A Letter to Myself: ‘When My Old Dog Dies’

In January 2016 I thought I was going to lose my senior dog Ace. So sure, that I said to our vet, “I’m ready to give up.”

We had paid a deposit on a puppy who wasn’t even born yet; I hoped he’d still get the chance to grow up with Ace.

Lying on the floor with my dog, I decided to write a letter to my future self. As a way to cope with the upcoming loss. I knew that doing so, with Ace at my side, would help my future self get through that pain.

So I wrote myself a letter, then tucked it away.

And I was right. The letter did help me, tremendously. But I was wrong on time.

We got over two more years.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I got two extra years with my best buddy. More trips to the park than I can count. Kisses every day. Road trips. Adventures to the very end.

My dog lived a good, long life, and for that I am so, so lucky.

So while this letter wasn’t intended for anyone but me, I decided to publish it here, unedited. It’s not that my letter will necessarily help other dog owners, but I hope it encourages others to write their own letters. And of course, to enjoy every moment. We all know life is a gift, yet we so easily forget.

My Lab mix Ace
Ace 2012 – Maplewood State Park MN

A letter to myself, “When My Old Dog Dies.” Jan. 26, 2016

Dear Lindsay,

I know you are literally collapsed on the ground. Lost in that sadness only a dog lover understands.

I am so sorry for your loss.

Remember that no one could’ve given Ace a more fulfilled or loving life. He was a treasure, but so are you.

You did your best, and your best was more than good enough. Ace thrived. He knew he was loved every single day of his loving life.

July 2013 Wisconsin

Remember to allow yourself to feel sad. It’s OK. I hope you remember to allow yourself to wallow in that deep sadness. At least for today. Make sure you take a day off from work and everything.

Remember that Josh might do or say the wrong things. That’s OK. How could anyone know what to do? Remember he is grieving too, in his own way. Remember all the things he did to support you and Ace over the years.

Other people will also say the wrong things. They mean well, and they care.

Allow those cats to curl up with you and offer comfort. They don’t understand but they do provide comfort. Let them.

You probably have your new dog now, which means Ace got to help shape this next dog, which is what you wanted.

Ace & Remy 2017

Don’t compare the new guy to Ace. He already has a very difficult job ahead of being your new companion. Let him be himself. He might be confused, looking for Ace. Or he might act as if Ace never existed. Either way, don’t hold it against him.

Imagine all the adventures the two of you will have in the coming decade, much of it because of Ace and now he helped you on your way in life.

Easter 2008 Theodore Roosevelt National Park ND

Imagine all the dogs you can foster because Ace has helped to teach this new pup calmness, acceptance.

There is also that chance you don’t have your puppy yet, that their lives didn’t overlap with you together after all. That’s OK too. You can’t plan everything in life.

You will always honor Ace, such a great dog.

July 2013 Fargo ND

Remember all those hikes, camping adventures, walks and just lounging by the TV. Remember how he’s impacted thousands of lives because, in part, of you.

Hold Ace in your heart forever.

Never forget those soft ears or how he loved with his entire soul and never once thought badly of anyone.

Always tell stories.

January 2016

Essays about Ace:

Thank you, Ace (November 2015)

My dog is the best dog (February 2011)

Our wedding post, “Ace’s big day” (June 2012)

My dog Ace in Yosemite
Dec 2017 Yosemite National Park



20 thoughts on “A Letter to Myself: ‘When My Old Dog Dies’”

  1. Oh Lindsay, what a wonderful idea of writing a letter to your future self. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing it with all of us. Remy was definitely lucky to have had such a wise companion by his side for 2 years.

    “Never forget those soft ears” really resonated with me. Missy’s ears were also super soft. Rest in peace, sweet Ace.

  2. After I dried my eyes I thought about how helpful an idea this is. I am finding that with all our senior dogs I tend to start ruminating on the how and when, distracting me from the here and now. I recognize it when it’s happening and redirect my thinking, but I do think maybe writing a letter to myself about each dog might help decrease the frequency of that.

    It also gives an opportunity to put down on paper those very special things about each dog that you never want to forget about like Ace’s soft ears.

    Thank you –

  3. I’m reading and rereading this through tears. What a beautiful letter, both as a reminder to yourself to be kind to yourself and your family during a time of heartbreak I can only imagine, and also as its own tribute to Ace. Because only a much loved best friend could inspire such a letter.

  4. This is the best letter I’ve read in a really long time.

    A perfect tribute to Ace and a fantastic idea for other dog owners! I would have never thought of this and I don’t think a lot of people have but what an awesome way to help with the process of grieving.

    Not only that but now I understand why you brought Remy into the family because that’s another great idea with your senior dog teaching in some way but letting them be themselves in another.

    All the photos did bring a tear to my eye that’s for sure. You both had so many adventures! What a lucky dog he was to have you and vice-versa 🙂

    Thanks for this story!

  5. Well, this made me cry. In a good way though. What a wonderful idea to write a letter like this. Ace did indeed love with his whole soul and most likely never once thought badly about anyone. A kind soul he was indeed. Thank you for sharing the letter with us. I need to write one of these as well since Sophie is 12. I don’t like to think about that day, but perhaps I need to start. I’m so glad you got those extra two years, though of course, they weren’t enough. There’s never enough time with dear pets. As you know so well.

  6. As my Sam Pete at age nine is beginning to slow down a little this has helped me know not to take one day with him for granted. So sorry about your loss. Your letter was a great idea. Hang in there

  7. I’ve been saving this post until I was at a good time and place. This is a lovely tribute for Ace and a very helpful way to go through your grief. It is full of thoughtfulness, good reminders and love. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Sandy Weinstein

    i wish i had thought of doing this when Evie first got cancer. beautiful letter, i dont know how you got thru writing it. i would be sobbing so much, i would not be able to write.

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