It’s the other stuff… and the touch.

Dexter passed a week ago today.

… I miss him in the regular ways… but what I miss most is his effect on the rest of us.

Him not being here has thrown off all of our equilibriums.

I’ll tell you what I mean.


It wasn’t until he left that I realized how much we all had contoured our lives to fit his.

Our daily routine was really his daily routine.

His day started when I came downstairs in the mornings to put the water on for coffee.   There would be the enthusiastic tail wag, a sunny look into my eyes and then a request to open the door please – which I did.

Dex would do his business privately and then sit on his cushion, waiting for me to join him for feeding time.

He would never try to escape before feeding.  For some reason, this was outside of his doggie rulebook.  Even though he had full rein of the property, he wouldn’t leave.  I think he thought that leaving before he had fulfilled his morning homeland security duties would have been rude.


Once I emerged from the house, he’d trot over towards me, wag his mighty tail and look up as he passed by on his way to do his security stuff.  He wouldn’t stop and greet me, he’d just nod on his way by.

I loved that about him.

Usually, it took me about 15 minutes to feed and water.  Dex knew my timing and pattern perfectly.  While the other two dogs followed me around – waiting their turn to be fed – Dex was no where in sight.

But, like doggie clockwork, just as I was about to stir up the dog breakfast, he’d come trotting into the barn.

The King had arrived…

The cats would part and the other dogs would bow to him as Dex moved past the crowd into the feed room.

(I had to feed him in the feed room behind a closed door or else he would eat his food and everyone else’s food.)

What I find interesting about Dex’s time in the feed room was that he would not ever eat out of the opened food bags.  I could leave the cat food and dog food kibble bags open, and he would not put his face into them and steal.

He would only eat what fell on the floor.

Dex’s Rule.


After I was done feeding and all the other animals had finished their food, I let Dex out of the feed room.

We had an understanding that after he ate his breakfast, he needed more time to finish his rounds.

So, my routine was to bring Shiva up to the house with me immediately – so that the two would not ever be together unleashed.

I did this for 7 years.

Dex would do his thing and then reappear at the back door around an hour later.

He’d bark once.

If I didn’t come open the door after about 5 minutes, he’d bark again – once.

If I didn’t come the second time, he’d settle on his cushion and wait.

He was very polite.


He loved to touch me. He’d flop in my arms or my lap and put his paw on my leg.


Everyone looked to Dex for direction.

If a stranger was coming, the other dogs wondered if they should bark.  They would look to Dex.  If he was upset, they would be upset.  If he was fine, they would be fine.

The horses always looked to where Dex ran.

Norma, the donkey, followed him if he was running to the fence in her pasture.  She knew he was onto something and she would provide backup.

Heck, we even looked to Dex if he was barking.  If it bothered Dex, we’d make sure to check out whatever was upsetting him.

The cats revered him and would run to him if they needed protection.

Dex was confident and unflappable.


We had no indication that Dex was deaf – he was that good.

It wasn’t until I humiliated him by surprising him from behind ~ that I realized he hadn’t heard or felt my approach.

I then snuck up behind him again.


I called his name.


I told him that FOOD was in my hand.


I clapped my hands very loudly and he turned around – and wagged his tail.

I felt a rush of sadness and pride.

I sat down next to him, put my arm around him and vowed to never embarrass him about his disability – because obviously, his being deaf wasn’t much of a disability.  He had all kinds of ability…

Dex had been fooling us about his deafness for a very long time.  We did very little to adapt.  I’d clap if I needed him and I would clap if I was behind him.

That was about it.

The other dogs would run up to him if they heard a noise… Dex would evaluate the situation and create a plan.

We learned that living with a deaf Dex as guard dog was still more effective than most guard dogs.

Dex knew he was deaf yet he still barked when he needed our attention.

He knew that we weren’t deaf.

Yup.  Dex was our compass.  Now we are all a little lost…

If he wanted to sit, he just sat… no matter who was there first. This is Dex and my passed Rottie, Amellia.


When Dex wanted to play, he’d make himself very cute and stare at me from his cushion.  He’d thump his tail, thump, thump, thump, thump.

“Hey, I want some love.  Come over here, please.”

If I was busy, I’d try to ignore him – but he was very persuasive.

Thump Thump Thump THUMP.

Generally, I’d succumb.  I’d playfully admonish him as I made my way over to him

Me:  “You are such a bad dog – making Momma come over there when I’m working…!”

