Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tribute to a Beloved Dog

Scout at his "bark mitzvah"

by Sandra Parshall

At 8 p.m. eastern time tonight, Poe’s Deadly Daughters will host Barb Goffman’s online memorial service for her beloved dog, Scout, who died recently. 

Why a memorial service for a dog? Barb, a mystery writer and program chair for Malice Domestic, has a multitude of friends in the mystery community, and through her we all got to know the often funny and always endearing Scout. Abandoned by his first owners, Scout spent time in foster care before Barb found him and gave him a life that made up for those early bumps in the road. When he died, many of us felt the loss keenly, not only because he was a wonderful boy but because we knew how much Barb loved him and what a huge part of her life he was.

It’s impossible to exaggerate the importance of pets in our lives, or to overstate the joy and comfort and love they give us. Anyone who has lost a companion animal — and most of us have — knows the grief can be every bit as intense as that for a human friend. Please join us tonight to help Barb say goodbye to Scout.

In the meantime, I’d like to reprise something I posted a couple of years ago about the unique relationship between humans and dogs.

We give a lot of attention to the similarities between humans and chimpanzees – look-alike brains and all that DNA in common, plus a human-like family structure – but the animal that understands us best may be lying at your feet right now. Pure brain power is one thing, but when it comes to succeeding in a human-dominated world, no species can match the domesticated canine.

About 15,000 years ago, humans began to see the benefits of settling down in one place and growing their food instead of roaming endlessly in hunt-and-gather mode. Agriculture was born. And, inevitably, garbage resulted. Enter the dog. Human settlements provided a reliable supply of food. Making nice with the humans allowed easy access, and even some bonus tidbits. Dogs were undoubtedly happy to act as guards – after all, protecting the humans that supplied the food was in the dogs’ own best interests. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that has evolved and deepened into something unique.

Now it’s difficult to imagine a world without dogs. Those few human societies in which dogs are not kept as companions seem odd to the rest of us. We have learned that affection and rewards will buy us anything where dogs are  concerned. They lead the blind and assist people with other handicaps, sniff out contraband in luggage and shipping crates, chase down criminals and go into battle alongside soldiers, rescue us from burning buildings, locate both living and dead people buried under rubble after natural disasters, guard our houses and businesses and stand between us and anyone who tries to hurt us.

I can’t imagine a chimpanzee doing any of those things. In addition to intelligence, chimps share a prominent trait with us: they are self-centered. (And as much I adore my cats, our relationship is mostly give on my part and take on theirs.) Dogs, however, build their lives around humans. As long as we treat them right, they will do anything for us. And the amount of money spent annually on veterinary care, dog food, treats, toys, doggie apparel, beds, etc., indicates that we will just as readily do anything for them.

Research indicates that brain size and innate intelligence are less important to a dog’s success with people than an ability to focus on human behavior. In a testing situation, pet dogs demonstrate that what matters most to them is what the humans around them do and what they appear to expect from the dog. Dogs that can’t pick up cues from humans or refuse to do what people expect of them tend to be “selected out” – and that can mean anything from being removed from a breeding program to being dumped at a shelter. Paying attention to people reaps big rewards for a dog.

Far too often, humans abuse that devotion and force dogs to do things that go against their nature and best interests. The post-rescue stories of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs prove that viciousness is not an inborn trait of all pit bulls but a response to brutal training, an effort by the dogs to do what humans expect of them. The dogs rescued from Vick’s operation showed the same psychological trauma evidenced by abused children. In the hands of rehabbers at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (see and, these scarred and terrified animals have learned to trust people and to show their true personalities. Some are now living as contented pets in homes with small children, other dogs, and/or cats.

The modern domesticated dog was, in a very real sense, created by people to serve our purposes. We have a powerful influence on the behavior of individual dogs. Humans can ruin a dog. But we can also save it.


Kelly Saderholm said...

I admire the loving generosity of dogs and dog owners. I have a daughter who is incredibly shy and who gets stressed out in social situations. But she loves animals, especially dogs. Often when we are out and about in the big scary world, we will come across people with dogs, and they always allow Rachel to pet their dogs. (Of course we always ask first.) Just the few minutes of stroking a dog's head helps release stress. I loved, loved that when Rach went for her college orientation, there was a "dog-petting station" and she had the opportunity to pet some dogs, and relieve some of her stress.
My husband, a therapist, has had great success in using dogs as therapy animals. I haven't known Barb and Scout for very long, but my feeling from Barb's wonderful posts are that she and Scout are indeed the kind-hearted people that would allow a shy child a few head-pats.
It is amazing how much heart-space a beloved pet takes up, and how big that hole is when they leave us. I want to thank Barb for sharing Scout with us- letting us all have a few virtual head pats. I will miss Scout.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I can well understand Barb's holding a tribute to Scout, her beloved dog. I know she misses him very much. My cat Sammy is an important part of my life. I value his company even more since my husband died.

Scout is up on my Pinterest board "Authors' Pets." All authors are welcome to send me photos of their pets to be posted on the board.

Sandra Parshall said...

