you are responsible for your rose



If you are reading this, it is because I am gone. To be frank, I haven’t been feeling well lately, and when my owners showed me the age chart on the wall – and pointed out that I was off the chart and two inches up on the stucco – I have been feeling as though it might have been time to allez-donc into the great warm lake in the sky.

I’m pleased to have a last word, as so many of us are hit by cars or felled by leukemia, and I am happy to have lived long enough to say a proper goodbye. If there were two rules I lived by, they were “assume nothing” and “make proper salutations.” Frequently the two mixed together.

I am almost sixteen as I lay down for my last, and have seen my fair share of the world. I was often mocked, however, for my single-mindedness, my mode dogmatique, if you pardon the woeful pun. I had but one love of my life, leading lesser-minded souls to whisper about my supposed sexual confusion, or even asexuality. I am a reserved dog by personality, but I am now free to say this: I loved only her, and my duty to her was greater than love. Why? Because I was chosen.

My mother lived on a farm in Brenham, Texas, where she killed everything in sight. We were not close. I don’t know that she even had the mothering instinct. She gave birth to many of us brothers and sisters by the side of the creek, knowing (I believe) full well that many of us would drown in the first rain. Indeed, three of my brothers did just that.

The four of us who survived did so by scavenging, until a kind little boy found us, and brought us up to the farmhouse. We were to be rescued by whomever would have us, but nobody came. Days went by, until a blonde person, about 21, came to look. My sisters and brothers, all white and playful, licked her and yapped about in their usual style. I didn’t even bother: I knew there was no chance she would take me. I sat in the corner and tried to think of other things. Perhaps I would be cast out into the farm again, and pass away amongst the thrushes.

And she chose me. I hadn’t said a word. Despite all my vivacious siblings, she chose me and I went away with her; she took me to many different parts of the country and never left me. She called me “Chopin” – pretty much the only word of English I know, along with “no,” “sit,” “heel,” and “get out of the kitchen” – and that was that.

What are the responsibilities of the chosen? We serve our chooser. Antoine de St. Exupery said “we are responsible for what we have tamed,” but I would add the inverse, namely, we are tamed by our responsibility.


It grows late, and I would like to say my goodbyes now. First, to all of my owner’s friends who played with me, took me for jaunts, and succored my idiosyncrasies; I nod to you. I would also like to say a little hello and goodbye to the baby they call “Lucy” – I hope she has an affinity for black dogs later in life, without knowing why. Small inklings are big victories.

To my adopted red-headed owner, who came to dominion over me later: we may have not always seen eye-to-eye, but the years have given me a grudging respect I know you share. By my calculation, we have driven almost forty-thousand miles together, across the country six times in as many years. I thank you for allowing me to relax a little, as being an “alpha male” was always more fa├žade than reality. I will miss having my “tummy” scratched.

And lastly, to my owner: I am happy I was able to see you from college into your major life change at 24; I was honored to bear your ring at the wedding, and am relieved to see you through the birth of the young one. I am tired. I would have followed you to another mountaintop if only my flesh were willing.

One emotion is truly undying: my affection and loyalty, for I know full well you could have done anything else. You could have taken any of them home with you, and yet you chose me.


0 thoughts on “you are responsible for your rose

  1. JJE

    Ian and Tessa, my heart goes out to you tonight.
    Ian, thank you for sharing such a touching and powerful piece of writing with us. I was immediately overcome with bittersweet tears for your Chopin and my Cobi. I fervently wish that heaven is a wide open field, with lots of shade trees, interesting smells and bottomless bowls of treats.
    That chapter of “Le Petit Prince” is one of my favorites. I can’t think of a more apt way to remember and give thanks for all of our beloved pets who have, in their own small way, taught us to see the essential with our hearts.
    “…because of the color of the wheat fields…”

  2. Andrew

    Condolences to you and your family. Thank you for allowing all of us to share in your life each day. Know this, Chopes will never leave your memory.

