A dog’s love and loss, all in a lifetime

Molly, aka MoDog, 2001-2017

“It’s inevitable when you buy the pet. You’re supposed to know it in the pet store. You are purchasing a small tragedy.” ~George Carlin

Every pet owner tells the story of picking out their dog. They go to the animal shelter. Walk the rows of kennels. Maybe stop at a house with puppies. “I want that one.”

As it is often said, our dog Molly picked us. We responded to the ad for cairn terrier puppies in Chisholm with plans to take home a boy. Boys cost less and were cheaper to have fixed. I picked one up and he seemed alright, but his sister was pawing at my leg. So I picked her up. She put her paws on my shoulders and licked my face. There really wasn’t any choice at that point.

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

As soon as we said we’d take her, the little girl at the apartment broke into wailing hysterics. We had clearly picked the good one. This girl had already taken to pampering this little dog she called “Princess.” I looked Molly in the eyes and it was clear we were doing each other a favor.

Molly never proved to be much of a princess, but when we bought her home she became queen. My wife Christina and I often comment that we wish to be reincarnated as a dog in the Brown or Hiatt families, respectively. My grandfather cooked full sized cheeseburgers for his late pooch. Her grandmother blamed clearly dog-related problems on nearby children. Anyway, the dog and us were on the same page.

She passed obedience school, but not with honors. In fact, her graduation calls into question the accreditation of the dog training school. “Stay,” was something she only did when she damn well felt like it which, as it turns out, didn’t really happen until she had a stroke.

One time when we lived in Hibbing I opened the door to retrieve the mail. Molly bolted straight across the street, a flash of tan.

It was then I learned that I can run exactly as fast as Molly. No faster. We sprinted through the backyards of a full city block. Had she not paused to sniff something, I’d have missed the whole George W. Bush administration chasing her down First Avenue through the Sax-Zim Bog.

Molly was a big dog trapped in the body of a small dog. She barked at everything and everyone, but couldn’t bear to hurt the rabbit she cornered when we moved out to the country. She enjoyed playing “dog curling” on the hardwood floor. Me the skip; she the stone. She perched on the back of the couch like a cat. Cats might be smarter than most dogs, but not this dog.

Your snacks were her snacks. Her love was your love. She lived to be 16, never acting her age until she couldn’t walk anymore. Nevertheless, she still dragged herself toward her people.

The author and Molly in 2001.

When I held Molly as a puppy I was 21, a young reporter who just got married and took his first editor job. In way over my head. She leaned her furry little head against us as we changed careers, endured the joys and pitfalls of our relationship, and as we held our newborn sons. Those boys are now middle schoolers. By the time we said goodbye to her last week our world, and hers, had completely changed. All in a lifetime.

That’s the crux of loving someone. When they go, part of you goes with them. So, I am chasing her still.

There’s still part of my cold Nordic blood whispering “she’s just a dog.”

Yeah, she is. And I’m just a human.

Molly stashed her toys all over the house. I’m trying to gather them but I can’t see.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, June 18, 2017 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


  1. Losing a loved pet is wrenching. My wish is the pain will be lessened by the good (and funny) remembrances you have shared . My sympathies….

  2. The pet-human bond is a very special part of our lives. We keep in our hearts what we have learned and shared with our pets–a great part of which is the experience of being loved unconditionally–by a species that is on a parallel path with us as we evolve on this planet.

  3. Mary Finnegan says

    We loved and lost two Westies but it was our shelter dog “beautiful Betty ” or “ugly Betty” that broke my heart last August when she died. Though your writing, I felt your love and your pain. Thank you. Peace to you and your and family. Time heals some of the pain but does not end the memories.

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