Bye Bye, MoMo (A Personal Aside)


It's been a rough couple of weeks, and this weekend was the worst. Our beloved pup Monte Carlo (MoMo) died in my arms Saturday night. If I seem a little out of sorts -- or out of commission entirely -- over the next couple of days, please forgive me.

For more of MoMo's story, read on. For more fun debatey-type-stuff, give me a day or two and I promise to bring you some fresh meat.

* * *

I guess we kind of knew MoMo was on borrowed time. He had been rescued from a West Virginia pound a day before he was to be euthanized; his rescuer brought him to a no-kill shelter called Friends of Homeless Animals. The very first day we met him there last fall, I found a lump bigger than a golf ball on his chest. It turned out to be cancerous, and FOHA had it removed a few days later (a very generous and responsible thing to do, I thought.)

They asked us if we still wanted him. As far as we were concerned, he was already part of our family -- even though we'd only met him once -- so we brought him home the following weekend.

Em and MoMo at Work

MoMo turned out to be a 50-pound lap dog, always eager for some cuddling or a head rub. He never barked. He didn't slobber. He required no discipline. His coat actually sparkled. He was a klutz, constantly backing into things. He put a spring in the step of our other rescue dog -- the one we nursed back to health from her battle against heartworm, and who, up until Mo's arrival, infinitely preferred sleeping and eating over anything that required moving around.

He always kept me company when I pulled all-nighters, resting his chin on the laptop as I combed through legislation and transcripts (etc.) for this blog. I think I'll have to give up on the all-night research marathons now -- I can't imagine staying up without him.

We vowed to give him the best life we possibly could for however long he was with us. And we did. And we'll do it all again and again because so many dogs desperately need a loving family.

I hope with all my heart that each of you will very seriously consider adopting your next pet from a shelter -- better yet, from a no-kill shelter, where your adoption both supports their efforts and frees up space for another animal in need. As gut wrenching as it is to lose a pet, the joy they bring us while they're here makes it all worthwhile.

By Emily Messner |  May 22, 2006; 11:52 AM ET  | Category:  Misc.

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Miss Emily-

I am so sorry for your loss. I'm sure you've seen the following before...

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight.

When he was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side.

When he was close enough, he called out, "Excuse me, where are we?"
"This is Heaven, sir," the man answered.
"Wow! Would you happen to have some water?" the man asked.
"Of course, sir. Come right in, and I'll have some ice water brought right up." The man gestured, and the gate began to open.
"Can my friend," gesturing toward his dog, "come in, too?" the traveler asked.
"I'm sorry, sir, but we don't accept pets."

The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.

After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.

"Excuse me!" he called to the man. "Do you have any water?"
"Yeah, sure, there's a pump over there, come on in."
"How about my friend here?" the traveler gestured to the dog.
"There should be a bowl by the pump."
They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it.

The traveler filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself, as he gave some to the dog.

When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree.
"What do you call this place?" the traveler asked.
"This is Heaven," he answered.
"Well, that's confusing," the traveler said. "The man down the road said that was Heaven, too."
"Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That's Hell."
"Doesn't it make you mad for them to use your name like that?"
"No, we're just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind."

Grieve as you need to and rejoice when you can. Blessed Be, Miss Em.

Posted by: wiccan | May 22, 2006 07:40 PM

Emily wrote:
"And we'll do it all again and again because so many dogs desperately need a loving family."

I currently have four, one purchased, three "saved". The graveyard out back holds two more, one of whom has never been and will never be, bettered by anyone.

I also do it again and again, because I so desperately need a loving dog, and no one loves truer and better than a loving dog; not even a wife.

It was generous of you to hold him at the end. It matters. Dogs know, dogs feel, dogs understand. You are entitled to your grief, you have my empathy for the pain of it.

I'll tell Droopy to keep an eye out for MoMo when we have our next weekly chat out back. Its been 5 years now and I still miss him.

Do take care.....

Posted by: Cayambe | May 23, 2006 02:30 AM

My dog always has a great big smile on his face, just like MoMo does in the top picture. He's my first dog, and he also came from Petfinder last summer. We met at times in our lives when we both really needed each other. He's the best thing that has happened to me in a long while, and I can't imagine what you're going through.

My heart goes out to you.

Posted by: JB | May 23, 2006 08:33 AM

Miss Emily:

I'm so sorry: I spent much of last week with my Afghan at the Auburn University Vet School, which has an oncology program, and we're waiting for the test results. I'm told that Penn and U. Conn. vet schools also have good oncology practices. Hopefully, the pioneering work they're doing now will make these treatments more widely available and affordable among vet practitioners.

The Auburn University Hotel has a floor set aside for pet owners, most of whom were bringing their pets to the vet school for treatments. As I talked with other folks there, it confirmed what I have long known: for most pet "owners", our critters are our better halfs.

Posted by: Mike Deal | May 23, 2006 08:52 AM

Oh Emily, I'm so sorry.

