A Love Letter to All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before

I was nearly held back in Kindergarten to repeat the year. Not because I was behind academically, but because I found it hard to relate to the other kids in my class. I have an August birthday, so as one of the youngest kids in my class they hoped an extra year would make me more outgoing. My mom disagreed – I’ve always been an old soul she says so being with younger kids wouldn’t help and I went on to first grade with the others. I think it’s not an old soul I have, but a dog soul. It really wasn’t until I moved into adulthood and really leaned into my love of dogs that I began connecting with other humans too. For me, animals have always been my point of connection. It’s with animals, and particularly with dogs, that I feel most at peace. I am more “me” in the company of dogs than anywhere else. I am deeply grateful for the love of dogs and for the lessons that have taught me along the way. 

You were the first dog that taught me the incredible ability of dogs to see joy despite overwhelming circumstances.

Ryder the Dog I’ve Loved that Taught Me to See the Joy

Ryder, my silly butt biting red headed husky boy. I think the moment we met you as Renee carried you from animal control, we knew you were meant to be ours. You were the first dog that taught me the incredible ability of dogs to see joy despite overwhelming circumstances.
I remember the day your wheelchair arrived. I was so excited for you to have the opportunity to run, but we were convinced you’d need a few tries to get used to the chair. So, we brought you out to the front yard – the un-fenced yard for your first try in the chair. I can already feel the tears welling up in my eyes just typing the story because of course you took to it like a duck to water. I remember frantically chasing you down the neighborhood streets as I laughed out loud sharing in your joy of RUNNING while simultaneously crying with pride at my little boy and experiencing heart raising panic as I worried I’d never catch up to you.
I will never forget the way your eyes lit up every time we fostered a puppy. Not once since have we had a dog so delighted with puppies. Watching you play with the baby dogs lets them climb all over your malformed legs with their perfect puppy bodies while you just smiled at them and played and I swear you could hear you laughing with just unbridled joy. I hope you know I think about you every single time I see a puppy and I think of just how much you would love those little tiny prizes.
Ryder, I feel so lucky to have known you. I am so lucky to have loved you, and to love you even more now.

Sissy the Dog I’ve Loved that Taught Me to Take Care of Others

Sissy, my very first foster dog and our forever mama dog. Nobody could teach new foster dogs how to fit in better than you could. You were the perfect foster fail.
What dog can save all her foster siblings from a venomous snake? I was surprised to hear you woo-ing from the back yard as I took out the trash. You were always so quiet – not the talkative husky your sister Bella was – so hearing you made me run for the backyard. I was shocked to see all the other dogs (your charges) sitting quietly inside their crates with the doors standing wide open. And I was in awe to see you in the backyard having cornered the cottonmouth snake and called us to help. You were Superwoman in dog form. Without you taking care of everyone, I can’t imagine what might have happened.
That’s just my favorite example of how you took care of everyone, but every day you were doing something for the dogs you loved. Watching you teach dogs fearful how to play, teach scared dogs to trust, and encourage everyone to get along was such a gift. Sissy, I know that I take better care of the dogs now because I watched how you cared for them.

Madison pet photographer talks about the loss of her dog, Sissy.

Bella the Dog I’ve Loved that Taught Me to Go After What You Want

Bella, my first dog. My family had had dogs in the past, but Bella, you were my first dog that was all mine. Before the rescue work, before the wedding, before closing on my first house, it was me and you. One of the very first gifts Renee ever got me was a quilt she made for you.
I loved your single minded determination. If you saw something and wanted it – you went and got it. Like that steak. You know the one marinating inside the crockpot with a lid at the back of the counter? I still don’t know how you removed the lid, snagged the bagged and marinating steak, replaced the lid, and snuck into the yard without anyone noticing until all the evidence was nearly consumed.
I am braver because I loved you.

Bella the husky taught me to go after what I want.
What lessons have dogs taught you?

To the dogs that still share my home: Jack, Ada, Mikey, Lira, Emmy Lou, Carolina – each of you bring something to my life and I would be less without you.

This blog is a part of a blog circle with pet photographers from across the globe! This week we’re talking about how we can help set dogs up for success. You don’t have to worry if your dog is well behaved or not – professional dog photographers can still get great images of your pup!

Next up Cahlean of About A Dog Photography talks about why she loves dogs.

Be sure to keep clicking the link at the bottom to complete the circle until you wind up back here!

What to read next?


  1. ina

    This is so sweet Courtney!! I love these letters you wrote to all the dogs you’ve loved!

    • Jan

      and now my eyes are leaking. What a beautiful way to pay tribute to each of your beloved dogs.

  2. Angela Schneider

    Dude! That first paragraph … it’s like i was reading my own story. I didn’t have a lot of friends when I was a kid. I’m an August baby, too, and didn’t make a lot of connections in school. My collie Princess got me through a few lonely nights as a teenager. I think we’re both better off for learning how to dog.

  3. Terri

    This is lovely. I ESPECIALLY loved reading about ryder and his wheelcHair.

  4. Cahlean

    All unique pups to help you become the person you are today. Wonderful love letters!

  5. Darlene

    “It’s with animals, and particularly with dogs, that I feel most at peace.” – love this and I can relate! Thank you for sharing that story. Your letters are beautiful. I especially lover Ryder’s story. ANd of coure, I’m head over heels for huskies – all stunning!

  6. Tracy Allard

    What a beautiful image of you and you Frenchie, you’re glowing. Lovely tributes to some special dogs, Sissy indeed sounds like a Wonder dog!


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