By Tess Taylor
My heart is heavy with the passing of my precious, beloved Haribo. I laid him to rest over Thanksgiving weekend. He was 14, a handsome English Cocker Spaniel much-loved by me and others, and the mascot of NARIP’s Executive Dog Walks.
No Unreasonable Demands
“Executive” referred to the dogs, not to persons, for Haribo was an Executive of the highest order. Somewhat aloof (he was French, never fetched and preferred not to interact with others, only with me – he was according to his previous owner Philippe “très exclusive”) and a dog of few words, his decisions were well-considered, swift, strategic, and final. Suppertime memos and treat requisitions were non-negotiable. He held me to a schedule that required prompt attention in strong terms. But he was always transparent and fair, and never abused his authority or his privilege, and made no unreasonable demands. The only creature in recent memory I permitted to order me around was Haribo. In fact, I liked it.
He was a natural Executive Dog. And I was his willing and happy servant.
Ten years with him was not enough, but I am grateful to have had him in my life for this long. Haribo was a gift to me from French composer Philippe M., his first owner, who had to give Haribo and two other dogs (an English bulldog and Basset hound puppy) up and return to Paris unexpectedly. I offered to re-home all three dogs rather than see them go to the dog pound and to uncertain futures.
I love dogs but hesitated to have one myself – Haribo was my first – because I feared becoming too attached. Boom! It happened instantly of course – why bother resist at all? Also, I travel a lot and don’t have a sweeping pasture of acreage, and these impediments seemed too great to overcome. But it worked out fine – better than fine – and I wouldn’t trade a moment of my time with Haribo for anything.
This piece about Haribo is less a linear narrative than it is a series of vignettes. It reminds me of a marvelous documentary, 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, that paints a portrait of this brilliant pianist-thinker that a traditional documentary could not have achieved. Fun fact: until recently, of the many recordings Gould made for Columbia Records, not a single one had gone out of print (thanks in part to Keith McCarthy, I have every one of them). This is an achievement for any artist, especially a classical pianist who died in 1982.
As random as this match was, I couldn’t have selected a more wonderful dog or one better suited for me than Haribo if I’d searched the globe. It’s so strange how that happened. My friend Sherry pronounced, “You are his person!” Haribo knew it and made this clear. So it is.
Signs From Heaven
Do we assign meaning to things, or are things inherently meaningful? Who’s to say? But a few things that happened within 24 hours after Haribo’s passing give me pause.
The first is the heart-shaped cactus plant I noticed the next day, within 5 feet of where we laid him to rest in the garden just the day before. How had I not seen this? This was Haribo, I thought, sending me love from above. My brother transplanted this cactus to make it Haribo’s grave marker, it makes me so happy to see this.
The second sign was at the grocery store checkout the next day. I looked up to see a display of Haribo candies. The brand is not rare, but I had never seen *snake* Haribo candies like these before. It made me catch my breath. Among many other silly things, I called Haribo “my Sneaky Snake who stole a rake and bit a cake and licked a lake,” a nonsensical Dr. Seuss-like meme (remember the one about Luke Luck who licks lakes? I love that!).
Haribo became my “Sneaky Snake” after cunningly acquiring and devouring seven large bread rolls I left unattended in a grocery bag on the floor for a moment after receiving a phone call that distracted me. Too late I realized I’d put those dinner rolls in jeopardy. When my call ended, I came out to find a trail of crumbs leading to …. Haribo (of course) who had the look of innocence even while sporting crumbs on his cute whiskers. He was contrite and may have feared a scolding, but he needn’t have worried. I laughed and was proud of him for obeying his instincts (eat whenever you can) and leaping on this opportunity of circumstance, my little Soldier of Fortune. My only question was, why stop at seven rolls when he could have had all eight? He knew his limits.
From then on, he was my Sneaky Snake and so seeing those Haribo snake candies brought me to tears, another sign from my sweet hound!
On a long drive the next day, I had two near misses on the freeway, neither of them my fault, both of which could have resulted in a bad accident. I credit Haribo with watching over me. Whether true or not, I choose to believe this. He was the best driving companion, and I would give him endless tummy rubs on our frequent long drives. I miss my co-pilot.
Paw Over My Heart
Shortly before my wonderful father passed away, he met Haribo and was glad I’d have this loyal and faithful companion. On the day my father died, I was sad but not crying. That night in bed, Haribo (who normally slept at my feet) came to my side and put his paw over my heart. He’d never done that before and must have sensed my sorrow though I showed no outward signs of it. As if I hadn’t loved him madly already, I loved him even more for his beautiful, comforting gesture. Now that made me cry.
Thoughtful To The End
Haribo – except around supper time when my urgent attention was requested – has always been thoughtful and considerate, even in death. Toward the end, he indicated every time he needed to go outside, even though he was in severe discomfort and could barely walk. He never complained, there was no drama or self-pity. I wouldn’t have cared if he had made a mess, but there was none. Notwithstanding the Zucchini Incident many years ago, he was rarely sick (I never fed him zucchini again).
