a bookstore when my wife called me over. She had found a book about dog breeds. Handy charts rated dog breeds on a number of scales. We looked up “American Fox Hound”. My dog Kirby was a stray, probably a mutt, found in a Texas cemetery, near death. A vet told me he looked most like an American Fox Hound. More or less.

The book listed the qualities one might find in a dog. Kirby started off scoring high. Traits like loyalty, friendliness, being good with kids, and being protective all were strong traits. And then there were the categories Kirby scored low in. Ability to learn tricks. Ease of house training. Intelligence. Anything that required more of a brain than chasing after a squirrel.

Kirby, American Fox Hound-ish.

Yep, that sealed it for me. He was a fox hound. Gentle and sweet as can be. And dumb as a rock.

Kirby was my buddy for a decade. He’d been by my side and underfoot through every major change.  A wife. Another dog. A little girl, followed by a little boy. Four houses in two states. My family and life grew and changed, and Kirby was my constant. My sweet, stupid, faithful constant.

Kirby was put down this morning. X-rays yesterday explained his fatigue and pain. Cancer had grown and spread. We could take him home with us until his pain became intolerable, but that just seemed cruel and selfish. His pain was already evident, his future already known to us. We decided now was best. He was very uncomfortable. Why wait until his pain was agonizing? The vet and vet staff agreed. We brought him home last night to have a final evening together. This morning, after a family photo, I took him to the vet.

A final family portrait

As the doctor administered the drugs, I petted Kirby’s side, and pulled back his floppy ear that had covered up his eye. My emotions were barely contained. Leaning in, I quietly repeated, “You’re a good boy, Kirby. Your a good, good boy.” Those were the last words he heard. I wanted him to know that, in spite of the time I threw a roll of paper towels at him (I was cleaning up his pee, and while doing that, he looked at me and peed again),  in spite of the time he ate the baby bird that fell from the nest on the back porch, in spite of the countless times he tracked in mud, in spite of the howling when the answering machine came on, in spite of chewed up carpet in two houses, in spite of peeing on my wife’s possessions when we first got married, in spite of the worst wet-dog smell I’ve ever smelled, in spite of being a dog that you couldn’t take on a walk because he wanted to sniff every little thing along the way, in spite of the numerous nights he’d disappear in the woods chasing a herd of deer only to get hopelessly lost until a neighbor would find him and call, in spite of my “free” dog costing me thousands in medical bills over the years, in spite of being absolutely no good at fetching, in spite of shedding all over everything . . . I wanted him to know that he was a good boy. He was gentle and faithful and loyal. He had run a good race.

Good boy, Kirby. Good boy.


(My wife has also written a lovely tribute to Kirby. Click here to read her blog post.)







  1. I’m crying now. What an amazing tribute. Well said. Kirby was a lucky dog.

  2. Rob,
    This is a beautifully written tribute. Kirby was not smart – we all knew that – but he was loyal, very sweet natured, and had a calm demeanor that withstood lots of poking and prodding from the kids. I loved him in a special way and sometimes had to shoo Meg off so I could give him some special attention, which he rarely asked for but always appreciated. I dread coming to your house and not having him there, loafing around and hoping to have his ears scratched. He was my pal and I miss him.

  3. Well said, Rob. Well said. He was a sweet bugger of a dog and will be missed by all. Love you guys!!!

  4. Amazing tribute, Rob. I can’t even imagine that last day, but your description was so powerful. Those last words – I think that’s how our Father loves us even though we have done things much worse than your Kirby stories.

    God bless you in learning to live without him.