© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

My co-worker wrote a memoir about dogs that helped me grieve

Amy Ruffus-Doerr and Aaron Doerr with Tallis, their  terrier-mix dog.
Aaron Doerr
Amy Ruffus-Doerr and St. Louis Public Radio audio engineer Aaron Doerr with Tallis, their terrier-mix dog.

Saying goodbye to Tallis was metaphorically just as impossible as I’d imagined; literally it was a lot more peaceful.

It was the beginning of the month. I was back at work, trudging through the surrealism of it all, when my co-worker grounded my discombobulation with a surprise gift. In the hallway by the drinking fountain, politics editor Fred Ehrlich handed me his memoir, “Three Great Dogs. One Great Life.”

It was a beautiful gift. In it, Ehrlich describes his family’s life raising golden retrievers, leading the reader through transition periods between them.

“Having to put Maggie down was and still is all these years later one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Ehrlich writes, on missing their first dog. “I hated coming home and not hearing her scrambling down the hall to greet me. I decided there couldn’t be another dog for me – and even if there was, I couldn’t go through having to lose one again. I thought Maggie would be our first and only dog. But I was wrong about that.”

Reading the memoir was an absolute pleasure. His journal entries about Elsa, the dog he and his family adopted after Maggie, were, plainly, inspiring. After a diagnosis of bone cancer, Elsa’s best chance for survival was to become a three-legged dog. But it was a guilt-ridden decision that had Ehrlich wondering what they were about to do to the wonderful, loving dog that had given his family so much happiness.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Politics Editor Fred Erlich and his children Allie and Bobby Erlich with Ranger, their Golden Retriever.
Fred Erlich
St. Louis Public Radio Politics Editor Fred Ehrlich and his children Allie and Bobby Ehrlich with Ranger, their golden retriever.

Dogs exemplify reliance. Shortly after the surgery on Feb. 25, 2013, Elsa learned how to hold and eat a bone in a brand-new way (April 7), and then she aced the stairs (April 22).

“It’s just another lesson in what they share, that they would just move on from things that are difficult and be the best dog that they can be,” Ehrlich told St. Louis on the Air.

Part of the magical love we share with animals can be measured by how well we share the present tense together.

The introduction of Ranger, their third dog, reminds us: “Of the numerous life lessons dogs teach us – unconditional love, loyalty, enjoying simple pleasures – maybe the most important one of all is that there are no guarantees in life, including how long we are around. Dogs don’t think about tomorrow. They enjoy today, taking each day as it comes and living every day to the fullest.”

The gift of this memoir in the hallway that day stirred a little warmth back into my heart. It also panged a strong radio production reflex. In addition to talking with Fred and sharing my own memories of Tallis, we heard from listeners.

Monica and Calder Lohnes talked about how their dogs, Easton and Maple, exemplify the best of what a dog can bring to a family’s littlest members. Beth Miller learned that her best wasn’t good enough to save her dog, despite tremendous gains to rehab a former trauma.

Andrea Rowe lamented a self-imposed guilt over the death of her cat, Dust. And, Monica Ramirez looks up to her dog Obi’s embrace of life no matter the hardships he encounters.

Tallis, Aaron Doerr and Amy Ruffus’ dog.
Aaron Doerr
Tallis, Aaron Doerr and Amy Ruffus-Doerr’s dog

Lynne Heger celebrated the loyalty of her lifetime with dogs and wondered if she’ll ever get another.

Chris Clark shared some simple delights of time with his family’s rescue dog, Penny Dreadful. Steve Heidemann remembered his cat, Riley, the way only a best friend could. Nicole Thomas related to the power of companionship, and Cindy Collins mused about the unconditional love she shared with her dog, Mozzie.

Even though I should be covered in a lot more dog hair than I am right now … even as the wildlife in our yard grows more comfortable… and even as vulnerable as we are without our guard dog, I am very much in love with the care and support shown by those around me lately, not the least of whom is Fred Ehrlich.

Listen to Fred Ehrlich discuss his memoir on St. Louis on the Air, along with listener voice messages and a personal essay, on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast, or by clicking the play button below.

My co-worker wrote a memoir about dogs that helped me grieve

Share your thoughts about the pets in your life. Leave us a voicemail at (314) 516-6397, send an email to talk@stlpr.org or find us on the St. Louis on the Air Facebook group.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Roshae Hemmings is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

Stay Connected
Aaron is the audio engineer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.