  3. Salem

    A beautiful tribute. You know, Chopes and Bear shared different stages of our lives, which means there is some serious story swapping going on in Doggie heaven today. Between the two of them, we have no secrets. I am picturing Chopes rolling in laughter as Bear tells him about the day he pee’d into the back of your heater fan.
    I wish I was there for a hug and an Irish wake. I love you friend.

  4. Lindsay

    Good dog, Chopes!
    Enjoy the eternal bliss of itchy-face and of the digging of carpets and the herding of anything and anyone in the Happy Hunting Ground.
    Lie Down.
    Lie Down.
    No? OK. Then get out of the kitchen, my friend. Get out of the kitchen, indeed.

  5. Kevin from Philadelphia

    I am actually a little teary right now. I can only hope that someone, somewhere will have as kind and thoughtful a tribute for me when my time comes.

  6. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    God bless you, little Chopes. I am so sorry, Ian and Tessa.
    The last time I spoke (in a meaningful way) with my mother-in-law was on Tuesday in the hospital. She was completely paralyzed and could not communicate, but I know that her mind was intact — as much as a stroke victim’s mind could be. I spent two hours telling her funny stories about Helen, and she laughed. I talked with her about Tim, and she cried. Before I left, I told her three things: 1) I thanked her for being so good to me, 2) I told her that I loved her, and 3) I told her that I loved her son very much and that I would take good care of him. We both cried, I hugged her little paralyzed body, and I left. The next day, she fell into a total vegetative state.
    Being able to say goodbye to her and “saying my peace” meant everything to me. I know that you have had the same experience with Chopes. And, this tribute is absolutely beautiful.
    And, Bear peeing in the back of your heating fan indeed! That is a dog after my own heart!

  7. badbob

    I feel for ya man. As a dog-man I’ve had to go through this several times in my life with my beloved Setters.
    One of the best, and certainly most unique, tributes I’ve ever read. very nice sunset pic, too. That’s a happy dog.

  8. CL

    Wow, Chopin, you made me cry today…such a beautiful ode. Although it is very sad, it is also a very happy thing that you and Tessa were together through so many life changes, and you were even there to see new life come into the world! It seems like you really chose each other.
    I hope you are playing and running in doggie heaven.
    The day after my dog Meg died, I had a dream that she was running quickly over grass and then jumping over high fences. I told my mother, and she said, “Maybe she is.”
    LFMD, condolences. It’s good to you had time to say proper goodbye.
    Merry Xmas and happy Hannukah to all of you, and thanks Ian, as usual, for letting me read your daily thoughts.

  9. Martha

    Oh my, what a beautiful tribute to a truly dear companion. I’m bawling like a baby, because I remember the connection I had to my dearly departed golden, Libby. Chopin was a lucky guy indeed to have been chosen to enter your world. Condolences to you & Tessa. Peace be with you.

  10. Bud

    Bless you Ian & Tessa. Chopin was a fine dog, and he deserved this fine tribute. That was just right.
    In spite of your loss, I wish you all a Merry Christmas. Much love.

  11. Just Owen

    Come on over ‘Chopes there’s some really great things to do around here. If you want, I’ll show you where the best smells are. You’re gonna love it here.
    The guy I owned has a book for your Lucy and your people that should show up some time next week from Amazon that will let them know what we’re up to.
    (Tears in my eyes, guys, I know what you’re going through. So hard to say goodbye to the most selfless friend you’ll ever have. – Just Andrew)

  12. kevin from NC

    You gave Chopes a wonderful life. The loyalty of a pet is the essence of life. Happy Holidays to you and the gifts of that life.

