For My Old Dog Ace, A Good Boy

He’s 89 in dog years.

No wonder he’s tired all the time, retired from what used to define us – running, hiking, camping.

We were the same age once – both in our prime.

But I’m one of the lucky ones.

Most of Ace’s friends have died, but I get to hold my dog every day. I get to push my face to his fur, kiss those ears and tell him for the one millionth time, You really are a good boy, Ace.

He’s what some would call my “soul dog.” My “heart dog.” But I hope to have many “once in a lifetime” dogs.

I suppose they can all be just a special. As long as I open my heart.

Of course, I’ll never find words to describe what Ace means to me.

But I can tell stories.

We took Ace backpacking in North Dakota’s Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Before the state’s oil boom, when the park was still quiet and undisturbed. Ace would’ve been 2.

We saw no one else those couple of days. It was Easter 2008. We hiked a few hours, Ace ran amok off leash, carrying his RuffWear pack.

When we chose our camp, Josh worked on the tent while I gathered debris for a fire.

Ace planted himself exactly between us, 30 yards or so from us both. He chose to watch over us, to be our guard.

Ace in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

If a threat were to appear, whether it be man or lion, Ace was going to be there.

And that’s the thing with Ace. He’s not a fighter, but he watches over his family. With his deep bark and hackles raised, whatever it is will have to get past him first.

We camped many times. In Minnesota’s Itasca State Park and Maplewood State Park. And later, in California.

Ace in Itasca State Park

This week we’re taking both dogs to Yosemite. We won’t be camping but Ace will enjoy the scents and strolls and drives. He’ll put his nose to the snow, tracking something wonderful.

He’ll lounge on his bed in the cabin. Full of wisdom. A calmness in the room for our new pup, Remy.

And we’ll all be thankful for one more trip with our good, old boy.

Ace in Yosemite Nov 2017

On facebook, I tried to summarize how I feel about my old dog, but of course I couldn’t. I did my best:

For nearly their whole lives, we try to hold them back, try to stop their pulling. Then in their final years, we just wish they’d pull, pull again.

Love your dogs for who they are today.

You’re a good boy, Ace.

In the comments, I hope you’ll share a note about your special dog. And if you’ve met Ace in person or maybe just online through this blog, I’d like it if you shared a memory of my best buddy.

Ace is doing well, by the way. He sleeps a lot these days, as he should. I like to think he’s enjoying his retirement.


15 thoughts on “For My Old Dog Ace, A Good Boy”

  1. What an awesome tribute to Ace and everything he’s meant and continues to mean to you. I don’t know him, but I feel like he’s such a steadfast friend to you.

  2. I can’t remember when I stumbled across and first met Ace and It was early on in both of our blogging careers probably sometime in 2008. I can say was and is one of my favorite blogs of all time.

    I had Archer with me when we first met you and Ace in person in San Clemente. Ace was a good boy and lay quietly under the table while we talked blogging.

    Linus recently turned 13 and after your camping story I thought back to when we took Linus to the Sequoias when he was about 1 year old. We allowed him to roam our campsite off leash and he stayed nearby most of the time with an occasional visit to the river. That night while we were sleeping in our tent we heard a rumble. In our groggy state we thought it might be a bear, but then we noticed it was coming from inside the tent and it was Linus making that now familiar gagging sound that precedes vomit. He threw up what looked like a half eaten sandwich all over our sleeping bags. Apparently during one of Linus’ trip down to the river he ate something that didn’t sit well in his stomach.

    Stetson’s birthday is right around the corner and he’ll turn 11 in a few weeks. Stetson and I went on lots of adventures during his time as a guide dog puppy in training, but one story that makes me smile was when we were doing K9 Nosework. Everyone loved watching Stetson do nosework because he had such an enthusiasm for the game. Mild mannered away from nosework he clearly transformed into Superman when it was time to sniff as he would fly around the training facility. On one particular occasion he was moving so fast and caught the odor so suddenly he stopped on his front two legs, but the back half of his body was still moving forward. Stetson did a hand stand with his back legs coming a couple feet off the ground with his front legs firmly planted. He looked like quite the acrobat and that’s no small feat for such a clumsy dog.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Aww, those are good stories about your two seniors. Haha, that camping story, sounds like something Ace would do!

  3. After we lost our first “heart dog”, we never thought we would find another. Now we are nearing eleven years with two good old mutts who filled those heart spaces again. Filled those spaces with big sloppy dog smiles, muddy feet, loyalty, love and fuzzy silliness. I have been reading about Ace for years, and he feels like one of our family. Thank you for sharing him with all of us.

  4. I was only thinking about Ace recently as Remi seems to be the star of the blog these days. But you can just see how much Ace means to you and just reading this brought a tear to my eye. I know how special he is to you and will always hold a big place in your heart….and ours!

    Give Ace a big hug from your readers too and we miss his appearances on here!

  5. How true is your comment that we try to stop them pulling all their life and when they slow down, we long for them to pull again. It is hard watching your best friends have the mind to want to go fast but the body does not cooperate. Their time on earth is way too short (even when they have lived long lives). But I figure if our dogs lived long lives like us -there would be so many that would be killed because of overpopulation so this way lots and lots of dogs get special places in our hearts and our minds forever. My obit is going to have a long list of dogs that I shared my life with and passed on before me (sometimes they hold better spots than the relatives-haha).

  6. Ace always was a special dog in class–so dignified and yet willing to do whatever he was asked. I liked your comment about Ace being your “heart” dog but you hoped to have many more. I have felt a special connection to most of the dogs that have been part of my life. To designate just one as my heart dog would be a disservice to all those special dogs. Live long and prosper Ace.


  7. I love this post. While I’ve never met Ace, he’s been there since we first got Baxter (and you and ThatMutt too). So he’s been a big part of us learning how to take care of our own heart dog. I’m amazed by the photos of how dark his face is then. What a good, good boy.

  8. you’re killing me with this one! quinn is almost 6, and already has grey in her face…but still pulls, and likely will for some time. I can only hope…gah #allthefeels #tearingup

  9. We lost our “heart dog” a few months ago. Her name was Pepper and she was with is for 15 years…making her about 18 years old. When we rescued her they guessed she was about 3. She was a feisty, spunky and fearless little 8 pound rat terrier/Chihuahua mix. We loved her to pieces and spoiled her rotten. She lived a great life and our lives were better with her in it. Life will never be the same without our little Pepper but she will never be forgotten. Always in our thoughts, forever in our hearts.

  10. you are very lucky to have him. I was at the vet friday and someone came in with a small dog, I cant remember the breed at this moment, but he was 18 yrs old and still going sooo strong. no health issues, acted like a 3 yr old. I could not believe it. it made me so sad since i lost my baby in aug. she was a month shy of 16 yrs old. I had done everything right for her during her lifetime, the best foods, health check ups, etc. and still she developed lots of health issues. I have come to the decision, that it is not always what you do to keep you child living a long healthy life, some just live no matter what.

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