My very first "best friend" was a stray who came into my life virtually through the back door. She is now 12 and very arthritic and slowing down. I worry about her every day and don't know how I'll stand it when she's gone-.

I never understood how people got so attached to animals, until my sweetie pie. She taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

No one will ever love you like your dog. Totally and unconditionally, whether you deserve it or not.

Posted by: patriot1957 | May 23, 2006 09:47 AM

i never really get moved by political commentary..but i did today..your story moved me to tears..

Posted by: robert | May 23, 2006 09:54 AM

Ms. Messner,
I am very sorry to hear of your loss. I'm sure you know you made Monte Carlos' life infinetely better during the time he had left and you deserve all of the love and affection he gave you.

God bless you for giving a beautiful animal a home.


Posted by: Jay | May 23, 2006 10:59 AM

Very sorry for your loss. I remember when my dog died, she had been with me since I was but a boy of 6, romping in the woods of Pennsylvania, and died when I was 22.


Posted by: Will in Seattle | May 23, 2006 11:29 AM


We too recently lost one of our prize Sheltie's. Angel was basically my wife's dog, but she loved me very much too. She would always meet me at the door when I came home from work. She always would sneek up on our bed when we went someplace. At night when she figured I was asleep, she would sneek up on the bed and get in between my wife and I, and weasle her way up so she could lay her head on one of the pillows. We got her when she was 8 weeks old and she was the runt of the litter. Our dogs are part of our family, they're just like one of our kids. When you lose one the pain you feel is like it would be if you had lost any family member. They love you unconditionally, they can sense when something is wrong, and they will never betray(sp) you, only love you for who you are. One of our other Sheltie's (Prince) will be 13 a week from tomorrow and he is the one I'll never find another one like him. I hate to say it but it will tear me up when he goes.

Emily, Take your time to greive over your loss, we'll be here for you.

Posted by: Lab Rat | May 23, 2006 12:55 PM

I too have adopted dogs from "Rescue shelters", and though some have come with baggage from their previous life- each has had a very distinctive personality and has taught me something I've needed to learn. I also have some of my dearest friends waiting for me in heaven. It's always hard to lose someone you love, but know that the wonderful memories of your time together will sustain you. Wishing you another dog in your life soon!

Posted by: Leslie | May 23, 2006 12:57 PM

Shame your departed pal started life off with so many strikes against her. But then she lucked out a bit by having people full of love and caregiving ability become part of her life.

Our family has a pound dog and an ultrafeminine calico pound cat we've had 15 years. Both live on easy street and are social pillars of their respected neighborhood doggie and cat clans..

Posted by: Chris Ford | May 23, 2006 02:28 PM


Posted by: MY DOG, CHINA | May 23, 2006 03:38 PM

I'm so sorry for your loss, Ms. Emily.

I've never had a dog (California apartments generally kick you out for having one) but I lost my lovely cat Meowzers -a gorgeous siamese/american mix from the pound- last August for unknown reasons. It hurt, and still does, and is aggrivated by the fact that we can't keep a cat in our new apartment. It's like losing your best friend.

Thank you for encouraging people to adopt from shelters instead of buying from pet shops. Just walking in to our local humane society, I see an increadible need for the animals there to be taken into loving homes, and yet the pet shop across the street will run out of puppies and kittens in a matter of a couple days. People should also remember that adult animals need homes too, and make up more than half the animals that end up in shelters.

Take care, Ms. Emily!

Posted by: Michelle | May 23, 2006 05:12 PM

Sorry to hear about your dog Emily. Dogs truly are our best friends.

Posted by: johnnyg in NE DC | May 23, 2006 10:30 PM

Hi em,

I am really sorry to read this. I know it's hard, very very hard losing a pet. It's like losing a member of our family. And your piece about MoMo was so moving that you felt a lump in your throat. My thoughts are with you.


Posted by: Debashis Bhattacharyya | May 23, 2006 11:25 PM

Terribly sorry for your loss Emily. That's a happy looking face he had. Well, his spirit lives on inside you and his memory will help sustain your good-hearted nature for years to come.

Posted by: DK | May 24, 2006 12:19 AM

I am sad to hear about the loss of your baby,he will be always with you and be proud that both you and Jamie enriched the last part of his life with love. Love always --Grandpa M.

Posted by: James Messner | May 24, 2006 06:04 AM

I am extremely sorry for your loss. I selfishly forget that the individual doing all the research and providing this wonderful blog for my entertainment has their own life which needs attending to.

I will take to heart your comments about finding my next animal companion at a shelter.

Sorry Emily, my thoughts are with you.

Posted by: Will | May 24, 2006 11:22 AM

We lost our black lab mix to cancer a few years ago, and almost immediately got a wire-hair fox terrier "rescue" from their association. My wife says we don't get our dogs, God sends them to us. Please accept my sympathy. And don't forget that somewhere out there, a dog needs you.

Posted by: John | May 24, 2006 03:24 PM


What did MoMo die of?