Date With Death
It’s one thing for your beloved pet to die of natural causes, which is devoutly to be wished; it’s another for you to make an appointment to euthanize your pet. Haribo kept see-sawing between “OK” and severe discomfort. What if you do it too soon? Or not soon enough? This plagued me, especially as it seemed Haribo was hanging on for me, so graceful even in his discomfort. On Thanksgiving morning around 1:00 a.m. his breathing became so labored that I took him to the emergency vet. When I started the drive over, his breathing stabilized. So I took him home.
I am in recovery for cynicism, so is it cynical to suggest that you can’t get this kind of love from humans, or even give it yourself, for that matter? Perhaps we humans are too complex and confused for our own good. Howsoever that may be, or not, we are lucky to have it at all – this unconditional love from our pets – and for that I am grateful. An ASU researcher claims to have proven that our dogs *do* love us, and wrote a book about his findings. I may get his book eventually but don’t need proof of what I already know. The heart knows.
A dog’s love is perfect love. Haribo’s is and was. To receive that is an honor and a treasure.
The Coolest Guy
When Haribo acquired me as his devoted human ten years ago, walking and hiking became one of our favorite activities, and we met tons of great people. One guy I remember distinctly – I wish I knew his name which I did not get at the time. We met at a park where several of us had paused to stand around and chat while our dogs milled about, sniffing and hoping someone would drop a steak they could rescue (Haribo happened upon a recently abandoned steak one day – dropped at a picnic – and he never forgot that glorious day or that sacred spot at that park).
This guy – I’ll call him Joe – told us about his recent Dog Weekend. Joe asked his friend who runs a shelter in LA to select the most depressed, dejected and overlooked dog in the facility to give to him for the weekend. His goal, Joe said, was to restore the sparkle in this dog’s eye, to bring him back to joy and positive energy, to make him more attractive and therefore more adoptable to people who came to the shelter seeking a pet. No one wants to adopt a depressed dog. Joe took this sad little dog along with his own happy dog and created the Best Dog Weekend ever filled with long hikes in sunshine, tummy rubs, home-cooked meals, treats, playtime and fun. It worked!
Ten years later, it still makes me happy to remember this story. For months afterward I hoped to see “Joe” again at that park but I never did. I found his spirit so appealing, and that he or anyone would think to do such a kind and generous thing for a dog, especially a down-and-out one. Maybe one day he will read this and recognize himself in this writing. That pure kindness is what we should emulate, it’s what I choose to be around.
When Haribo entered my life, I became a Dog Magnet, rescuing dogs left and right: Chloe, Chuppie AKA Daisy, Ella, Lucy, Ollie, Stella and many others. They practically fell into my lap. I consider myself an observant person, but how had so many dogs in need of rescue escaped my attention before? I am far more aware of the plight of dogs now than I was pre-Haribo, so many are abandoned and abused, shelters in Los Angeles are over-flowing. Even though I have rescued and helped so many, it’s a drop in the bucket of what’s needed. So I admire folks like Judith Dornstein and Joe who volunteer, and any who adopt, foster, donate and help to bring comfort to dogs and animals in any way. This generosity helps dogs with uncertain futures to find loving Forever Homes.
Who Rescued Whom?
You’ve seen those bumper stickers in the shape of a dog’s paw with “Who Rescued Whom?” – I chuckle softly to myself whenever I see one. It’s so true. And while I will confess my flaws and vulnerabilities are too numerous to mention, I wasn’t a basket case or emotional invalid when Haribo dropped into my life. In fact, at the time he came along, things were quite good. He made it better. So much better.
When we met, Haribo was 4 years old, energetic and disoriented from being re-homed. I took him into my heart and made it my mission to bring him comfort and peace-of-mind which meant wearing him out, and thus started our exploration of the many beautiful hiking trails in and around Los Angeles, and elsewhere. I estimate we hiked 20 to 25 miles per week in the beginning, often hitting the trails twice a day. What luxury.
Pictures of You
The hardest part of writing this was the photo selection. I’ve been brought to tears a handful of times these last few weeks going through my pictures of Haribo, especially those taken during his final few days after I’d made the Date With Death. Replaying those days makes me cry. Such a beautiful life, in my hands, coming to an end. Could he have had a few more good days? That question troubles me as much as it would any Dog or Cat or Animal Person, this life we hold in our hands is so precious and relies on us completely. Your pet can’t make a sandwich or take himself to the vet.