-He’d roll on his back and smile at me.

Hubby would just roll his eyes as we began our ritual…

Our game was:  “I’m gonna bite you!”

He’d snap his teeth while I petted him.  He’d writhe around and snort and paw the air and smile his huge grin.

Dex:  “I’m GONNA BITE YOU!!”

Me (continuing to tickle and rub him):  No you aren’t gonna bite me…

Dex (snapping, snorting and smiling):  “Oh YES I am!!  One of these day’s Momma, straight to da moon!”

Me (burying my head in his chest and neck, mocking him):  “You aren’t gonna bite me…”

Dex (furiously snapping and sneezing and smiling):  “You just WAIT, one of these days I’m gonna really, REALLY BITE YOU!”

Me:  “You are all snap and no bite, MR. Man!”

After we were done, he’d sneeze, get up and shake and then stand by the door to be let out to work off his energy.

Dex (looking back at me smiling):  “You know I coulda bitten you…”

He never did bite me, ever.  Not even accidentally.


But what I miss most was his touch…

Dex would always make a point of putting his paw on me.

If I came out to be with him, he’d put his paw on my leg and we’d watch together.

If I came to his cushion, he’d always put his paw on my arm or my foot or whatever was near him.


This little gesture was all encompassing for me.

Putting his paw on me whenever I was near meant that he respected me and wanted me to know that he knew I was there – with him.

He made me feel like a really good human.


My boy…



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10 comments have been posted...

  1. KD

    What a beautiful, beautiful tribute to your Dex. I feel like I know him now and mourn his passing with you. I am going to share this with my friend who is still struggling over the loss of her beloved dog. Thank you ~ KD

  2. Terry

    I read your blog about Dex out loud to my husband and we had tears running down our faces. I’m so sorry for the loss of your beloved Dex.

  3. Jennifer Wood

    Wow, what an awesome dog! We have one like Dex, his name is Jack:) I can’t imagine our life without him, therefore I can imagine just a bit how much pain and sorrow you must be in. I’m am so sorry for you loss. Hang on to those wonderful memories. What a blessing to have had a dog like Dex in your life.

  4. Casey O'Connor

    Dear Dawn: The pain will never go. You will always look for him, and feel his touch. But that is as it should be. He was a really good bad dog, and deserves to be remembered forever. I know you will. He sounds like a great guy, so sorry he had to go…

  5. Mary

    This past July was a month of loss for me. First Calvin, my cat of 20 years, a week later Bravo, one of my therapy horses who was 28 and then my dear sweet great dane, Leyna. July was so very, painful, my heart has been heavy reading about Dex. I am reminded of how my life and my work revolved around my dane, Leyna. She had epilepsy and we kept a very close eye on her daily. She was the light of my life and I did not realize how much of my day was engrossed in her care – everyone misses her so much. Not a day goes by without me thinking of her and I am thankful she was in my life.

    July also brought me inspiration. A friend shared your site with me to give me stories to make me smile and yes, to make me cry. Thank you for coming into my life when my days were dark.

  6. Kathy

    What a beautiful post about a special dog. I hope the pain eases and only your happy memories remain.

  7. Mary Lu Kennedy

    I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my beautiful Arabian mare one year ago last week and I don’t think the pain will ever go away.
    I copied the poem from Marge which again brought tears to my eyes. It is just how I feel.
    I appreciated the article written by your husband and was happy that you have such a sensitive and loving partner to share your grief.
    You will always have your wonderful memories of Dex.
    I look forward to your stories every morning.
    Wishing you some happy events to help take away the sadness!

  8. Kathy

    Oh my, I am so sorry for your sadness. My Harley is your Dex and I know the day is coming. It is amazing how our animals can impact us so much. Seems you and Dex were truly meant for eachother, lucky you, lucky Dex.

  9. Marge Mullen

    Dawn I feel your pain.

    To be able to share part of our life with that one special animal is a blessing, a gift.

    It has been three years this October and I still cry when I read or see something that reminds me of him.

    I have his photo and poem by my desk:

    Thought of you with love today but that is nothing new
    Thought about you yesterday and days before that too
    I think of you in silence I often speak your name
    All I have are memories and your picture in a frame
    Your memory is my keepsake with which I’ll never part
    God has you in his keeping, I have you in my heart.


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