Species Stories: Another Cute Dog Story in Light of Pet Loss

Read the True Stories of All the Animals shared on our Greeting Cards one design at a time! Follow the Species Spectrum Blog

Mason was born in the barrio, most likely the result of a Maltese – Poodle mingling. By the time I met him, he was old enough to be a legend. He was the terminator of all dogs with the fur of an angel. Grooming the thin blonde hair that knotted easily in his armpits were the moments he struck. Some dogs just loathe being groomed. Beyond the basic brush, we pulled out the trimming scissors. Mason was fearless even though he only had two teeth left, launching his fangs like a viper he snarled with victory.

After a warm bath, which he tolerated but never enjoyed, Mason shook off the injustice sauntering out of the bathroom and back to the couch. Here he would curl up in a blanket, especially in the winter and once in a while, in times like these, Mason would show affection.

In his younger days, once even for me, he would lay his head on my chest and although I never put my face too close to his teeth, it seemed we had finally bonded. Mason was a step-dog to me. The first time I met him, he was with “the other woman”. Being a dog person, even to a terrier/poodle/what? I knelt down, always able to win over a dog. Mason snapped at the air and kept his gums curled. He was the fluffy type, but did not harbor the cuddle gene except to an elite few and even then, use caution.


Mason was the sort of dog that comes along in life, he was the dog that no one planned for. You know when you’re related to people that treat dogs as an after thought? You think “There’s no way these are my relatives” because to you, dogs are forever, dogs are life. Mason was the cute puppy a distant cousin purportedly adopted from an animal shelter in the remote desert. After a few months the cousin passed off puppy Mason to Grandma Maria because Mason was the proverbial “Old lady’s dog”. After a year of two Grandma Maria could no longer care for Mason. She was after all a centenarian. That’s when the dog loving family members stepped in and said, “I’ll take him”.

We never knew exactly how old Mason was until years later when Uncle and Auntie so-and-so drove up for a visit. Pulling up to the house they were greeted by an ancient dog we called Mason. The sister, a grown woman, stomped her feet in excitement, “Fredo Fredo Fredo! Look! They still have Fredo!” Practically in unison, they said, “I can’t believe he’s still alive!”

Mason tilted his head to one side, half way through a chewy treat. Like a scene out of a Clint Eastwood western, Mason stopped chewing and I could see his brain thinking, “Fredo…It’s been a long time since someone called me that”. It was as if Mason had emerged from a dusty past he wanted to forget.

Just how old was Mason? Uncle Johnny had been the transport that brought Mason to his “Forever Home”. He squinted into his memories searching for what year it was that he delivered Mason into a life of luxury. Uncle Johnny remembered that he was driving a new car that year: “It was a 1999… 2000…no it was a 2001 Mercury Mountaineer and it was brand new”. Adding up the years plus the year or two Mason had lived with the cousin with the new Oakley sunglasses and the year Mason lived with Grandma Maria, he was definitely skirting the seventeen year old dog mark.

Several years before at one of those mediocre Mexican food places by the mall we had enjoyed a family birthday/reunion with my husband’s extended family. People he hadn’t seen in years were there. It was one of those huge Mexican food restaurants branded with that faux “We’re almost in Mexico” Cantina vibe. We’re led to one of the private party rooms with a table that seats twenty four people.

Catching up with distant family, it’s easiest to talk about your dogs. While others spoke of their children’s weddings and the new baby on the way, we talked about our dogs. Pulling out our phones as that distracting saving grace in uncomfortable situations, we swiped for the most striking current photo of Mason dog.


“Here, Look—It’s Mason”. My husband’s aunts peered into the phone and in perfect unison exclaimed “He’s still alive!”. They almost cheered in amazement as if their home team had scored a point on the T.V. in the bar. As if somehow they cared, but really they didn’t. These were people who had never experienced the natural lifespan of a dog. They had never been “dog people”.

