My husband, Paul, and I moved to Maine from Massachusetts in 1986 and almost immediately noticed something different from back home. When we went out to do errands on a Saturday, so many vehicles we passed had dogs in them. They were hanging out the windows or, because it was not yet illegal, balancing themselves in the beds of pickup trucks.

The pups were going to the landfill, or Sears, or the supermarket, or maybe for a terrifying trip through the car wash. It didn’t matter where. They were hanging out with their people.

“Mainers and their dogs,” Paul and I would say, smiling to each other.

I was reminded, big time, of the strong connections my neighbors have to their pets after receiving many heartfelt emails responding to my last column. I had written a piece about saying goodbye to Martha, our 15-year-old Lab-pit bull mix.

I heard from people who had lost their own dogs, who were dealing with “senior dog issues,” like Paul and I had done, or who just wanted to express their condolences.

Martha, a 35-pound Lab-pit bull mix who was 15-plus years old, died recently. Readers around the country have reached out to express their condolences to Liz Soares, who adopted her as a puppy from the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta. Liz Soares photo

“I’m so sorry for your loss, no matter her wonderful long life, it still hurts,” was one kind response.


“Sending support and care your way.”

“There are no words I can say to ease your pain. I am sad for your loss.”

My heart was full. Or so I thought. Because then I started to receive emails from Alabama, New Mexico, Texas — even Ireland. I learned my column had received thousands of page views online.

I guess my heart then overflowed.

There is so much dog love out there!

And dog love is a very good thing.


Of course, every writer wants to be read. I always enjoy — and value — hearing from readers. To have a full inbox a week after a column has run is a dream come true. I felt a little like Sally Field at the Oscars: “You like me!”

But I found more reasons to rejoice in this response.

I was gratified that Martha’s story resonated with all those dog-loving readers. Grieving the loss of a beloved dog can be intense. Martha’s passing felt like a limb had been ripped from my body. A huge piece of my life was gone.

Martha was my ninth dog. It never gets easier.

“God bless her dog parents,” wrote one reader. Tears welled in my eyes at that.

Readers told me, in their own ways, of feeling the same. Or of dreading the day they knew was coming soon, when they too would have to make the hard decision to let go. I heard about a 14-year-old mix who looks a lot like Martha. A 17-year-old Pomeranian. An 18-year-old poodle.


I relished the image of all those senior pups out there.

One reader mentioned that my column had turned up because he was searching for information about older dogs and the challenges they faced.

Been there, done that. The last few months of caring for Martha weren’t easy, but Paul and I have no regrets and would absolutely do it all over again.

Some readers also assured me that I could find happiness again, someday, with another dog.

I’m not sure about that at the moment, but I appreciate the encouragement.

Hearing from my dog-loving readers also improved my perspective on the state of the world. I feel surrounded by darkness right now. American politics is divisive and sometimes downright ugly. The conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East are horrific. Climate change is bearing down on us with a sense of depressing certainty.


But through it all, people are loving their dogs. They are taking the time to read about someone else’s dog, and more time to contact the writer. They are sharing their own stories — and photos of their pups.

A picture of a rescued, grinning chihuahua brought a ray of sunshine to my day.

But this is the important thing: Treating domestic animals with respect and kindness is the highest form of humanity, in my mind. They depend on their people to care for them, to do the right thing by them. This takes heart, soul and integrity.

“Animals bring so much love into the world, especially our close companions,” wrote one reader.

The thought that there are so many good people out there — all those dog, cat and horse lovers, plus all those who swerve for squirrels or move turtles off the road — is a warm, glowing bright spot for me. I can think of these folks to help myself remain calm when I’m being tailgated on the highway, or nearly blindsided on the Cony roundabout.

Not everyone is selfish, self-absorbed. It only seems that way sometimes.


“Martha was lucky to have you as her family.” That is a sentiment I will carry with me for a long time.

Martha had an irrepressible spirit. She was — if I may say so myself — a very cute dog, lively and wiry, with what looked like a stick figure in white on her black chest. She turned heads and prompted smiles. I miss her terribly, but it is a gift to know she is still touching people’s lives.

Thank you, readers, for letting me know that Martha’s magic is alive and well.

Liz Soares welcomes email at

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