Duncan’s Days

It’s redundant to say that we l o v e our animals. Jackson and Duncan are not just pets, they’re members of our family. Unique personalities with middle names and Instagram accounts. Members who have changed our home for the better. Yesterday we were a family of four; a healthy, active unit of dog-inspired pastimes. Today, we are grappling with the thought of being a family of three.


Today, we are grappling with the thought of being a family of three

It was a perfect sunny day when I got the call that Duncan, our youngest and most vibrant fur babe, was terminal. Kidney disease is irreversible, incurable and absolutely devastating, as we’ve learned. I opened the door to find his “smiling” mug and torpedo tail excited to see me as always, oblivious to the havoc taking place within his little body. There is no way to tell how long he has or how fast he’ll spiral.

Those first 24 hours were confusing. Seeing Duncan zip around the dog park like his insides weren’t on the brink of failure, felt twisted. Watching him we could almost convince ourselves that the doctor was wrong, that he was perfectly healthy. It was like being caught between alternate realities, either outcome completely plausible.

It was like being caught between alternate realities, either outcome completely plausible

Let’s be real, Duncan has never been a specimen of perfect health. On his first birthday, he had his first of many seizures that would make epilepsy a part of our get-Duncan-healthy mission. For almost two years we’ve conquered epilepsy, one seizure at a time. We became confident and secure in the treatment –  it was working – we would deal with the distant risk of liver issues (a side effect of life-long phenobarbital use) at a much later date. We had no idea that an unrelated disease would manifest.

Everything about Duncan has been a gift. Not only is he lovable, heart-warming and goofy but he’s been an inexhaustible source of laughter and joy. In some of our d a r k e s t moments Duncan has been a reprieve, a distraction, a breath of fresh air. An unofficial therapy dog during times of grief and a service animal in moments of debilitating fear. We have spent thousands trying to keep this puppy healthy and he has spent his lifetime fighting off our mental and emotional demons.

He spent his lifetime fighting off our mental and emotional demons

Today our two-year-old chocolate is happy. He is full of life and love and we are determined to make the most of each second he has. Whether it’s days, weeks, or months, as long as he wakes up ready to take on the day, so will we. They say that people come into and out of your life for a reason. For me, Duncan is one of those people.

With repetition, loss doesn’t get easier. It does’t get softer and the sting isn’t less jarring. However, when you’re familiar with its grip you’re also familiar with it’s release. Journeying through Duncan’s final days will be a struggle. A battle between euphoric nostalgia and dreadful acceptance. But how we spend these moments is completely up to us.


  1. Margaret Caron

    This is beautiful & I’m so sorry to hear!

  2. Sharon

    So sorry to hear about your dog. You are a phenomenal writer. Your love for your fur babies is inspiring and a wakeup call to me to cherish my pups more.

  3. Susee Harkins

    Wow, well felt and said. ‘Bob Barker’ is certainly an optimist, he only shares his joys, such a soldier, that Duncan Donut.
    I’m glad I was a lucky one who got to meet him and be his friend too…
    I’ll share this with Richard, he’ll understand and appreciate it. Good luck in this journey to all of you.

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