We returned that night to the dog that defied science, marveling at the extra-ordinary life he was living. Mason was never a likable dog. Other dogs, big and small detested him. In his early years of life, when Mason lived under the identity, “Fredo” he lived with large dogs that attacked him on several occasions. Mason would always live among other dogs, large and small, but they were never friends. It was more like roommates that drew a line down the living space. Some how even though Mason lacked charisma, there was still something lovable about him. That night, as usual Mason slept with righteous confidence that never wavered, nestled in the armpit of my husband.

Mason topped the scale at almost eighteen pounds, just under the airline weight limit for a carry on pet. For a while we pushed him around in a vintage stroller. In the winter he wore a jacket but sometimes it was a little dangerous reaching for the Velcro strap to secure the jacket. The veterinarian had tagged Mason’s file with a euphemism for, “This dog bites when being examined”. Lucky for everyone, aside from a collapsing trachea, Mason lived a long healthy life.


I shed a tear for Mason, this notorious “non-cuddler” of the dog kingdom. The night before he died, I laid with him on the kitchen floor and he managed to walk over to me. His fur was silky and he stood there stoically. I knew he was saying good bye and that forever I would love what was ferocious and commanding, no matter how scrappy. Mason stood for something and that something was to keep going no matter what.

It was the early morning hours of Christmas Eve 2017 when Mason went to rainbow bridge, where all the great dogs go. It’s where all dogs go because all dogs are great. He’d seen his last horizon in a scabby, worn out dog body and died at home. I knew Mason for nearly ten years of his life and photographed him for two of Species Spectrum’s™ designs.

The day after Mason died, on Christmas Day, my husband and I took our dwindling pack of “two dogs left” for a walk. Coming the other direction was a man and a leashed dog and then trailing behind off leash was “A little Mason dog”. This dog was young and spry, gallivanting and smiling, he trotted off to pee on some weeds. Was it an apparition dog? Somewhere out there in this vast universe, the Mason spirit continues to live well.

Love Always,

Species Stories: Life & Love with a Dog Named Mungo

Read the True Stories of All the Animals shared on our Greeting Cards one design at a time! Follow the Species SpectrumBlog

A dog named Mungo sat in the animal shelter after Christmas, a rangy adolescent. He had big feet and already weighed forty pounds. He wasn’t the small dog a lot of people were looking for and he wasn’t a charming puppy bouncing in the shredded paper. Mungo was my own dog and part of the inspiration in myself starting Species Spectrum™ . He was one of Species Spectrum’s first greeting cards.

I met Mungo on my very first visit to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, back when the staff wore blue jeans and t-shirts. Mungo sat leaning against the chain link kennel when a volunteer offered me a slip lead to take him out. I hoisted Mungo onto my lap in the courtyard. He was black and tan with floppy ears and a long, curly tail that looked like a cinnamon roll. I told the front desk “This was the dog for me”.

In the old days of animal shelters, the adoption questionnaires were brief. “Where would the dog sleep?” “Would he be kept indoors or outdoors?”

I was a young college student, hell bent on improving the world. It was before I became cynical and before I found my place in the world. No matter what, dogs would always be at my side. I had been the child who flayed on the floor of the dining room whining and begging, “I need a dog, I need a dog” until finally, I got my own dog.

Mungo would not be like Sadie, the golden retriever puppy I had raised as a kid. She was the typical happy go lucky retriever. Everyone was a friend and she hoped everyone would throw her ball, even a burglar. The golden retriever’s only fears were the vacuum cleaner and my pet hedgehog.

Mungo wasn’t the confident type. On his fist night he slept in a tight ball on the bare floor beside the bed I’d bought him. I hiked with him often and volunteered with the Santa Fe Animal Shelter. I spent Monday afternoons at PetSmart with a friendly retired woman who watched Monday night football and always wore a flower in her hair. Sometimes I brought Mungo because she loved him so much. “Oh” she would say, “Mungo is just beautiful”. Mungo always behaved better in public than at home.

Mungo hiked in the slot canyon of Tent Rocks before dogs were banned. He stayed with me on my dog sitting jobs before dog sitting was in vogue and considered to be “A professional occupation”. Mungo only had a few human friends, but he had many dog friends. He loved for other dogs to chase him. He ran and wrestled in the mountains with a German Short Haired pointer called Hank. Mungo triumphed over his apprehension about staircases at a cabin in Glorieta. If Hank could do it, so could he.