Posted by: Henry Browne | May 24, 2006 08:25 PM

I'm very sorry for your loss.sometimes we find the dog as a frind more than a men .what I CAN SAY FOR YOU IS THAT YOU MUST BE COURAGEOUS .YOUR DOG IS VERY BEUTIFUL.

Posted by: malika | May 25, 2006 04:01 AM

Dear Emily:

Do you know Eugene O'Neill's book, "The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog" ? I recommend it.

I am sorry for your loss. My retriever Rebel died (of cancer) at age 16. My life changed.'Neill+dog&sig=JtgA6q7EIghMtyDgn6SF0kYHwDE

Posted by: Bhaskar | May 25, 2006 10:29 AM

Dear Emily,

Please accept my condolences in the loss of MoMo. Her photo shows such a sweet loving face that reminds me of my dearly beloved Baby. I still miss my sweetie and long to see her again, but comfort myself with the thought that she had 4 years of love to enjoy after her tough start in life.

Sometimes I wonder if the best leave early to reinforce how special they were in our lives.

Thanks for sharing your grief with us.

Posted by: Elizabeth | May 25, 2006 12:25 PM


I gave you hell over the immigration issue, but I'm sorry for your loss.

As someone who's had 2 St. Bernards, I know there's no better buddy than your pooch.

Posted by: Registered Voter | May 25, 2006 04:55 PM

My favorite dog poem, given to me when I lost my beloved Max who completed vet school with me:

Epitaph to a Dog

Near this spot
Are deposited the Remains of one
Who possessed Beauty
Without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man
Without his Vices.

This Praise, which would be unmeaning flattery
If inscribed over Human Ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the Memory of
"Boatswain," a Dog
Who was born at Newfoundland,
May, 1803,
And died at Newstead Abbey
Nov. 8, 1808.

When some proud son of man returns to earth,
Unknown to glory, but upheld by birth,
The sculptor's art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his master's own,
Who labors, fights, breathes for him alone,
Unhonored falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth--
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power--
Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy smiles hypocrisy, thy words deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.

Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn,
Pass on--it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend's remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one--and here he lies.

Lord Byron's tribute to "Boatswain," on a monument in the garden of Newstead Abbey.

Posted by: Dave Walker, DVM | May 26, 2006 06:57 AM

Dear Emily-

I was moved to read your story about MoMo. He was a beautiful dog and looked very happy. What a gift of love you gave him!

We understand exactly what you are going through at this time. We just lost our beloved pet, Misty, of 8 1/2 years. She was a 12 1/2 year old Keeshond mix. She was a wonderful friend, and she made our family complete. She passed away very unexpectedly on May 23rd due to (what we believe...but had never heard of before) a twisted stomach. It all happened so quickly we are still reeling from the shock. It is such a painful loss that I'm sure you understand too well. I know that MoMo and Misty are frolicking together in green fields just waiting for us.

My thoughts are with you.

Posted by: Nicole | May 30, 2006 09:48 PM

Rudyard Kipling said it well--"Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware, of giving your heart to a dog to tear." The irrational joy at the wagging tail is replaced by a deep sadness when it is stilled. You have my condolences. I hope you'll soon remember MoMo with a smile, rather than with tears. He was beautiful.

Posted by: MaryJo McGee | June 1, 2006 12:33 AM

The best poem I know when a pet dies...

Rainbow Bridge

Went through the same ordeal with my Boy kitty, who bravely fought CRF before dying due to complications (at home with family all around him). It's never easy, and still to this day, over 20 years earlier when our German Shepard died, we still speak of him as a lost family member.

I don't support kill shelters, anymore than I support PETA, and spend my time trying to rescue strays and maintaining feral colonies (the unwanted). For God made all creatures large and small, and it's a human's duty to be humane to them.

Goodbye MoMo, may your days on the Rainbow Bridge be merry and that you and Emily meet again.


Posted by: SandyK | June 1, 2006 08:18 AM

I guess I'm a little late in sending condolences but I had to add my voice. I am so, so sorry you lost your darling.

When my beloved Spike (a big old tabby cat) died I was so distraught I took vacation days to recover. After two days of pacing the floor and then lying on the bed weeping and moaning I finally pulled myself together and thanked God that Spike had come into my life.

Bless you for taking MoMo into your home and bless you for making his days so happy.

Posted by: Sandra | June 7, 2006 01:27 PM

Emily, dear Emily, even an old man can get misty eyed when thinking about the wonderful dogs he has had. My newest one, and family member, is a Siberian Husky of two and a half years old who is currently asleep at my feet, as he is everytime I come go into my office.

We got him from a rescue place and he is such a delight. Losing a dog, and friend, is one of the toughest things one can do. Just know that he had a heck of a ride with you and enjoyed you as much as you enjoyed and loved him. He is probably looking down upon you and thinking he needs to give you a big lick to make everything alright.

Posted by: Everett | June 22, 2006 08:08 PM

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