Apart from that, I have many thousands of photos of Haribo, so many dog adventures and capers. Other than photos from my trips, I estimate 95% of the photos taken in the last ten years are of him or dog-related situations. I now also realize a vast majority of these are of him in repose: asleep on my foot, snoozing on the couch or lounging ostentatiously on my laundry or on papers spread out in my office (this habit earned him one of many nicknames, The Hardest Working Dog in Showbiz – he preferred to position himself in the center of a pile of papers or whatever I was working on at ground level. And I didn’t mind one bit. In fact, not-so-subconsciously perhaps in spreading papers on the floor I didn’t feel much like working in the first place). And so I wondered before posting this piece, “How many dog photos can any reader of this Haribo Retrospective be expected to view before turning the page or clicking away? Is a few hundred too many?” I show less constraint here than usual with no apologies to readers.
Speaking of naps, a nutritionist once told me that people would be happier and healthier if they behaved more like dogs: nap whenever possible, take lots of walks in sunshine, let nothing bother you too much and don’t hold grudges. I remembered this when Haribo came into my life, and the guy was right. I loved it best when we would sneak a nap in the middle of the day and he would smush up against me. It felt like playing hooky, and it was the most delicious kind of comfort, to have a warm snuggle bug by my side, the feeling of being fortified and protected. Such luxury! Watching him nap and photos of him sleeping instill me with joy and calm. Your dog is at ease… you should be too.
Coffee In The Morning With Haribo
Every day after a pre-dawn hike or walk, I’d make us an excellent breakfast. Then with a Great Cup of Coffee for myself, Haribo and I would sit in a spot of sunshine outside or – if it was cold – on the couch for his second tummy rub of the day (the first occurred while still in bed). This was a sacred time for me, for us both. I loved and treasured it. Pure contentment. Simple and beautiful.
Is it true love or do they just want treats? Both!
Three Dog Gifts
When you love dogs, you get lots of dog-related gifts. Here are a few of my favorites.
The first of these was an error. My colleague Philipp Künstle was tasked with creating laminate name badges for NARIP’s Bands Brands & Beyond Conference in New York in 2010 and accidentally laminated a small tuft of Haribo’s fur onto one badge (Haribo was a constant presence in our office). Using his extreme emotional intelligence and wisdom, Philipp put my name on it and told me, “You get this badge so you can have Haribo with you wherever you go!” I love that laminate and still have it.
One of my Top Ten Gifts of All Time came from Mary Bee who made me the most precious Christmas tree ornament some years ago with a photo of Haribo. I love this.
The third dog gift is from Nathan, a postcard-sized painting of a dog house with the inscription “All You Need Is Love & A Dog.” Beautiful.
Andrea von Foerster tells me you can have your dog’s ashes turned into a diamond. I don’t wear much jewelry, but it appeals to me greatly to be able to wear Haribo forever.
Dogs At The Office = Better Business
Haribo came to work with me and with the exception of my travels, he was at my side almost always. At work, dogs can make a positive difference. Some businesses recognize this and it gladdens me to see more of them allowing employees to bring dogs to work. I love it. The dogs must get along – obviously – there are workarounds if they don’t. A dog enhances one’s well-being, and how can this not inure to the benefit of an employer or company? Getting up to take a walk, a breath of fresh air, and a look around is healthy for everyone. You come back to your work rejuvenated, with new energy and focus. The dogs get attention they need and deserve, people interact with one another more, it is all good.
Sitting so much (in the car for long commutes, at your desk, in front of the TV) has given rise to a new category of diseases (diabetes, deep-vein thrombosis, poor circulation) for the modern worker. And let’s not overlook how pudgy one can get without exercise. We sit too much, we eat too much. A dog will ensure that you get up and move about regularly. In fact, Haribo had me on a schedule, and I appreciated this. I measured my time by Haribo, and not just meal time and walk time. It’s weird not to have that anymore.
Renly is Not In Today
A neighbor Jeff who has a “chug” (a cross between a Chihuahua and a Pug) named Renly after the Game of Thrones character says he and his girlfriend trade off taking the dog to work. Renly is so popular that people come from far and wide to visit. Their first question is always, “Where’s Renly?” so his girlfriend puts up a sign on off days – Renly Is Not In Today. The comfort these creatures create is off the charts. It’s healthy for them and for all of us.
Cut To The Front of the Line
Anyone who has a dog, loves dogs, adopts a dog, volunteers at a shelter or helps dogs in any way cuts to the front of the line with me. You need only mention you are a dog owner (or lover) and email me a photo of your pup, and I will go extra miles for you. The more my friends love dogs, the more I love them. And the better you care for your dog, the better I like you.
Cheaper Than College
There is nothing I would not do for Haribo. It requires some funds to care properly for a pet – occasional vet bills, steak dinners, marrow bones, roast chickens, etc. – but as my friend Liz S. says, it’s cheaper than college. My nephews were jealous at first, noting how I shifted time and resources to Haribo that had been previously spent on them. “Haribo can’t make his own sandwich,” I told them. They had to learn to live with it.