  13. hilary

    My thoughts are with you. sorry for the cliche statement, but they really are. I know how hard this is. Our beloved cat dufus passed away the day before our wedding, and it just devastated us. I know that losing Chopin right before Lucy’s first Christmas is equally as hard, but rest assured he’s more comfortable now (who wants to drag out one’s last days in depends?) and you guys gave him such a full, rewarding life. A beautiful post.
    and now i must ask: Tessa, did you write this?
    much much love, through tears, hilary

  14. craighill

    chopin – you write beautifully, and your st. x reference is up there with anything this board has seen. you’ll be missed….

  15. Lara

    As Will Rogers said “If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.” I could not agree more and I am so sorry for your loss.

  16. Beth

    Something about this beautiful entry and the heartfelt comments reminds me of singing, in a great chorus, sending Chopin on his way. I hope this special time of year, with your loved ones, brings you some measure of comfort.
    Merry Christmas, all. I’m grateful for this corner.

  17. killian

    Yes, Chopes, you are indeed a beautiful writer, and I am certain little Lucy will be drawn to black pups because of her introduction to you. Love and best wishes to your remaining “family.” They are missing you with a mighty love.

  18. Annie

    Oh god–I’m crying like everyone else, while my healthy pups run underfoot, ecstatic to go on their walk.
    God bless you, Chopin! And extra love to you and Tessa, Ian, today especially.

  19. Maggie

    Rest in Peace sweet Chopes! I have never met you, but I loved reading the stories about you. You look very much like my dog Sasha. I have tears in my eyes as I read your goodbye letter. I know you had a fantastic life, because you have a fantastic family. You will always be remembered.

  20. Emily B

    Oh Tessa and Ian, I am so, so sorry. (Such inadequate, but heartfelt, words.)
    I’m crying along with everyone else – what a beautiful eulogy, Ian.
    Godspeed, beloved Chopin.

  21. Anne

    OMG, tears are rolling down my cheeks. I have loved a few dogs more than most people in my life, and I know what a loss this is for you all.
    Read James Dickie’s poem “The Heaven of Animals” — lyrical yet absolutely unsentimental.
    My most sincere condolences, Ian and Tessa.

  22. oliver

    Oh woe oh woe. I’m so sorry for you guys. But besides condolences please accept congratulations for a life and a relationship well lived. It sounds like dog and owners did very well by each other alike.

  23. xuxE

    sadness! sorry to hear this. nothing stops bad shit from happening, not even santa. just last night i had to heimlich my 3 year old who choked on a peppermint. tomorrow i’m leaving to see my g’ma before she passes. you lose your best animal friend just before the holiday. all you can do is cherish your family time every day and stay strong! :)

  24. Seth

    Oh no! Oh no!! I’m so devastated by this. Oh man, how terrible. I’m so sorry for you guys, and for poor Chopes.
    Ach, I’m supposed to say something funny now, I guess, but I’m not in the mood.

  25. eric g

    i can’t add anything because my keyboard is slick with tears. tessa and ian, you have my deepest sympathy for your loss and my strongest admiration for the dignified way that you handled chopin’s last days. may peace be with you and with chopin.

  26. salem's little sister

    We just got back from Christmas in Texas and I’m only now reading Chopin’s beautiful letter. My heart breaks for you all. My tears are for each of you, for Tessa, who had the insight to choose him, for Ian who came to love him, for Lucy who will know him through stories and for my beloved animals, both here and There.
    Love to you all,
    Katie, James, Ben, Sadie(the mutt) and Parker(the beagle)

  27. Tanya

    I’m so sorry, Ian and Tessa! I know how hard it is to say goodbye to such a beloved family member. My heart goes out to you all.

  28. Tim

    You’re going to keep getting comments trickling in, I think, given the timing of these things. I lost my cat a few years back when she was 21… I can never decide if I should be happy or sad to have been away from home at the end. Years ago now, but every time I think about her, I’m torn between laughing and crying. I think that will always be there, but I think that’s just a sign of how important she was. I imagine the same is true for you, and all the rest of us sobbing over keyboards at work. I like to think that the hurt lets you know that you did it right.


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