Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson


Spencer So I am dedicating one more post to Spencer. My kids asked if I would write a brief obituary. Spencer was born June 18, 2001. His life slipped away through the night, and his lifeless body was found at the foot of the bed yesterday morning. Painful as that was, it would have been far more heartrending to have had to put him down. He’s only a dog, I know, but ten years of companionship leaves an impact on a family.

Gene Weingarten wrote a wonderful article sometime back, “Why Old Dogs are the Best Dogs”. It is the story of his dog, Harry, and rereading it, I find I can identify with much of what he wrote. While “old” can gradually sneak up, Spencer became an old dog rather suddenly. It happened in July of last year, when a wire haired fox terrier pup became part of our home. Anticipating Spencer’s eventual decline, our hope was that Sherlock would insure Spencer would stay young for a longer stretch. It didn’t work that way. To our surprise, Spencer ran from Sherlock, would step aside whenever food was set out, and had absolutely no desire to hangout and play with Sherlock. It seems an alpha dog had usurped Spencer’s role, and Spencer suddenly became old and crotchety.

He became less mischievous, a hallmark of terriers. He began to walk with a little less enthusiasm. There was a time the sight of other dogs compelled Spencer to strut his stuff, requiring that I hold the leash with all my might. Spencer had this knack of actually walking on his hind legs at the sight of the neighborhood bouvier, which was disgusting. But by mid summer of last year, he simply noted their presence and looked for the closest bush. As with Harry, Spencer transformed his walk into a simple process of elimination, a “dutiful, utilitarian, head down trudge.” Coming back, his first instinct was to find his worn bed and curl up. Going out into the back was no longer intriguing. Meeting me when I came home from work was hit and miss.

Spencer went through all of the predictable stages in his ten years. He once had that curious puppy smell, as well as a boundless energy that at first entertained and by adolescence, moved you to want to kill. Spencer seemed to find most things an edible possibility. We often found lost items on the backyard lawn after Spencer did his thing—a lost earring, a part to some appliance. He became horribly sick one day after eating a bag of balloons. Spencer gave me some of my best sermon illustrations. I hated the idea of a large dog at first, but I truly came to love Spencer as my favorite of all the dogs we have owned.

In Weingarten’s description of older dogs, some of it applies to Spencer. “…it is  not until a dog gets old that his most important virtues ripen and coalesce. Old dogs can be cloudy-eyed and grouchy, gray of muzzle, graceless of gait, odd of habit, hard of hearing, pimply, wheezy, lazy, and lumpy. But to anyone who has ever known an old dog, these flaws are of little consequence. Old dogs are vulnerable. They show exorbitant gratitude and limitless trust. They are without artifice. They are funny in new and unexpected ways. But, above all, they seem at peace.”  I think Spencer was at peace, all of the way to the end.

Like Harry, he was “ a few bubbles off plumb”. As my dad likes to say, not all the dots were on the dice. But this has been true with all of my dogs (for whatever reason). Spencer once knocked over a small plastic child’s gate when he was young, and the noise so unnerved him that putting it across a door kept Spencer obediently behind it. A small nudge, an easy jump would have made the gate inconsequential, but Spencer could never figure that out. It was a barrier the size of Mt. Hood.

In the last four weeks, Spencer aged before our eyes, almost by the hour. It wasn’t the gray around the muzzle or the cloudy eyes. Whatever it was, a tumor or lymphoma, it began to suck the life away, and there was nothing we could do but watch his body shrink each day. No longer would he choose to go outside. He went out dragging. His only desire was to stay in his old worn bed. The sound “walk” no longer inspired any movement. The smell of a warm cookie no longer was enticing.

Weingarten makes this observation: “Some people who seem unmoved by the deaths of tens of thousands through war or natural disaster will nonetheless grieve inconsolably over the loss of the family dog. People who find this behavior distasteful are often the ones without pets. It is hard to understand, in the abstract, the degree to which a companion animal, particularly after a long life, becomes a part of you.” 

