Letter to a Dog

Dear Freedom,

A friend of mine says good dogs and bad pheasants both spend eternity in the same place. If that’s the case, then I’m sure you’re giving those roosters hell.

Nearly a week has gone by since your unexpected passing, and I’ve spent much time reflecting on our seven years together. There’s so much I wish you knew. You know how much you were loved—of that I am certain—but are you aware of all the little things I appreciated about you? You were one heck of a bird dog. There’s no denying that. But some of your best attributes had nothing to do with sporting prowess.

You were such a happy dog. That’s perhaps what I’ll remember most. One quick glance sent your tail into a joyful tizzy. Your next move of course was pressing your ribs against my knees, curving your torso around my legs, and piercing my soul with that exaggerated smile of yours. I’ll miss your hugs, too. How you’d wrap your front paws around me and press your cheek to mine. What sort of dog does that? One who thinks he’s human, I suppose. Speaking of, I know I told you, but thank you for that last hug as we said our goodbyes. I intended to lend you comfort, but you sensed it was I who needed it.

What intelligence you had. No matter how poorly I communicated the message, you always understood. “Yes boss, that sounds great, whatever you say, happy happy happy.” I guess that’s why I often spoke to you in English, half expecting you to reciprocate. Some would say you were too smart. After all, many dogs obey simply because they don’t recognize the opportunity for malfeasance. You were not such an animal, but most of the time your desire to please overpowered the temptation.


No, you weren’t always perfect. Remember the field trial in Ohio when you raced down the field flushing birds out of gun range until I practically lost sight of you? Gosh I was embarrassed, but after a long, silent drive home we were buddies again. It’s hard to hold a grudge against a dog that looks at you with those soft, light brown eyes as if you’re the greatest man on earth.

But, truth be told, I’m far from the infallible person you assumed me to be. Since your passing, I’ve fallen behind on deadlines. I’ve ignored calls from concerned friends. And it seems I should avoid adult beverages until I have a better handle on my grief.


I’m going to hang in there for you though, Freedom. The cancer may have cut your life short, but we packed in a lot of wonderful memories. Those four roosters you flushed on the last day of the season. The way your hard-charging style and leaping flushes wowed the gallery at the 2008 national open. That impossibly far retrieve you made at the Virginia trial—someday you must explain to me how you pinpointed its fall over the hill.

I will mourn you for the rest of this life, but I look forward to the day when I can once again admire your flashy, powerful gait as we pursue running pheasants through Heaven’s finest switchgrass. It was an honor to be your friend, Freedom. And, as I’ve always said when we must temporarily part ways, “I’ll be back.”

Love Always,


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13 Responses to Letter to a Dog

Lance wrote:
October 30, 2012

Beautiful letter. I'm sure Freedom was right with you as you were writing it. I agree with lloyd - If heaven doesn't have dogs, it ain't heaven.

Boe Campbell wrote:
October 27, 2012

I feel you, Kyle! It is my sentiment exactly. I've raised Boykin Spaniels, over the years, and currently, have the son, I never fathered. He is 12 years old. A great gun dog, flusher and retriever, on land, and in water. I love him so much....

Ed wrote:
October 26, 2012

We lost Chase, our beloved black lab, two years ago. He died 2 weeks before his 15th birthday from bone cancer. I tried to immortalize him in my book Breakfast by Moonlight, but words cannot bring him back. Everytime I read a letter like this I realize that I am part of a vast fraternity. Then I break down once again. It is litle consolation, but I share your loss and your grief. My sincere sympathies om Freedom's passing.

Gail wrote:
October 26, 2012

We lost our 12 yr old English Setter to cancer in May, and I still miss her every day. Kyle expressed so eloquently many of the things I feel, as well. I share his sense of loss.

Monk wrote:
October 25, 2012

34 yrs ago I had to put down a dog who held my heart gently in his paws. I cried for 3 days. My wife has had a dog or 2. I have yet to get one and probably won't

c wrote:
October 25, 2012

I feel his pain. I lost a dog 2 Weeks ago and another 11 months ago. After 15 years of having at least one dog I now have none.

DonnaP wrote:
October 24, 2012

Dear Kyle - The last 3 years, since getting our ESS, I have followed Freedom and talked to many of his "fans". Freedom is the kind of dog that comes around so rarely - and a High Point Dog at such a young age. In fact we almost bought one of your pups - Crosswinds Justice (and we have seen his sister Crosswinds Liberty) - now I know how Justice comes by his antics! Kyle - I know how much you loved him (and he loved you). I hope that one of his pups has the same character and spirit to help fill the hole in your hearts. Freedom - you were loved by all of the ESSFTA community and beyond - we will miss hearing new stories and your hard-charging water retrieves - you were "sum kinda dog"

Robb Wells wrote:
October 23, 2012

Very well said.

DSMbirddog wrote:
October 22, 2012

We let dogs break our hearts but we love them so much we go out and get another. I will never forget any of my hunters.

Mark iv wrote:
October 20, 2012

If you don't both envy the two of them, then cry at the loss, you are a man who does not deserve a dog. Adieu, Freedom.

Luanne Goldman wrote:
October 20, 2012

This is so well written. Whenever I am worrying about something in my life I can look at my dogs happy faces and change the focus back to them. They give unconditional love and if there is a heaven they must be in it. My dogs know when I am getting off work and what door I will come in, they always sit and wait there. Makes me smile every time.

Dave Campbell wrote:
October 19, 2012

As one who gets way too attached to my own dogs, I share your pain and grief. Mt first Brittany, Boone, has been gone some 19 years, and I still miss her. On the other hand, the great memories out number the painful ones. God bless you and Freedom.

Lloyd Hill wrote:
October 19, 2012

"If dogs don't go to heaven then I want to go where the dogs go."