Haribo forced me to get outside, walk, interact. In fact, the New World of Dog People I’ve met still amazes me. I love observing how interactions unfold and bonds form among humans because of our dogs. I have no trouble meeting or talking to strangers, and know that an inability to do this handicaps people who may feel socially awkward, too shy to start a conversation because they may fear making a faux pas, appearing too aggressive, rejection, etc. Dogs are the antidote to this, they are natural conversation starters and ice-breakers. When I meet new people with dogs, I notice we tend to talk first to the dogs and then, eventually (if ever), to each other. It’s a softer interaction that gives a protective layer to those who may be shy. Dogs are not judgmental, and that’s why we talk to them first.
I’ve met many wonderful people I never would have met otherwise and expanded my circles immensely because of Haribo; this is one of his great gifts.
Walking The Streets
Because of Haribo, I walked and hiked more than ever. In the early days, we hiked an average of 4 to 7 miles per day. Frequently, my friend Ernie Gordon and I would pack up a carload of dogs and head for the hills. Such a simple, healthy pleasure. And free.
And so it happened that I walked so much in my own neighborhood that I became more aware of issues I might not have seen otherwise. Consequently, I’ve become active in community affairs including public safety, advisory boards and volunteer activities. This has brought me into contact more with my neighbors and with others in the community including city officials, police officers, and other citizens intent on making improvements.
Also, I’ve met many homeless individuals who I would not have encountered without Haribo. This has also led me to be more active with outreach and connecting people to services. I carry materials with me when I walk and in my car – leaflets of resources, meals, shelter locations, free showers and medical services, etc. I’ve helped many folks personally, gotten them day passes to the gym so they can shower and clean up, bought meals, distributed supplies and offered encouragement, a smile and a conversation. One of the worst things for humans is to feel overlooked and ignored, and this becomes more pronounced when one appears to be homeless or indigent. If you’re already down and out, this can quickly become a downward spiral. Many people who appear to be homeless are happy to receive a kind interaction, and many are highly intelligent. They all have a story and are usually happy to have someone listen, and just to be seen and heard.
On this note, I recommend George Orwell’s Down and Out In Paris and London. Known more for 1984 and Animal Farm, Orwell’s autobiographical writing on becoming suddenly penniless while living and working in Paris is eye-opening and profound. Poverty can happen to anyone, even to a hard-working and educated man. I knew this intellectually but seeing it in front of you, which is inevitable when walking in the streets of Los Angeles, is something else. I read Orwell’s book in college and it made a difference in how I see poverty and how I treat people.
Cletus, for example, a young African American man from Philadelphia, I met at a local park where he occupied a bench during cold winter months. A super smart guy and an actor, he is fierce-looking with facial tattoos and a stern demeanor which probably deterred most people from interacting him. But Haribo and Ella (who I was baby-sitting at the time) made it easy to greet him and start to chat. He was fascinating to talk to. Turns out, he says, he was OK with his “seasonal outdoor arrangement” and moves indoors in spring and summer when acting gigs and his income pick up. I treated him to a steak breakfast once, and he pulled out a Porsche key ring, the car lent to him by a friend. Amazing.
Another legacy of Haribo.
Adopt A Dog
Please adopt, don’t buy. Shelters are overflowing with lost, lonely, abandoned, owner-surrendered, sometimes abused dogs and other animals. So please adopt. Rescues make the most loyal dogs. They are so grateful. Somehow they know you have saved them from ignominy or worse. Imagine living your life in a kennel. It breaks my heart to think of all the lovely dogs out there.
Thanksgiving was good this year, and I was glad to be with family when Haribo passed. When I return home it feels as if I’ve stepped off a fast-moving sidewalk and come to a standstill. It’s good. It recharges me, restores the tissues, etc. My brothers were immensely supportive and loving, providing much-appreciated and much-needed comfort, calling repeatedly to check on me. Matt helped dig Haribo’s grave, and Mark transplanted the beautiful heart-shaped cactus to mark the spot where we buried him. My nephews, too, have been supportive and I don’t know if I could have managed my Date With Death half so well without Nathan to whom I am grateful for being there with me during those final heart-wrenching moments. Even his dog Joe was extra loving and sweet to me and Haribo, saying his gentle farewell to a Brother In Arms.
Good Night, Sweet Prince
And so good night, my sweet little prince. I am sure another dog will find me soon enough and I won’t be able to resist, I have rescued many and am proud of my Dog-Mother status. Vince says bringing Ella for a visit is like staying at a Dog Resort. Ella is not the first dog who has refused to return home after time spent with me where home-cooked meals, tons of walks and long hikes, gallivanting, plenty of treats and tummy rubs are standard. I can’t do enough for dogs.
I miss you Haribo but am happy and grateful for the time we had together.
Los Angeles, December 2019