Reader response to dog column was overwhelming

Since I started working for this newspaper 20 years ago, I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words about a wide variety of topics. As a result, I’ve also received plenty of correspondence from readers.

None of that feedback was as surprising, or as heartwarming, as the words readers sent along over the past couple of weeks.

On April 12, I wrote a blog post that ran as my weekend column in print editions of the BDN. In that piece, I told you about the passing of my dog, Pudge. I also celebrated his life, and the joy he gave me and my family.

Ever since, I’ve been receiving cards, letters and emails from many of you.

As I said, I didn’t expect that to happen.

The reason: More than any other piece I’ve written in those 20 years, I suppose, this column was personal, and a way for me to deal with the loss of a true pal. I thought for a couple of weeks about how I could possibly put a life in perspective in such a short space, and eventually did what I normally do: I sat down, gritted my teeth, and waded into the matter at hand.

The fact that I was crying throughout most of the writing process should have let me know that my words might strike a chord with some … but I wasn’t really thinking about that.

For one of the few times in my career here, I wasn’t overly concerned about that good ol’ journalism school lesson, “Write for your audience.”

This time, I was writing for an audience of one. Me.

The fact that many of you were affected by what i wrote means a lot. The fact that you took the time to send personal messages to me — whether I’ve ever met you or not — was overwhelming.

Last week, I spent a week on vacation. I watched waves caress a beautiful Jamaican beach, did very little of substance, and at times monitored a steady stream of emails from people from around the state who felt my pain, and who wanted to help me feel better.

Eventually, I tried to craft a response that would apply to everyone who had reached out.

And time after time, I failed.

Stepdaughter Georgia’s whiteboard tribute to her dog, Pudge.

So today, I’ll conclude with the best I could come up with. First, a photo of a picture my stepdaughter, Georgia, drew on her mom’s office whiteboard over the weekend. Georgia is 10, and loves to draw. I think she captured Pudge perfectly in this drawing.

Georgia and Pudge were particularly close, and she often accompanied me on our walks around the block. She was especially proud when I let her handle the leash, and lead “her” dog on his rounds.

And second, these words. I apologize for their brevity, but it’s all I could come up with:

Thank you. You helped. And I won’t forget it.

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John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.