Duncan died last night. I was there, as I promised him I would be, to feel his last heartbeat, to breathe his last breath. Though there are so many tragedies in the world today and every day, and I feel them all, it does not lessen the grief I feel at his passing. Anyone who has ever loved a pet knows. And I write this for Kirk who may not have been his owner on paper, but he was in every other way.

When the Dumb Friends League called me with my first foster dog assignment (a min pin with a broken pelvis, a broken femur, and kennel cough), I was disappointed that I hadn’t be assigned a big dog, a “real” dog.

My reservations disappeared in the office of the League when he gleefully raced after a ball ½ his size, grabbed it, and bounded back into my lap to celebrate. That was the end, or the beginning.

He recovered with me for months, and when it came time for him to return, I had already fallen in love. He stayed with me for 13 ½ years and patiently tended the old, young, and broken foster dogs that came through our home. Duncan also shepherded me through many transitions, periods of happiness, and through dark times.

During those years, we camped, hiked, and traveled. He would race along with his three working legs for miles and miles as I mountain biked, earning him the name Tripod. Duncan traveled all over the West and accompanied me to Brazil. He loved cats and was inordinately happy when he found one that would chase him and wrestle with him. He and Zula entertained me for hours with their antics, Zula never pulling a punch, Duncan always being the gentleman.

He took the initiative to break the interspecies communication barrier with body language, barks, chirps, and sometimes, when the humans were ignoring him, he resorted to banging on his metal bowl. He loved steak, but a vanilla ice cream cone made him lose his mind. He loved the summer, basking in the sun, burrowing under the covers, snuggling, and baking himself in front of the fireplace until he was too hot to touch.

Duncan was kind yet feisty, and he loved everyone I loved. When my niece was an infant, he jumped into her three-foot-high bassinet and stayed her whimpering with his calm presence. He slept in my bed every night, except when my niece was there. On those nights, he would matter-of-factly climb into her bed and stay until she was sound asleep, and then he would return to me. Last week was the first week he didn’t do that.

He let me know when it was his time and slowly faded away over the past five days. On the last day, I could see that he began to hurt, and it was my turn to shepherd him through a transition. He passed away gently, in his home, surrounded by people he loved.

I could not have been luckier than to have found him. Even in my sadness, I am so thankful for the years we had together; Duncan brought tremendous joy to my life and to the lives of many others. Godspeed, Duncan.