Some years ago, I was finally diagnosed with what used to be called Asperger’s. It helped explain a lot of things. When our son died in 2007, I had a difficult time processing my grief because normal ways of expressing emotion are foreign to me.
Not long after Corey died, we got a puppy, an English Yellow Lab. Gus helped me deal with the grief which I couldn’t express. Given the way my brain works, I kept writing, because that routine, that need to express, is something that can’t be stopped and is a form of escapism. But now I had Gus who I had to take care of, and was with me 24/7, and sleeping under my desk and we went for runs in the forests of the Pacific Northwest together. He’d sit in my Jeep, looking straight ahead and tourists would take pictures of him, because he was so calm and regal. Gus was a dog who emanated peacefulness and earned the moniker Cool Gus. Because his entire emotional being was facing outwards, he taught me to feel my grief and was with me every step of the way from denial to acceptance.
I didn’t know how to share what I felt with people, not even my wife or friends. I’d dealt with my feelings all my adult life by writing to escape. Gus didn’t care under the desk–but he got me out on my kayak, promptly capsizing it the first time we launched in Puget Sound, and made me laugh. He got me back to the water and our son, Corey, was in the water. We’d go to the beach and I throw him a ball and he’d swam after it and one time pushed it so far out that I had to go into the freezing water and get him back. And I felt Corey all around me in the water and I began to cry and my salty tears fell into the salt of the ocean and Gus heard me and turned around and I carried him to the beach and we watched the red ball float out till it was a speck under the setting sun and Gus and I sat on a pile of driftwood while I cried so hard and he leaned into me and licked the tears from my face. We let the ball go because it was Corey and I wondered if Gus pushed it out there so I could watch it float away and know that everything we love does float away eventually, but we can keep it all around us once we express the pain and keep the love. Cool Gus gave me that. Then I said–let’s go home, Gus.
Cool Gus passed the other morning after almost 14 years. In my mind’s eye, I go back to that beach and see not a set of human footprints and a dog’s but just four paw prints because Gus carried me until I could walk on my own. He rescued me because he had no expectations; he didn’t wonder why I was sad but couldn’t cry. He didn’t wonder why I wrote and wrote; he just sat under my desk with his head on my feet.
We miss you, Gus.
Mr. Meyer, Gus was truly a remarkable dog. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story. I followed Cool Gus on Twitter and somehow his spirit of compassion reached out to me as well. I had lost my own beloved yellow lab, Sam, who was my soulmate when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was alone in my fears because I, too, didn’t know how to express my emotions. I saw one of your posts and as soon as I saw Gus’s big brown eyes my tears came too. Gus was such a big adorable guy that whenever I saw him and Becca A smile would come to my face and I would feel better. Thank you for sharing him with all of us on Twitter and my sincere condolences on his loss and especially for the loss of your son, Corey. May God Bless you and your family.
Gus seemed like such a cool dog. I know you miss him but his spirit is with you and his memories! Just know he is up over the rainbow bridge playing but waiting to see you again one day. God bless you and keep you safe. May he comfort you during your time of grief!😇🐅
I am so sorry about Gus. I follow you on Twitter and Instagram and have enjoyed the many posts about him over the years. Take care of yourself and take your memories of Gus with you wherever you go. 😥
I have followed you for years and the picture of Cool Gus never failed to make me smile. I worried a bit when I didn’t see his picture on Twitter and hoped he was OK. Cool Gus was the dog guardian of your heart. My sincere sympathy to you. Thank you for sharing him with us. Ko te mana kaha me te oranga o te kuri e haere tahi ana me koe ake ake.
No words, just my deepest sorrow for your loss. Good-dog, well done Gus.
That was beautifully written, Cool Gus was clearly very cool…
Good boy Gus… well done old friend. Thanks for helping Bob find his grief and his center. I’m going to miss reading about your adventures. We were all blessed to “know” you. I know Becca will show you around. Rest easy.
Thanks for the look behind the curtain.
Attaboy, Gus. Good, good boy.
Bob, we met several years ago at a Las Vegas Writers’ Conference when we were both presenters. I have followed your posts about Cool Gus for quite a while, and am so sad it was his time. But, bless the years and emotions he he helped you through.
Dogs are amazing therapists who ask nothing in return. My 13 year old Dylan has helped me through several bumps in the road and I know he is his twilight years now. I will feel great grief when he passes.
Why would any entity reject your beautifully written, heart-grabbing story? It truly brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing.
That is beautifully said and written. Cool Gus will be forever in your heart as will your son. Thank you for sharing your story. Gus will be proud.
I’m so sorry for the loss of your son and Gus. We were never promised a perfect life, but those that give us unconditional love make this a better world.
What a wonderful memorial for a wonderful friend. Your heartfelt writing brought tears to my eyes. Roll on, Cool Gus.
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with Gus. So sorry for your loss. My dog Sirius, a chow/Australian shepherd mix, is transitioning into old age, and I worry about losing him.