Barb's post about Scout's life and their life together is touching and will make most of us smile as we recall the animals that have shared our own lives. Please stop by this evening to read it and to see lots of pictures of handsome Scout at different ages. It's impossible to exaggerate the joy and comfort pets bring to our daily lives.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

My heart has been with Barb and Scout over these past many months. I am thankful that Barb has shared this difficult time with us because although it reminds me of every pet that my family has had to put to rest over the past forty years, it also brings back the joyous moments.

God bless.

Barb Goffman said...

Scout loved kids, and he always welcomed being petted, Kelly. Thanks for your kind words.

Marilyn, thanks again for posting the picture of Scout. Can I see your board even if I'm not on Pinterest?

Terrie, I'm so glad Scout and I have helped you remember joyous times. He brought joy to me every day.

And Sandy, you have made this all possible. Thank you. And thank you for the lovely piece you wrote about Scout. It means so much.

Aimee Hix said...

Scout will be waiting for you, Barb, I promise. He lived a lifetime of love in the years he spent with you. And I am happy to know that Scout and are both Scorpios, the sign known for loyalty,

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Diane said...

I have been following Scout - through you, Barb, for a bit now on Facebook. He was very obviously such a very gentle boy. I always felt like reaching out and petting (or scritching, as I call it) hou have brought him to all of our hearts, and I thank you for that. I have had many dogs and cats over the years, and I have to tell you, I still miss each and every one of them. They have each been different - different personalities, different needs. Each and every one special, with one thing in common: they were always there for me and, like you with Scout, I adored each one of them and am grateful for their having been in my life.

Teresa Wilder said...

Rest in peace, good boy Scout. May you have peace in your heart, Barb. Thank you for sharing both the joys and the sad times of your life with Scout. I have always loved that photo of him at his Bark Mitzvah. As I understand it, one meaning of "mitzvah" is "a worthy deed", and Scout's loving life seems to have been filled with those. (Mostly--we shall forget the occasional indiscretions on the rug & excessive barking at critters, eh?)

Sherry Harris said...

I am one of those people who only knew Scout through Barb's photos and comments but who wouldn't love him! I really enjoyed seeing the pictures of him as a puppy and all of your wonderful memories, Barb. I love that he had a barkmitzvah! He was as lucky to have you as you were to have him!

Donna Andrews said...

I'm of the lucky folks who got to meet Scout face-to-face. I was intimidated the first time I met him, because of that deep, commanding bark, but I soon realized what a gentle and friendly soul he was. (Although I sometimes entertained myself by imagining how that bark would affect a would-be burglar unlucky enough to case Barb's house.)

Barb's absolutely right about how camera-shy he was, but since I'm an annoyingly persistent digital photographer, I managed to get a fair number of decent shots of him over the years.

I've created an album of photos of Scout--right now, it contains mostly photos I took during 2012, including some at his bark mitzvah. Will try to add some more as I organize them, but in the meantime, if anyone would like to see them, check here:

(There's one sequence I took on the same day that almost looks like a movie if you click through them fast.)

I'll miss him.

Alan Orloff said...

I only met Scout a few times (I believe he sniffed my crotch!), but I do know that he was very, very, very well taken care of. He was a lucky dog!

Barb Goffman said...

Thanks everyone for your comments about Scout. And yes, Teresa, we'll try to forget the indiscretions (though the rug still bears witness). And Donna, thank you for posting those pictures. I don't think I'd seen them all. They're wonderful.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Loved the photos of dear Scout, Donna!

Barb, like many of your online friends, I never had the chance to meet Scout in person, but I feel I've known him from your Facebook posts. What a dear, funny boy he was! I know how much you must miss him.

Wishing you comfort and eventually the love of a new canine pal!

Shari Randall said...

Barb, I only knew Scout through your FB posts, but it was clear what a loving team the two of you made. I hope all the happy memories will bring you peace.

Barb Goffman said...

I'm going to sign off now, but I'll check tomorrow for any new posts. Thank you all for participating tonight and helping keep Scout's memory alive. I send you wags and woofs.

Grace Topping said...

Dear Barb --

Sorry that I am joining in late, but I wanted to let you know how sorry I am about Scout. We've heard how much happiness he brought into your life, but I think we should also focus on how good you were to him. You gave him a home and love when others gave him up. God bless you for that. I think you were both fortunate to have found each other. I hope your happy memories of him will bring you some comfort.

Grace Topping

Anonymous said...

Barb -- I really enjoyed meeting Scout and know you both were such wonderful friends to each other. Your piece on the blog was so incredibly moving it brought a tear to my eye. Sometimes we meet another being who just makes this world so special and you and Scout were so lucky to find that in each other. Wishing you lots of peace in the days and weeks to come, hugs, WK

Marian said...


This post is a little late and I apologize for that but it doesn't lessen the best wishes I send to you as you remember Scout and adjust to your time without him. But without him only physically as the memories and love will be there always. I have had many pets throughout my lifetime (both cats and dogs) and know how difficult it is to lose them. I did not know Scout personally but rather only through pictures and your stories but he seemed like a sweet and wonderful companion! Keep him in your heart.