Mungo went with me through all the boyfriends of my twenties and he never liked any of them until I found my husband. Mungo typically bellowed when anyone stood in front of him and leaned forward (unless the stranger had a dog to play with).

The first boyfriend was a ‘dog person’ because who would date anyone that was not a self-proclaimed dog person? It still took Mungo months to get to know another human, but only a moment to make friends with another dog.

The second boyfriend said “You’re dog isn’t right, he’s mean and aggressive like you”.

The third boyfriend cooked special meals for Mungo, but both spent the early days suspicious of the other. I have a photo of Mungo giving that boyfriend the “evil eye”.

Mungo spent his geriatric days with the fourth boyfriend, now husband. Mungo never had a problem and the two got along famously. The test of a good man is one that can understand not only you, but you’re dog too. It was obvious when one had entered the human friendship circle of the ‘Mungo Fan Club’ because Mungo would always pick up one of his toys or a shoe and carry it with delight at seeing someone he actually liked.

No one saw Mungo as a dog of high intelligence, but Mungo’s loyalty was steadfast and he had many skills. Mungo enjoyed launching his big paws onto kitchen counters everywhere. He stole many loaves of bread and whatever else he could grab. He was smart enough to pretend that he really was just passing through the kitchen and had no intention of repeating what he knew was wrong. It only took me saying, “I’m sorry Sir, can I help you?” Mungo would look at the floor and keep walking, only to wait for the opportunity to strike again.

Then there was the joy of shredding a trash bag, this pastime ranks high in the world of dog activities. Mungo could bounce the lid off a trash can with his famous nose ‘pop’. Barrier gates and puppy gates were futile from the beginning. Mungo plowed through and I hoped that the smart heeler puppy would never notice that the power of the puppy gate was only illusory. Mungo was like a T-rex when he wanted to open a door; scratch and plow through until you get your way. So much for all that dog training I preach. Leadership, consistency, don’t baby the pooch, don’t affirm unwanted behaviors.

“Woof woof woof”. When I came home, when UPS was at the door, but they were different woofs. One was “I’m so happy”. The other was “I’m scared, I’m booming, don’t call my bluff”. In the car, “Woof, woof, woof”. Translation: “I’m going hiking!” or “There’s a car parked next to us!”

Mungo was happiest at my side. My Uncle once said, “That dog ‘ain’t’ right, I can ‘git’ you a better dog”. It’s true Mungo wasn’t a cowboy’s dog. Mungo slept on blankets and couches. He wasn’t apologetic about loving his basket of plush dog toys. When I rode horseback, my cowboy Uncle gave Mungo one more chance. Mungo was supposed to emulate a working dog. Track. Hunt. Herd. Sleep in the dirt. Mungo could do none of these things. Mungo just wanted to climb up on the horse to be nearer to me. His eyes grew desperate, even as he partially enjoyed running aside the horse.

One day I went swimming and climbed onto a boulder in the middle of a river. Mungo was never a gifted swimmer. Mungo splashed his paws in panic as he swam out to me, all eighty pounds of him clambering for me to keep him afloat when he realized his paws failed to find terra firma.

I had never needed to teach my golden retriever how to swim. She placidly dog paddled, the tips of her ears resting on the glassy surface as she glided effortlessly even in deep water. But Mungo, the whites of his eyes showed, even as he did manage to keep himself afloat, he didn’t believe he could do it.

Mungo bellowed at strangers and couldn’t swim, but he could climb rocks on the hiking trail with zeal until his knee gave out at age six. Sewn back up he ran again for years more with his crazy border collie friends, Rosie & Gracie. They were almost my dogs because I took care of them for seven years all the time. We did the fun stuff together and Mungo was there. Three dog noses sliming my car windows on the way to the trailhead.

We often hiked at dusk until it was dark looking out at the sunset and climbing boulders. Mungo was with me through every important part of my life until this year. He outlived what many would assume to be an old big dog. He had the genetic diversity of a true mutt giving him longevity and health. As Mungo turned gray, I would kiss his face goodnight and lay with him and feel his heart beat. (What husband?)