I just finished reading Michael J. Fox’s new memoir, No Time Like the Future, and he writes extensively about his dog GUS, a rescued Great Dane mix, and how the dog has helped him navigate years of living with Parkinson’s. His Gus is elderly, and he’s worried too. Very moving memoir, BTW.
Bob, I can’t say here all I wish to say. Words fail me. I do understand grief, all too well. From your posts through the years, it was apparent you and Cool Gus had a deep understanding and love for each other. Gus did for you what my Fussbudget Kitten did for me last summer while I was sitting at Greg’s grave, crying — he reached up, patted my cheek, then licked away the tears. Our beloved animals heal us in ways that cannot be explained.
Bob- this is a beautiful tribute. Thank you for letting us into your heart. And thank you so much for sharing Cool Gus with us over the years. He was a special and unique soul who was much loved.
Thank you for sharing Cool Gus with us all these years. I did not know he helped you cope with the loss of your son and with learning how to live with Aspergers. I was lucky to have a dog I considered a soulmate at a very bad time in my life and while I miss her terribly the memories we made warm my heart. Sending you hugs and prayers.
Now I’m crying. I followed cool Gus for a couple years here on FB and always enjoyed your pictures of him. I did not know you lost your son. May I ask how old he was?
Fourteen years? Man, it seems like an eternity and also like just a blink of time. Words feel as inadequate now as they did then, but it’s a measure of respect and affection and empathy that we say them anyway. I’m sorry for your loss. For all of them. Hannah, Becca, Gus. For the unimaginable, your son. What a beautifully written piece this is. Thank you for sharing it with us (and making us all cry, dammit).
All dogs are good boys, even the females, and Gus was one of the best. Sending thoughts of comfort to you and Deb. May the grief fade gently and the memories remain strong.
That was such a heartfelt and poignant tribute to a dog many of us have come to love over the years. He was surrounded by love, Bob, and thus had a wonderful life with you as his human partner. With tears in my eyes sending hugs.
I’m so sorry, Bob. Gus was a good, good dog.
Have followed Cool Gus for many years and am sorry to hear of his passing. I know you were expecting this as we all do when our old guys reach a certain age. I didn’t know Cool Gus’s story and I thank you for sharing.
I know of no way to lighten the sorrow when a beloved dog passes. One consolation may be that Cool Gus lived a long life, and I feel he was surrounded by love and happiness.
I’m another one who followed Cool Gus on Twitter, and I loved your posts about him. He was, indeed, as cool as they come. Thanks for sharing him with us, and for giving us a glimpse into how truly special he was.
14 years is amazing for a dog that size, but it is never enough, is it. I lost the cat who was my best friend (I have many, but she and I had a special connection) and I know how hard it is. May his memory be a blessing. Hugs.
So sorry to hear of Gus’s passing. Hugs to you and your family, 2 and 4 legged.
Bob, You wrote about your love for Gus so beautifully. It’s your best writing ever. Why is it that grief takes our hand and writes the words we can’t even say. I lost my Lucy [a Westie-Cocker mix] three weeks ago, and I’ve been unable to write about it. She has a facebook site and 75 followers. Still, I can’t find the courage to write about her passing. But you give me courage.
As I watched Gus age, in your blogs, I knew her time would come soon, too. Lucy was my partner. She took me through the hell of the pandemic, and then I had to let her go. I’ve never loved a dog so much, and I’ve owned five. We held each other and loved each other through a hellish year of lonelines and isolation. I don’t have the courage to lose another, so she is my last dog.
I’m so glad that you have two dogs, still in your life–they will help you and partner with you for the rest of your life … and beyond. God Bless.
Bob–You made me cry.
I’m glad you have the good memories of Gus. I only knew him for a few days, but it didn’t take more than that to realize what a great friend he was. Loving pets always ends up hurting… but it’s so worth it. Thank you for being one of the caring ones.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope the happy memories carry you through your grief.
Leavetakings, damn them. Thank you for allowing me to know Gus, the good, good dog. Condolences.
What a meaningful tribute, not only to Cool Gus but to the unshakable bond between animal and human. I lost my beloved Copper a year ago, but I think of him and miss him every day—and he was such a pain in the ass. But he was my constant companion for 12 years, and always by my side after my accident and when I was in a wheelchair and then learning to walk again. They give us so much. I know Scout and Maggie will continue to be balms for your soul.
And thank you for your service, Bob. You gave a great deal to our country, and helped keep us safe. I thank you.
Oh love, I’m so so sorry. Seeing pics of Gus kept me smiling after we lost Emma & Angus. They do carry us through.
I’m so sorry for your loss. The joy Gus brought you is not surprising. The unconditional love of dogs has changed my life as well. Unconditional love may be part of every dog but how it’s shared is unique to every owner.
Like yours, mine would hang under my desk as I worked. I viewed them (two) as part of the success I achieved. My thoughts and prayers are with you.