It can be hard to explain one’s feelings at the loss of a pet. Maybe it is part of what Weingarten observes: “In our dogs, we see ourselves. Dogs exhibit almost all of our emotions; if you think a dog cannot register envy or pity or pride or melancholia, you have never lived with one for any length of time. What dogs lack is our ability to dissimulate. They wear their emotions nakedly, and so, in watching them, we see ourselves as we would be if we were stripped of posture and pretense. Their innocence is enormously appealing. When we watch a dog progress from puppy­hood to old age, we are watching our own lives in microcosm. Our dogs become old, frail, crotchety, and vulnerable, just as Grandma did, just as we surely will, come the day. When we grieve for them, we grieve for ourselves.”

What I know for sure is that Spencer was part of God's good gifts.



  • pjohnson
    8:38 AM, 30 June 2011

    I am so sorry! HE WAS SUCH A GREAT DOG! I know how much you loved him. We love you all and will see you soon. Mommom

  • Sarah dreyer
    9:22 AM, 30 June 2011

    I am so sorry for your family’s loss. I also love animals and know how hard it is to lose an old friend.

  • Brenda S
    9:44 PM, 2 July 2011

    Im so sorry to hear of spencer’s passing. We call it the rainbow bridge, a place where our animals go when they are sick and they wait for us when we will join them again. It just seems that for every pet I have said goodbye to, that a small piece of my soul went with them. they love us and leave us way too soon..hearbroken. hugs to you and your fam!

  • Terri Bennett
    9:39 AM, 4 July 2011

    Your obit or eulogy brought a few tears to my eyes. Thank you for writing this for your kids and for all of us. I could so relate to the loss of my West Highland White Terrier, Sparky, a few years ago. It’s very much a loss to the family, as they ARE a part of the family. God bless your day.

  • Richard Lattman
    10:47 AM, 6 July 2011

    What an thoughtful, sensitive perspective on the blessing of our pets. I went on a bike ride with Gene Monday and he told me about Spencer. God bless you and Heather.

  • Jerrilyn Korth
    10:02 PM, 6 July 2011

    Okay, so now I’m crying, but it’s a “good” cry. Brought me back to my Toby Girl…. It’s hard to say goodbye, even after all these years. Thanks for sharing what we all would like to say.

  • supra youth
    3:49 PM, 20 October 2011

    your artical looks like food taste so delicious, much information is very useful to me. thanks

  • Seda
    8:37 PM, 20 March 2012

    Anonymous – great pics Taryn! your friend is very hpgtooenic and that dog is absolutly gorgeous. makes me want to do a photoshoot with my ‘boopsie’! ill have to give you a call when im back in canada next year. keep up the good work! Jessica ThiessenMarch 9, 2011 5:29 pm

  • bahoz
    10:16 PM, 20 March 2012

    I should have wiettrn this long ago. Randy took a vicious, fear filled dog who had undoubtedly been abused, and taught us patience. This dog, Simpson, a Black Mouth Curr, known for aggression, was rescued at about 3 months. After finding homes and having him returned, we decided to keep him. I cannot tell you how mean and territorial he was. To the point of attacking us if we came too close. My husband insisted that he had potential. But it was so clear, this dog was too vicious to be a pet. Then we called Randy. Randy explained fear aggression’. He taught us to work with Simpson not against him. And each night as this 85 lb puppy’ curls up against me, I am thankful that I listened to my husband who had faith in Simpson’s potential. But more so, I am so grateful for Randy. What made me call his number? I don’t know. But I’m glad I did. Simpson is well behaved, smart, loving and loyal. A bit excited when friends come over and maybe a little protective. But he is home. Where he belongs. Thanks to Wipe Your Paws and Randy.

  • Haruna
    10:29 PM, 20 March 2012

    Ms. Zeldean,I’m so glad to hear that Simpson is still doing good. He was a joy to work with, most of the time, and he turned out so well. He was one of my prize stduents as well as you and your husband. It was so easy to see that both of you loved Simpson and wanted to turn him around. Again thank you for your kind words and don’t forget that you and Your husband are the ones that turned Simpson around, I just was there to help show the way.

