The Sweetest Fan Letter Ever
I recently wrote a story for the New Yorker’s website about my dog Merle, who is no longer with us, and my dog Ruthie, who I got while Merle was still alive, and is currently my only dog. It is called “The Bridge Dog” and it’s about how I got Ruthie in anticipation of Merle’s death, and how that all worked out. As a result of writing this story I got more fan letters than I’ve ever gotten for any story in 25 years as a writer, and a lot of great photos as well. GOD I LOVE DOGS JESUS GOD!
The Bridge Dog
About a year ago, a friend of mine came to visit me in Nevada City, California. We were at the height of our short…
I loved all the letters I got, but this one in particular really moved me. With the author’s permission, I’m sharing it here.
I don’t often do, in fact have never done, this. But, I stumbled across your article “The Bridge Dog” recently — it was such a heartfelt piece of emotive kindling that I thought I should write to you and say thank you. Thank you for sharing your story. But also, thank you for quantifying a loss that some would consider more trivial.
I still remember my first dog, Eric (named with his brother, Ernie, after the famous comedians), and the morning of his death. I was the one that found him, unable to get off the floor, and I called my mother down — who sat sobbing in the kitchen, with the similarly distraught Eric, as I reluctantly headed off to school. I never saw him again after that. Never forgave my parents either. Nor can I think of him without being brought to tears.
Years have passed since then, at least six of them. And Ernie is starting to go the same way as Merle. He has slowed down a lot, though is just as protective and cuddly as he ever was, and we have had to accept that he can barely hear and struggles to see. Your points about a Bridge Dog were poignantly sharp, and instantly made me re-consider my relationship with the family’s new dog, Alfie. An adorable, ivory Cockapoo with the personality of a cat and the nibbling fierceness of a perpetual puppy. Yet, you mentioned how people said you loved Ruthie more towards the end. A harsh observation that forced me to confront my own preference for Alfie — he is younger, newer, more full of life and of energy.
After all — isn’t that exactly what we look for in an animal companion?
But, all those things are not fair to Ernie. Who can not help growing old and simply wants to love us for as long as he can. I must admit a certain level of terror that, one day, I will return to my parent’s house to find one dog barking, one dog bowl at the back door, and no explanation as to why. So, I guess, the crux of this email is to thank you — as I said before. Thank you for the poignant emotions, and thank you for reminding me that I still have time left with a dear, childhood friend; not to be squandered, but to be cherished as much as before.
When I got near to writing the final words of The Bridge Dog, I felt really sad. If I don’t feel heartbroken and kind of drained at the end of writing a personal essay, then I know it’s probably not very good. Anyway, I wasn’t just thinking about Merle. I was thinking about all the people that I have lost—to death, to distance, to somehow disappointing them or them disappointing me. I thought about saying that in the piece, but I didn’t. Then when it came out people wrote to tell me that reading the essay had made them think about all kinds of losses, not just pets, and I realized that the thing I was so afraid to say had been said after all.
A. is talking about pets here, but he’s also just writing about what it feels like to be a person and have a family, and I was so glad that he took the time to write to me and show me his beautiful pet animals.