The new dog in town, Bravo the Blue Heeler was a diligent caretaker of Mungo. Bravo checked on Mungo every night and every morning, licking his face and telling him it was time to wake up. We pitied the predator that would dare break entry because Bravo wouldn’t let anything happen to Mungo.

Mungo wanted to sleep late as he always enjoyed his sleep. At night in the winter Mungo liked to sleep covered with a blanket.

At the vet Mungo was always well behaved and even there he was remembered fondly. I remember the first day I met Mungo, the whites of his eyes showing in a shelter. I remember the last day Mungo looked at me fourteen and half years later. If anyone could share a telepathic conversation with a dog, this was our moment. It had been a good life together. Years, later we both still had our foibles, but it didn’t matter. We were great friends who understand one another’s idiosyncrasies.

I was channeling Walter Brennan’s “Tribute to a Dog”. Even Walter Brennan cried about “Old Shep”. I thought of how many times over the years I’ve told people the grief will pass and that the joy of sharing life with a dog always outweighs the pain of loss. The grief in saying goodbye to Mungo was surreal and yet I felt like my heart was bigger than it had ever been.

When Mungo went to rainbow bridge on a rainy day in May we drove into the mountains, where Mungo used to hike. Bravo the blue heeler ran like the wind diving into the streams. I too felt fearless and alive. It was a reminder that the best places in the world are in the wild with dogs. I’ll always love my Mungo, one day we’ll meet again in a place just like this.   -JES


Loss of Pet: How to Cope

loss of pet
Bella looks over Enzo’s Grave. Enzo passed away February 24, 2014. He is one of the first Species Spectrum greeting cards. Enzo helped create the best seller, “The real mountain is within you”. He will always be remembered as ‘We need more little dog in the hat”. We love you Enzo.
This sweet photo shows the essence of pet loss. Bella, a one year old rescued German Shepherd looks over Enzo’s grave. Bella was adopted just three months ago where she made friends with Enzo, an adopted Italian Greyhound. When we have beloved pets we are faced with one day losing them.

We are never prepared for this. The grief of pet loss is often  equated with the great pain of losing a human loved one (no offense to people). Our pets are family. Some of us will say the pain is too great and close the door to having another dog, cat or other pet. Grief comes in waves and we all cope differently. Most of us will go get another pet when it is right for us whether that is the next day or the next year. Many will say there is no dog like the dog no longer with us. This is true. No dog will ever be the dog you had before. It will be different, but it will also be great.

I have gone through pet loss many times with my own pets, but also those of friends and people who’s pets I have come to love. Enzo was of of those pets. I’ve been photographing rescue animals and other people’s pets for a long time. Each one has a story and this is what Species Spectrum is about. Enzo was one of the very first greeting cards I designed and published.  He is the basis for essentially the entire Species Spectrum greeting card line and the idea behind it: Showcase rescue animals in a positive way through a product people can share. Enzo has a great story. He was adopted through Greyhound Companions of New Mexico. He was an Italian Greyhound who came from Roswell, NM. Enzo is an example of how many ‘pure bred’ dogs end up needing help in finding a permanent loving home. He definitely found that and spent the remaining six years of his life being treated like the prince of yoga.


Enzo was a pure bred Italian Greyhound dog adopted from Greyhound Companions of New Mexico

Enzo’s little spirit is missed, but his mission is bigger than the pain of losing him. I am sad he is gone, but at the same time I’m not sad. Here’s why: Enzo lived out his days as well loved dog and died peacefully at home in his fleece dog bed at the age of nearly twelve. Any dog (or pet) that has lived a long life being loved and cared for is lucky. Having worked in animal shelters, I know not every deserving animal is so lucky. This is why I hope that in honoring the loss of your own beloved pet, your grief is tempered by a greater compassion in helping the lives of animals that need someone’s help today.

Enzo, you were one amazing little hound!

Jes McKay Gilmore, speciesspectrum.com

R.I. P Enzo, you are always loved! I wish you lots of Golden Pride Chicken in your next life! Hear Enzo sing!