  • ece
    12:04 AM, 19 June 2012

    Thank you for your great videos! What is your take on the Gentle Leader heard coallr? I’d love to hear your opinion. We recently adopted a rescued 1.5 year old Sato from Puerto Rico and we’ve had challenges teaching her to walk on a leash. The Gentle Leader has made a huge difference and it looks like it’s working well for us. Our dog does not like it but accepts it. From the dog’s perspective, are we doing the right thing? 

  • Shirley
    11:44 PM, 19 June 2012

    Same dogs. arent wanting dry food. wet food gives diharea. tryed over 40 different brands dog food. i guess feeding during day . feed morning 7-12 time between . 5-8. want eat maybe eat . vet supposed 20 minutes eat. dogs dont really care haveing eat 7 6 brother feeds table scraps everything between times. Was this answer helpful?

  • Yhatz
    1:17 AM, 20 June 2012

    Fred, I appreciate your time and work to help epaxlin the training videos of the dogs. I am sitmeanssit intern in the Maryland area. I hope one day to meet you in person and personally thank you for this program. I believe in it and my mal is coming along great his name is Skeeter.

  • Jitendra
    2:29 AM, 20 June 2012

    Alexa! These photos are too, too cute! Like Cathy who comntmeed earlier, the photo of Zoe with her moustache flying in the breeze is my absolute fave. And I love your description at the beginning of the post about Zoe’s excitement. It made me giggle because I could just imagine it. Puppies’ enthusiasm is just the best isn’t it? Keep up the great work

  • Denisa
    7:07 AM, 20 June 2012

    What a no-brainer. And here I was causing ussecennary stress to myself and my dog by trying to squirt the fluid into her ear. Thank you for this common sense approach.

  • Ricky
    9:48 PM, 5 September 2012

    Love the new Blog !! I think this would also be a good place to allow you clients to RAVE about You and The Cultured Canine !! Lisa Flynn is truly an aimnazg dog trainer!! I love going to the dog park and showing off my very well behaved dogs and I am always very quick to praise and recommend Lisa . Their is no better compliment when you are out than to have someone mention how obedient ( and of course beautiful) your dogs are! We owe it all to the our very knowledgable and confident trainer Lisa !!!

  • Milk
    3:07 AM, 6 September 2012

    Not true. Depending on the breed, the prey drive may be too strong. A prey amianl and cheese are two very, very different appealing items to the dog. Unlike cheese, the squirrel will run and the dog will most likely chase it. I don’t much like this method more intelligent dogs may realize that they can get the food faster by ignoring you and pulling their way to the treat. :/ I am more important than anything to my dog I made sure of that when she was young. My recall is completely solid.

  • Vero
    9:42 PM, 7 September 2012

    very good premack exmlape, for me and the squirrel situation won’t work, because her prey drive is too high. And she also jumped out a 6 ft glass window after them, when we leave they run up to the windows, hate them, I didn’t know why til I saw what they do when I go away in truck:(, but, very good exmlape to one premack. thank you.

  • Asena
    10:00 PM, 7 September 2012

    so when i call my dog back and he comes should i give him a treat and prsaie him then let him get the treat i originally threw.. or just praise him and then let him get the treat.. i notice u give him treats when he comes back when u call him..

  • Capriz
    10:36 PM, 23 February 2013

    Back in August of last year I shot Nina and Phil’s engagement prteuics at the gorgeous Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara on the Lake. Nina and Phil are two of the most genuine people I have met, and they look pretty darn good in prteuics too! If you want to see their wedding prteuics from October, click here.

  • Chetan
    2:07 PM, 24 February 2013

    . None of them liked her. All of them educated ieltnligent people but couldn’t say one good word for her. Might have been a bit of a cultural thing.On the other hand they loved Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, a book I abandoned about a quarter of the way in.PF thought it insulted the reader to tell them everything, AW might have taken that advice.

  • Shirley
    3:51 AM, 16 April 2013

    It’s good to see someone thnkinig it through.

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